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Goat Crazy!
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Is there any scientific research on this whole "when to wether your bucklings" debate?

I know the popular notion right now is to do it "as late as possible" to prevent urinari calculi issues. But do we really know that it's earlier wethering that's the issue?

I do my goats at 8-12 weeks. I've been reading recent recommendations to wait until 8-10 MONTHS. And I have friends who are reputable breeders who wether their boys in the first week of life.

So...is this all conventional hearsay? Or are there some research studies out there? Anybody know?
 

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Hi I always ring my males early in life, as long as their 'bits' have dropped they should be fine.
Lots of people consider banding/ringing a bit mean but I don't think so at all. My family have kept cows and goats most of my life and I can say - yes the little fellow with be uncomfortable for a little while, but my males will jump about playfully and be normal shortly afterwards. I have had no urinary calculi issues. I have had no infections or tetanus issues.
So I guess we tend to band about 4-8 weeks.

I am sorry if other people have read this and have a problem will the way we do things. But our goats are happy and healthy. :)
Hope this info helps !
 

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This study did show that waiting made the urethra larger. I think the oldest ones that they measured were 12 weeks when castrated, so who knows what happened after that. I feel like waiting past a couple of months is too much stress on the buckling. I castrate around 8 weeks and haven't had problems with urinary calculi yet.
 

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Goat Crazy!
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Wow...One study in India. Thank you. Though I'd love to see some more research as well!
 

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Yes, with 6 Black Bengal goats in each group. Who knows how other goats are and if the results would be consistent in other breeds and even a wider gene pool of the same breed. I don't know of any other studies. It did show a strong association, so we are probably safe extrapolating the results to other goats. It is more data than we have for most things as goat farmers! Most of what we go off of seems to be what worked for others or ourselves. This leaves a lot of room for error. The placebo effect works over 60% of the time! That's why I am very slow to say what others should do, because I really have very little proof to back up most of what I do.
 

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Groovy, I don't have any studies for you, mainly because my own observations are enough for me, and I just don't spend time on what is above and beyond. I'll read what others offer that contradicts what I think, though, to see if I should change my mind.

Goats developed to develop. We stop that process of development. Used to be, (in my neck of the woods) we snipped and pulled at the same time we already had corralled them and burnt their heads. This is way back, decades ago. Problems arose. We stopped doing that, irrespective of diet. We did it later. Problems still arose. We found out that it was NOT irrespective of diet. So we fixed diet. Now, we have science backing that goats develop to develop, we know how to manage it, and we know how diet affects it.

The people who tell me, "I castrate early and all my goats are healthy and happy." NEVER tell me how long they are keeping those early castrated goats. That tells me something. I'd like data, even anecdotal, because 50 percent of kids born on any farm are bucklings. So, castrate half the kids early before full development, and KEEP ALL THE WETHERS LONG ENOUGH for the problems to manifest. EVERY YEAR, keep those early castrated kids, for years.

I know of no one who does this. Even if you only have 2 does a year kidding, you will have over half your herd being nonproductive wethers, for years, in order to be able to HONESTLY say, "I have kept all my wethers for at least 3 years, half of them I have carefully monitered their nutrition, and half have had whatever backyard breeders would throw at their goats. My jury is in... Early castration is fine, I have no problems in anyone."

No one does this. Do YOU know anyone who has a herd comprised of half non productive wethers? for years?

As far as I am concerned, the broad strokes of the science are in. Goats develop to develop, and we do interfere. (We have to interfere) Both development and nutrition are important. I'm OK with that, and with not having to spend a lot of time further figuring out what seems OK to me. The earlier I have to mess with Mother Nature, the more I have to be willing to moniter and adjust.

I personally don't have an age I wether, I have a maturity level. If I see them extending, I have to wether. That is only one of my guidelines.
 

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Funny, but most of the folks in my circle keep their wethers till they die of old age. That's because we use wethers as working goats.

There is debate also among people who keep lifetime wethers. Most go with the "castrate later" mantra because the urethra does grow during puberty, which generally happens at around 3-4 months. That said, intact bucks are also susceptible to UC due to the fact that all male goats have a very long, narrow urethra no matter how much they develop. So castration age is only one factor. One prominent packgoat breeder wethers his at 4-8 weeks. They actually grow taller when wethered younger and he likes this. I don't know if his fall victim to UC more often because they are scattered all over the country so it's hard to get a good "study group" on them.

