I knew, as soon as the first three boys were born, that it was going to be really hard to mark (castrate) the kids. We’ve only ever had girls born, and I do wonder if the reason we had so many boys this time was because we didn’t give them apple cider vinegar in the fall due to the cost. They say it makes more girls.
There are about three ways, according to Natural Goat Care, to mark kids (lambs, too, I think). Just reading about them gives me the shivers. There are the bands and the crushers, first of all. The bands, while easy and seemingly humane, are supposed to be the worst way. Pat Colby cites research that showed significant abdominal bleeding from the banding. The crushers, which sever the sperm tubes kind of like a vasectomy, also leave the buck “bucky” with his usual libido. We didn’t really want four bucks running around for another year. The goats are hard enough to deal with without that. So we did the third way, which is supposed to be the most humane – with an old fashioned knife.
Our friend Ed Sherwood had come out and steered Meathead with Ethan so he had some training. I held the babies. Although I’m sure it was pretty bad, I think it was probably more traumatic for us than the boys. After we marked Huckleberry, I was crying and sure we had killed him. He wasn’t happy about it, of course, but the next day was bouncing around almost as if nothing had happened. They don’t bleat nearly as much as when they are dehorned, and I think mostly it is about being held down rather than the marking.
It was hard, but thank goodness it’s all done for this year, and they have all healed perfectly. It was definitely one of the hardest parts of farming (for me at least).