Friday, February 26, 2010

The Scourge of Scurs

What? For those of you not in the know, scurs are little shards of horn that grow out when a goat hasn't been properly dis-budded. Huh? Dis-budding is the hideous, yet often necessary, procedure of taking a goat, two days fresh from the womb, placing her in a box with just her head poking out one end, and burning off her horn buds with a red hot iron. Not pretty. Regardless of whether or not dis-budding is humane, it is essential to have a hornless goat in an urban setting.

Lucy was most unfortunate to have not had her horn buds completely burned off. I'm not surprised. She's a feisty one when it comes to being poked and prodded. I'm sure she kicked up quite a fuss in that tiny torture chamber and, consequently, has bits of horn sprouting out both sides of her head, one side worse than the other. The problem with these horn bits is that they can curl back, growing into the goats head, or break off easily. In Lucy's case, the latter has temporarily resolved the former problem.

After lying in bed for 48 hours last week, struck down with a nasty case of food poisoning, I decided that a trip to the backyard for the animals' night time feeding would do me some good, what with a bit of fresh air and all. I entered the animal pen right at dusk, finding Lucy with a big bloody mess on her head. Upon closer inspection, I saw that she had ripped her horn off and that it was bleeding pretty good. I hate to admit that I panicked, but why should I lie? By now, you all know that's what I truly excel at. I had read that there are loads of blood vessels in the horns and that it is possible for a goat to bleed to death if the issue is not addressed immediately. As you can imagine, this was very bad news given my physical state. I rushed inside to get a towel to cut off the bleeding, doing a quick Internet search to see what the proper procedure would be in this situation. I found a lot of sites telling me "make sure your goat doesn't have horns because they can break off and cause problems." Yeah... thanks for that incredibly helpful tip.

I went back to the animal pen and attempted to subdue the bleeding by placing the towel over the broken horn. Well that went over about as well as a lead balloon. Mind you that I had ingested a mere six saltine crackers in the past two days and now found myself wrestling and being rolled by a 60 pound, really pissed off creature... in the dark. I "threw in the towel" so to speak and went for help. The Disgruntled Farmhand, to my utter relief, agreed to play vet on this evening, brought Lucy into the garage, trimmed off the hair around the horn, and applied a good deal of Betadine to the wound.

I was still worried that the bleeding didn't appear to be stopping, but lucky me, I've got an old high school classmate who is a vet. My friend Enita, a.k.a. Skeeter, runs the Tender Care Animal Hospital in Gretna, Nebraska and is kind enough to give me advice in these situations over Facebook (this social networking thing has proven to be way more useful than I had once thought), which is so amazingly helpful since we live 60 miles from the goats' vet. She told me to put some flour or baking soda on the wound to control the bleeding. So I went back outside and dumped a fistful of soda on Lucy's head. Now it is a bloody, cakey mess, but it worked and she is now on the mend. Within two days, she was back to her old tricks - head butting her buddy Ethel. Crazy goat!


  1. Poor Lucy! And poor farmer!! I really did not know that a disbudded goat can still grow horns. It sounds like having an ingrown toenail. Ick.

    When I was a kid, we raised rabbits (as pets, not food). One bunny we adopted from a family who never handled her. That poor rabbit's toenails had grown all the way around until they pierced her feet. It was awful, but we steadily clipped her back and trained her to be held. I discovered in that experience that I did NOT want to be a veterinarian.

  2. Skeeter saves Heidi's sanity - again! Thanks, friend! Good to have friends and family with all kinds of skills!

  3. Oh my goodness, I was panicking just reading that! Glad Lucy (and you) are OK :)

  4. Hi - I'm new to your blog. I found you by typing "bloody scurs in goats" into Google. LOL :-)
    Your post explains almost to a "t" what I experienced this morning when I went up to feed my goat boy, Reggie. I'm now getting ready to go out and clean up his head with diluted Betadine but was trying to figure out whether I needed to apply some kind of topical antibiotic cream on it or not. He has pulled one scur completely off and the other is bent and cracked. Both were not large, but apparently big enough to bother him. I'm afraid he'll need to have them burned off again to prevent them from growing back. sigh.
    How's Lucy doing now? Any signs of regrowth?

  5. So sorry to hear that farmgirl. I hope your goats are doing alright. Lucy has healed up well. She only broke hers in half. So once it scabbed over, she was fine. Can't even tell it happened now. How's the bleeding with the horn ripped off at the base? Those, I hear, are the most dangerous because they can bleed a lot. Unfortunately, once the horn has grown there is no re-burning. They have to be surgically removed. Fiasco Farms has great info on all this stuff. Personally, I'm just going to "deal" with the scurs and assume that they will break from time to time. Good luck!