I've known goats castrated young who lived well into their teens and goats castrated late who died of UC at 4-5 years old. I sold a goat two years ago who we had used as a breeding buck and castrated at a year old. He developed pizzle rot last year at 4 years old and died from related complications. That one was weird to me.

Diet plays a huge role in whether a wether will develop UC, and I'm sure genetics is also part of it. A goat that forms stones in his bladder is almost certain to clog up eventually no matter how late he was wethered, and a goat that never forms stones in his bladder can't clog up no matter how narrow his urethra. Just something to keep in mind.
 

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Funny, but most of the folks in my circle keep their wethers till they die of old age. That's because we use wethers as working goats.

There is debate also among people who keep lifetime wethers. Most go with the "castrate later" mantra because the urethra does grow during puberty, which generally happens at around 3-4 months. That said, intact bucks are also susceptible to UC due to the fact that all male goats have a very long, narrow urethra no matter how much they develop. So castration age is only one factor. One prominent packgoat breeder wethers his at 4-8 weeks. They actually grow taller when wethered younger and he likes this. I don't know if his fall victim to UC more often because they are scattered all over the country so it's hard to get a good "study group" on them.

I've known goats castrated young who lived well into their teens and goats castrated late who died of UC at 4-5 years old. I sold a goat two years ago who we had used as a breeding buck and castrated at a year old. He developed pizzle rot last year at 4 years old and died from related complications. That one was weird to me.

Diet plays a huge role in whether a wether will develop UC, and I'm sure genetics is also part of it. A goat that forms stones in his bladder is almost certain to clog up eventually no matter how late he was wethered, and a goat that never forms stones in his bladder can't clog up no matter how narrow his urethra. Just something to keep in mind.
Do you think that genetics play as much a role in boys that develop UC as does environmental elements (feeding style, browse type, minerals, etc)?
 

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Do you think that genetics play as much a role
How would we ever know that? Most wethers, end up dead. Whether we like it or not that is the fact of the matter. Finding out the genetic component of an incredibly complicated array of contributors would mean keeping vast numbers of wethers alive, and segregating them into all these diverse categories involving genetics, diet, management styles (including exercise, like pack animals), and all the different ages they were wethered. Not to mention wethering according to development, not age (a 2 week old pygmy is NOT the same stage of development as a 2 week old Saanen).

I'm all for research into goats. I'm tired of not having goat info on our labels. But I would rather the research not be frittered away into animals that are overwhelmingly going to be killed early. I'd rather see it going into the ones we know are meant to live a while first.
 

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I'm all for research into goats. I'm tired of not having goat info on our labels. But I would rather the research not be frittered away into animals that are overwhelmingly going to be killed early. I'd rather see it going into the ones we know are meant to live a while first.
Since bucks are also prone to UC, not just wethers, some of the big breeders that keep their bucks for a lifetime, not sell them after a couple of years, would be the people that could actually research that. Or keep track of the bucks/kids they sell and ask about it. But your right, alot of wethers get sold simply for meat, so castrating them and what age you do it at really doesn't matter. Honestly, at the moment when I sell a wether, if someone is looking for a pack goat/brush goat, I just try to push the importance of feeding alfalfa in their diet so they are getting a better dietary balance.
 

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The big concern is UC but nobody ever talks about the rest of the body like bones that also need hormones for good growth. A study was done on llamas and they found that males gelded early had thin bones that could break easier. Ones that were gelded later had proper bone development.
 

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The big concern is UC but nobody ever talks about the rest of the body like bones that also need hormones for good growth. A study was done on llamas and they found that males gelded early had thin bones that could break easier. Ones that were gelded later had proper bone development.
This is also a concern in horses and dogs.
 

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So, as I say, it is complicated. The more I can work with nature, regarding castration and nutrition, the less I have to fool with nature. I'm OK with that. Just don't tell me, "I completely mess with nature and my animals are fine and dandy but I'm not telling you what happened to the animals with whose nature I fooled."

We have to castrate, we have to provide a diet. I'm down with that. I want others to also say, "It's complicated."
 

