Getting Nutty about Wethering Your Goats

BALLS. NUTS. TESTICLES.

{WARNING: Graphic photos included}

When raising goats, you’ll be talking about them, checking for them ("is it a boy or girl?"), possibly handling them...and I want you to be prepared! Keeping male goats in your herd requires different management practices, and there’s a limit of how many bucks you’ll keep intact each year, how they’ll be housed, who’s selected to remain a breeder buck and who draws the short straw to become a “wether.” 

Buddy is the only boy we kept this season, which means he needed to be “wethered” to stick around. Wethering a goat, in layman's terms, is neutering, or removing the male goat's ability to reproduce. No babies for you, sir. 

Buddy, my little snugglebug

I choose to wether our little guys between eight and twelve weeks of age. Castrating them any earlier risks potential hormonal/growth disruption and can increase the chance for blockages due to urinary calculi (stones). Castrating them any later and well, you may have unexpected pregnancies and definitely a harder time with the procedure (i.e. little goats are much easier to wrangle).

Two of my 2019 cuties, Hemi and Maui

Spraying himself, juvenile male

Our "baby daddy" Phil

Visible differences between Kai (left, intact buckling), and Ari (right, wethered male)

METHODS OF TORTURE (just kidding ;)

There are three methods for wethering: 1) surgical removal of the testes, 2) Burdizzo (clamping the spermatic cords), and 3) banding (rubber band around the base of the scrotum to shrink testes). There are advantages and disadvantages to all methods; it depends on your herd needs and comfort level with the procedures.

Last season, I chose to BAND our boys and one day, I found myself a lucky souvenir in the goat stall! SURPRISE...not a rabbit’s foot! Banding was quick and easy, extremely low on the pain/discomfort scale (when performed correctly), required some "inspection" on my part to ensure there was no infection or other issues for concern, and is definitely PERMANENT. 

Banded testicles: shriveled up and ready to fall off

Recently, I had the vet visit the farm for pig hoof trims (of which I’m not ready, willing, or able to do myself, thanks to their heinous squeals). At that time, we “pinched” Buddy using the Burdizzo clamps. This was, a completely different experience. Pain for sure, my heart breaking all the while as he was restrained and clamped...on each side. This GOAT GRANDMA has pretty thick skin, but oh-man, that hurt me! On the plus side, there was no need for sedation or any pain medication (Banamine was on hand just in case), it was a quick recovery (he was out in the pasture immediately thereafter), no blood or open wounds, and hopefully no return visit. Yes, I said HOPEFULLY. It's entirely possible for a SECOND clamping if the cords aren't sufficiently depressed. This means you'll be checking the business-end of your boy goat occasionally to inspect if his testicles are continuing to grow. And if so, you'll have to RE-DO the clamping! 

Chillaxing with mama Maggie after getting pinched

MY TWO CENTS (or nuts, for what it's worth)

Surgical removal wasn't an option I ever considered. Any cut/wound risks possible infection and I'd rather not go down that road if I can avoid it. Banding is far easier for the owner and more "user-friendly" in that way (as placing the band doesn't require much skill, just go high enough and ensure BOTH testicles are properly secured). SPOILER ALERT: you WILL have bummed out baby boy goats walking funny around the barnyard for at least two to four weeks, and you WILL need to keep an eye on that region for anything funky (the testicles will eventually shrivel up and fall off, leaving a small spot that could require some antibiotic cream or soothing salve). But once they're gone, they're gone. Ain't no growin' those bad boys back! 

My verdict is somewhat mixed with the Burdizzo method and I'll share why. Marshmellow (not a typo), our first wethered male (and studly model for this blog post) was castrated using a Burdizzo clamp. When he was introduced to my does, Marsh was VERY interested in the ladies. I'm emphasizing VERY...like doing alllllll the things intact male bucks do to entice lady goats. Spraying urine on himself, mounting, sporting erections around the barn and showing them off to whomever was around him (cover your eyes, kids)! He was a HORMONAL, WILD MANIAC to the point that I contacted our vet asking questions I never anticipated asking another human being. "Do castrated males DO THAT sort of thing?," and "Can you miss a spermatic cord?"  Yes and yes to those questions. Some wethers do, in fact, display typical BUCK behaviors. Marsh is an extremely dominant, heavy-boned, goat Romeo and simply wanted to get his groove on with those gals. This interfered in our breeding timeline and made for some "arranged dating scenarios" for me to work out in the barn/pasture! 

Marsh, AKA Mack Daddy

After an official "fondling" performed by a professional, our vet concluded that both cords felt clamped (scar tissue was detected) and therefore, it was highly unlikely that he could breed. A goat with one functional testicle is NOT one I want to breed, FYI. Marshmellow will remain that "crazy uncle" and continue his antics without perpetuating his gene pool in any Arapawa goat herd. 

So there you have it: banding is long and drawn out, but permanent. No guessing involved once the final result is achieved. Burdizzo leaves the possibility for error, unplanned pregnancy, and you guessed it...awkward conversations with your vet or fellow goat friends. I'll leave it up to you to decide which route to take and in the meantime, you can find me peering over at Buddy with a squinty eye for the next several weeks...

I'd love to hear your experiences with your wethered boys, the procedures you've used, etc. Make sure to leave comments below and/or reach out to me on Instagram @newburyfarms or Facebook: Newbury Farms LLC. 

Leave a comment

Name .
.
Message .