Raising goat kids is fresh in mind these days. Our doe, Eleanor just blessed us with a beautiful buckling which we named Huckleberry. There’s little around the farm that brings us more joy than watching a goat kid hop around the pasture, learn to coordinate its legs and climb on everything it can wobble over to, including us!
There’s very little that needs to be done in the first few hours of life besides a few precautionary measures. We tie the umbilical chord with dental floss and dip it in iodine. Then, we give a supplement of probiotics meant for goat kids. It helps develop the rumen, appetite and immune system. Our soil is also very low in selenium so we give a selenium supplement. Manna Pro's Goat Mineral is a comprehensive mineral and vitamin supplement formulated with selenium. It's a terrific choice when it comes to nurturing your kids.
Also, if the weather is cold still, we help mom out and towel dry the kids a bit after they’ve had a chance to bond. An outside heat source or small dog sweaters can also provide extra warmth.
If you have a good doe and a strong kid/kids let them work out the nursing dance on their own for a while. If within the first hour you haven’t seen a successful latch, perhaps help the pair out by lining the kid up with the udder. Sometimes kids can be clueless, pouncing around everywhere under their mothers looking for the elusive teat; once they latch, it clicks and you shouldn’t have to help further.
It’s important for the kid to ingest colostrum within the first hour or two of being born. If for some reason colostrum from the mother is not available, Manna Pro offers Kid Colostrum, a colostrum supplement formulated specifically for goats.
A kid will do fine for the first month or so solely on its mother’s milk. Which makes the mother’s diet very important. A healthy doe will raise a healthy kid. Make sure she is getting enough grain, protein, quality grass hay, minerals and clean water. A doe burns a lot of calories when nursing and in milk so her ration should be increased gradually. A terrific supplement option for both doe and kid is Calf Manna. Calf Manna is high in protein and energy which helps to increase the does milk production. It's also an ideal feed for kids because it supports sound growth and development.
After about month, maybe even before, the kid will start to explore the food its mother is eating. It might mouth bits of grass and chew on hay, as play or to mimic what mom is doing. Soon it will learn that this too is a food source. Have hay, water and minerals available at “kid” height in the pen so this exploration can take place.
Often, if your doe has twins it will be a natural arrangement for each twin to take a teat and nurse evenly. In the case of triplets or more, there should be no chance for an engorged teat as the multiple kids will drain her of everything she can produce. But in the case with our Angora Goats who often give birth to just one kid, or in Eleanor’s case we had to watch that Huck nursed evenly. He was a lazy nurser when he was first born and preferred her left teat, draining that one and leaving the right to fill and fill.
The larger Eleanor’s teat became, the less he liked it. I had to milk her right side out several times to make her comfortable. After her teat had shrunk in circumference, I showed Huck that milk would come from this one too. Often, he would smell the freshly milked teat and find it on his own. I only had to do this a few times before he began nursing evenly. As he gained strength, he could easily find both teats as Mom carried on her business of grazing for the day.
People who have been around adult goats may have noticed that a goat’s normal droppings are like small, brown, oval marbles. But when a goat is first born, it will have bright yellow-mustard colored poop. Don’t be alarmed this is completely normal. After a few days it will turn to a sort of thick dark/black paste. As the rumen develops this will turn into a smaller version of the more familiar goat pellets.
There are many different reasons to bottle raise. Our personal goal on our farm is to let the kids stay with their mother as much as possible during the first two months letting Mom take care of things. It’s a natural, healthy system for the kid and mother and it’s much easier on us as caregivers to our kids. Eleanor is a wonderful mamma and it’s been a very easy spring; she takes care of everything. I would rather wait for milk until after Huck is weaned then have to bottle feed him every 3-4 hours.
While bottle raising is adorable and you create a very special bond with the goat kid, it is very time consuming and ties you to a feeding schedule for at least two months.
Reasons to Bottle Raise
Sometimes people choose to bottle raise so that the goat milk is available for human use earlier on
Doe rejects the kid
Not enough milk production
Weak kid that’s not able to stand and feed on its own
Whatever the reason, if you find yourself needing to feed a kid a bottle, there are a few things to know…
Kids normally do not make the instinctual transition from mother’s teat to plastic nipple very easily. They have thousands of years of instinct telling them that food comes from Mom, not a bottle.
Even a hungry kid won’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish at first.
Use a clean rubber nipple and plastic bottle. We use recycled water bottles that easily collapse as the goat kid sucks.
Follow instructions on the back of your milk replacement for feeding amounts, temperatures and feeding frequency. We also use the kid’s sides as an indicator as to whether they are getting enough. You want their little bellies just slightly rounded past their ribs. If their sides are sunken in, they’re not getting enough. But you don’t want them puffed up like a balloon.
To feed, hold the kid under your arm so that its head is up. Kids need to be in a “nursing position” for the milk to be digested properly. Gently pry the kid’s mouth open and insert the rubber nipple. Chances are the goat will spat the nipple out, shake its head and put up a fuss. Keep at it. Most of the time success happens when the kid accidently ingests some milk while trying to squirm and suddenly it will “click”. Sometimes scratching the kid’s bottom will encourage it to pounce and look for a “teat”/rubber nipple. This is what Mother Goat would do to her baby if she was encouraging it to nurse. Never squeeze the milk into the baby’s mouth. This can cause it to choke or the milk can drain into the lungs.
Once a baby goat understands that the milk comes from you, there’s little they won’t do to try and get at that bottle. You’ll understand the term “greedy goat”. They’ll also consider you to be their mother. While bottle feeding is tedious at times, I wouldn’t trade the memories I’ve made with our bottle raised kids for the world.
Jennifer Sartell is the primary care taker of all animals on her and her husband’s farm in Fenton, MI. With a passion for living a simple life, Jennifer enjoys creating art, taking in nature, raising animals and has developed a deep appreciation for homesteading.
Jennifer and her husband, Zach, currently raise goats and poultry. Her vast amount of experience on the farm includes, but is not limited to: milking, shearing, hoof trimming, vaccine administration, assisting in animal births, dehorning, egg collecting, chick and turkey hatching, feeding, watering, etc.
She can also cook a mean farm-to-table meal and when the day is done has documented and photographed their day on the farm.