Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Trimming a Ram's Horn

When we first got our ram Taj, he had a magnificently wide hornset.

But as he grew, his right horn developed a curl that brought it closer to his face than his left one.

As the horn kept growing, eventually it began to grow into the side of his face, interfering with his vision and endangering his eye. If left to grow unchecked, the horn would have eventually cut into his face and blinded him. If infection and fly-strike followed, it could easily have led to his death.

Often, when a ram develops a flaw like this, the shepherd will simply cull him, to prevent him from passing that trait on to more of his lambs. But Taj is such a magnificent animal in all other ways---his meat conformation and fleece quality are fantastic!---so we decided it was worth it to try to save him by cutting off the problem horn.

It was an intimidating task, so we put it off for as long as we could. But finally, we couldn't wait any longer.

We tied Taj securely to a sturdy fence post. I draped a dish towel over his face to protect his eye and ear, and leaned hard against his body to keep him still while Ken used a wire saw to sever the problem section of horn.

It was hard work, both trying to keep the ram still and pulling the wire saw rapidly to prevent it from binding up in the cut. The wire saw gets VERY hot, VERY quickly. This is good because it helps cauterize any small capillaries you may hit if (as was the case here) you are forced to cut the horn high enough that you end up cutting into the live, "quick" part.

But you have to be extremely careful not to let the wire saw touch you (or the sheep), because it burns. Even though I'd been warned of this ahead of time, I got burned when Taj shook his head and the wire saw jumped out of the groove. It only touched me for a split second, but it laid a clear, painful welt along the sensitive skin between my fingers. Ouch!!

We kept going, though, and soon the offending horn dropped free.

There was a little blood, but not very much.

I treated the wound with Blood Stop powder, and fly repellent to prevent fly strike. The bleeding stopped almost at once.

You can see in the photo below how the horn had been starting to cut a groove into Taj's face. Fortunately, it had only progressed as far as wearing all the hair away where it touched. It had not yet lacerated the skin or touched the eyeball.

It would have soon done so, if the horn had not been removed, though!

Taj did not enjoy this process, but he is very happy to be able to see out of both eyes again! He will be so much happier without the constant discomfort of that horn pressing into his face.


Anonymous said...

Poor Taj. He looked so miserable in that shot of him with the horn rubbing into his face. I hope he doesn't have to get into any head butting contests now that he's had his trim, but thank goodness you were there to help him.

Terri and Randy Carlson said...

He looks happier already! We've had to do that too, not a fun job, that's for sure.

Oldesouth Farm said...

I have had to cut horns as well. We have put them into a goat head holder (billy goat gruff), tied the head with a halter to the side (holding him absolutely still) and used a reciprocating saw. It worked beautifully, came off in a couple of seconds (before heating up) and left a clean edge. I then used blood stop, wrapped with vet wrap the ram was very relieved and no worse for wear. We will probably have to cut the other horn this year, but his fleece is so spectacular & disposition wonderful, we keep him around for the fleece.

Terry Babb
Oldesouth Farm

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the story about Taj your ram :) We are going to trim our Gute sheeps horn. they are brothers 2 years old and its the same story as with Taj. I feel more secure now :)

Nancy Chase said...

You're welcome! It's an intimidating job to try for the first time, but in reality it isn't really all that bad, and it's finished quickly.

Our Taj was so much happier and more comfortable after it was done, his whole personality changed and he became like a big loving puppy dog.

Anonymous said...

Everything went very well vith Little Uncle and brother :) They were sedated and dozy for some hours. Now they are back to their normal affectionate behaviour :)
Hans Lindström from Gotland, Sweden.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this! Your story makes me feel encouraged! We have Jacob Sheep, the ewes and rams are both horned. Our little ewe broke one of her horns and its taken a curve as it healed to grow straight back toward her face! We've also been putting it off. I feel a little more prepared now. Thank you!

Nancy Chase said...

You're welcome! It's an intimidating task, but not really so bad once you get down to actually doing it. Good luck!

Jessica said...

Thank you for your great article! I had to trim the end's of my wether Raven's horns, and this really helped. Got a PVC wire saw and it went great, not a drop of blood (He only needed a couple inches off, thankfully). Good grief, you were not kidding about the hot wire though! Wore gloves on account of your tips, so my hands were saved, but I was a tad bit scared I would light my sheep on fire lol. Funny now because all is well, and he is much happier. Thanks again!