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Buck Smell Can Be Decreased

Jennifer Stultz


I have always lobbied that dairy goats are clean, sweet-smelling animals that thrive in a well-kept environment. And, for most of the year, they are all that. The does in my herd come into the milk parlor happy, healthy, and clean. They seem to pride themselves on a nice appearance, just as most humans might. Bucks, however, are a different story altogether, especially in fall when it is breeding season. They have some habits I find extremely disgusting, but have come to accept them as important to the survival of their species. Despite their blubbering and stinkiness, there are some management tips that can make breeding season just a bit more enjoyable for humans.

This Saanen buck was clean and white until breeding season came around, then repeated urine spray stained his legs and beard yellow.

There is just no getting around the fact that bucks stink during breeding season. This is because they urinate on the back of their front legs when they get excited about a doe in heat nearby, and have not developed the ability to wash themselves after it happens. They also have the most ungentlemanly habit of sticking their noses in female goats’ urine streams to detect estrus and optimum breeding windows.

Urine buildup on the back of a buck’s front legs not only smells bad; it can cause a painful situation for the buck—urine scald. The acidic level of the urine actually eats away the hair in the affected area and creates sores. A buck can

also get urine scald around his muzzle, but it rarely creates a lasting problem. When urine scald gets out of control on the back of a buck’s front legs, it helps to wash the affected area at least once a week and then apply an ointment with zinc, like Desitin, used for baby diaper rash. Vaseline gel, applied to the back of urine-scalded legs, also helps the area heal. Of course, this is not a fun job, and while it may make the buck smell better, the human doing the washing gets the worst end of the deal.

Another reason bucks smell bad is that they have scent glands located just behind their horn base. Some breeders attempt to burn off these scent glands when bucklings are babies at disbudding time. Disbudding bucks often takes a more thorough approach to stop horn growth than it does on does, so going for a nice figure-eight burn on each buckling horn bud helps eliminate odor as the animal matures.

Bad buck smell can also be minimized with good facility care. Clean bedding, plenty of room, and shelter from the elements can go a long way towards keeping that breeding season aroma from becoming an overwhelming deterrent to sensitive human noses. A nice mid-summer clip job on the bucks will lessen the amount of smell retained on longhaired animals in fall. Clipping too late in fall could leave the buck shivering in cold weather instead of happily pursuing does, but when timed right, a good clip job, shampoo bath, and hoof trim, will have bucks ready for their fall duty, and their human caretakers not holding their noses as much while bringing does to bucks, or vice versa.

Keep in mind, however, that smelly bucks are often preferred by does in heat over those who do not smell, so while cleaning up urine scald, removing scent glands, and clipping long hair might make them more acceptable to the owner, dairy does have their own standards by which they measure their chosen mates. And for them, the smellier the better.

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