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N Z Vet J. 2005 Oct;53(5):368-70.

Cerebral infarction and meningoencephalitis following hot-iron disbudding of goat kids.

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Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences, Massey University, Private Bag 11222, Palmerston North, New Zealand.



Twelve of 150 goat kids, 4-10 days old, died 3 days after disbudding with a hot iron. Another 18 kids had been ill the previous day but survived following antibiotic therapy. Five of the dead kids were necropsied.


There was necrosis and haemorrhage of the skin, subcutaneous tissues and frontal bone at disbudding sites in all five kids examined post mortem. Beneath disbudding sites in 4/5 kids there were bilateral, dark red, often cavitated areas of necrosis extending deep into the frontal cortex of the brain. Histologically, these areas consisted of coagulation necrosis, haemorrhage, vascular thrombosis and suppurative inflammation. Numerous bacteria, predominantly large Gram positive rods, were present in the necrotic brain tissue. In the remaining kid, bilateral areas of yellow discolouration and flattening of gyri in frontal lobes corresponded histologically to extensive polioencephalomalacia. A mixed growth of aerobes and anaerobes was cultured from the brain of one kid with suppurative lesions.


Thermal disbudding of neonatal kids is widely practised in dairy goat herds and is considered the method of choice for disbudding in New Zealand. However, the skull of goat kids is much thinner than that of calves and the safety margin for thermal injury to the brain is markedly reduced. This report highlights the risks associated with the technique and its potential as a welfare issue.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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