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The big concern is UC but nobody ever talks about the rest of the body like bones that also need hormones for good growth. A study was done on llamas and they found that males gelded early had thin bones that could break easier. Ones that were gelded later had proper bone development.
This is actually one of my concerns as well. It's one reason I prefer dam-raised (but still people-bonded) packgoats, and a reason I prefer to castrate later. There tends to be a major difference in early bone growth between bottle kids and dam-raised, and some difference between earlier and later castration. The bottle kids do eventually catch up by about 12-18 months, but I tend to think early bone growth is important.

One thing almost no one talks about is overweight wethers. Even if they are fed the exact "right" diet, excess body fat undoubtedly contributes to urinary problems. Fat deposits in the belly likely put pressure on the urinary tract from all sides. This is just conjecture, but any excess nutrients and minerals that the body takes in but can't use end up passing through the urinary system. I imagine this could lead to the formation of stones. A goat with too much body fat is going to have a slower metabolism and will utilize even less of his nutrient intake. So keeping your working wethers fit and trim is probably one of the best ways to prevent stones from forming. This can be difficult because many wethers seem to get fat just looking at food. Keeping up the exercise, however, is good for their heart, muscles, feet, and metabolism even if they still put on a few extra pounds.
 

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He developed pizzle rot last year at 4 years old and died from related complications.
Okay, what the heck is pizzle rot? Good heavens! Is there no end to the horrific health issues goats have? Just when I'm feeling all warm and fuzzy, someone has to post yet one more way a goat can die a painful death!
 

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I always wether very young. I have never had UC issues in wethers or bucks. I make sure they have a balanced diet when it comes to calcium-phosphorus, and yes, they get grain/concentrates daily.

I keep most of my bucks until they die of old age. So far never had a case of UC.

Many of my wethers (banded early) went as pets and stayed healthy and UC free their entire long lives. Some were dam raised and some were bottle fed. Some were weaned at 8 weeks, some on dam or bottle until they were 6 or 7 months.
 

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The years I've been moderator here the vast majority of "help, my boy has UC" threads have been Boer, Pygmy, and Nigerian goats.
I found a paper one time that showed that African goats store and eliminate calcium differently than European goats.
In African goats calcium is the culprit and excess shouldn't be pushed for them. In European goats phosphorus tends to be the culprit and they should receive more calcium.
Mixing the two types leaves you in la la land, you don't know which digestive system they inherited.
 

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Goat Crazy!
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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
@lottsagoats1, you are one of the reputable breeders I mentioned in my initial post.:)

And @mariarose, I DO know a lab in the Portland, Maine area that keeps well over 400 full sized goats of varying breeds. A goodly percentage of those goats are wethers and they prefer that the boys they get are wethered in the first week of life, if possible (assuming the testicles have descended). They take excellent care of their animals and it is in their economic interest to keep each goat as healthy as possible for as long as possible. They do not put down goats, instead, they retire them from work when they are in the 10-12 year old range.

When we toured there and heard how early they like their boys neutered, we (breeders and owners) grilled them on the issue of UC. They apparently have had few to no (My memory is hazy, but I recall being surprised at how low the incidence was) instances of UC at all - even in their older boys.

I guess the difference between them and the average farm is that they very carefully control the diet of all their animals. Their hay is tested and they have formulated their own grain mix.

Frankly, I'm sure that many goat owners aren't super careful or are misinformed about their wether's diets. And there are other factors that can figure in like the aforementioned genetics and I even wonder about our water. So many of us have well water that screws up copper absorption, etc. Couldn't those metals and minerals in the water also play a role in developing stones?
 

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Goat Crazy!
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Oh...and I have never heard about the bone development angle before. That's a new one for me! Certainly something for me to chew on.
 

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There is much more research out there than people think there is.They just don't go looking for it in the right places. We've been told that no one cares about goats for so long that people actually believe it.
Caine Research Center in Caldwell, Idaho has done a lot of research into UC and pioneered some of the surgeries used to correct issues.
Oregon State university is mapping the genome of goats and the genome of many of their diseases. They are making great strides in their goals.

Most of these places have open research and may make you pay for a subscription but, will share what they are doing.
 
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