Bottle Feeding Baby Goats
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When at all possible it’s better for the kids to be left nursing from their mom. Sometimes, however, this isn’t an option. There are times its just not possible. A doe may have more kids than she can feed. A kid may be born too small or weak to be able to nurse. And on rare occasion, a doe may reject one or more kids. So, if you find yourself with a bottle baby, what do you do? I usually try to work with a doe and newborn for at least 24hrs before giving up and bottle feeding the kid(s) completely. With a newborn, it’s best if you can allow the kid to nurse some colostrum from its mom for the first 24-48 hours. If this isn’t an option, then a powdered form of colostrum. Obviously, it would be best to have some of this on hand before the kids arrive.
Provide colostrum for very young goats. Colostrum is the milk a mother produces when a goat is first born. In the event your young goat was rejected or abandoned by its mother, you will have to provide colostrum yourself. It is difficult for a goat to survive without a steady intake of colostrum.
You need to give a baby goat colostrum within its first 24 hours of life. If you have a goat on your farm that recently gave birth, milk that goat and bottle feed your goat the mother’s milk.
If you know you’re raising goats, freeze milk from goats who have recently given birth or keep colostrum substitute on hand. It’s vital to get colostrum to a goat as soon as possible.
What to Feed
Goat milk is best, and I prefer raw milk because it has all of the antibodies intact.
There are two other options, either a commercial powdered goat milk replacer or make your own using a cow’s milk-based recipe that you mix up yourself (recipe below).
Beyond that, you’ll hear people argue all day long about what to feed. We’ve used milk replacer, and we’ve used whole milk from the store, and we had equally good results with both. Without mom’s antibodies in fresh goat milk, the kids will be more likely to have problems with worms and coccidia, which is why some people use medicated milk replacer, which helps prevent coccidiosis.
I recommend that all people new to bottle feeding use the powdered milk replacer. I personally find that it’s easier to use, there are less steps (and less chance of making a mistake), plus it’s quite a bit cheaper in the long run. There are many brands to choose from online but be sure you purchase one labeled for “goats” if at all possible. Some companies make a multi-species milk replacer for horses, cattle, goats, & sheep, but these are all different species with quite a variety of needs nutritionally. If a goat specific milk replacer isn’t available in your area then you may want to try the goat milk replacer recipe below.
1-gallon whole milk (homogenized)
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup buttermilk
Take the gallon of milk, and pour out about 1/3 and set it aside
Pour in 1 can of evaporated milk and 1 cup of buttermilk into the gallon then pour to the remaining milk that you set aside until you reach the top. Mix gently each time before making up a bottle.
I’m not sure who originally created this bottle-feeding recipe, but it has been used by many goat breeders for way longer than I have been around. The kids seem to grow well on it, though I still prefer to use the powdered formula due to cost.
What Type of Bottle to Use
It really isn’t a big deal what type of bottle or nipple is used as long as the kid is able to nurse from it. Many breeders swear by using the Pritchard Teat nipple, while others prefer the thicker lamb nipples. Both of these can be used on a 16oz or 20oz soda or water bottle. Over the years I’ve found that regular baby bottles work just as well and the kids seem to be more willing to take these nipples than the larger varieties. I typically buy the cheap ones.
How Much to Feed
This is a basic guideline to follow.
Kids less than 1 week old will need to eat 4 times a day. Typically newborn kids need to be fed every 2-4 hours the first 3 days and then you can gradually start spacing out the feedings.
It’s very important to weigh bottle fed kids weekly to assure that they are gaining weight, especially for the first couple of weeks. When in doubt about how much to feed always give less and leave the kid wanting more. You don’t want your bottle baby to have a belly that looks like it swallowed a basketball.
How Often to Feed
Baby goats will always act hungry when they see you because you are acting as their mom. It’s very important to not give them too much milk at one feeding because over feeding causes diarrhea which can quickly lead to dehydration. As the acting “parent” of a baby goat, it is your responsibility to stop feeding them before they get full. A bottle-fed baby that stops sucking from the bottle and isn’t interested anymore has been fed too much and the amount should be reduced by 1-2 ounces at the next feeding. A general rule of thumb is if a kid lets go of the nipple offer the bottle one more time. The second time they let go of the nipple do not continue to offer the bottle.
If diarrhea occurs you can use Pedialyte instead of water to mix up the next bottle. If loose stool continues this is typically caused by either over feeding or mixing the formula up too strong. Try diluting the bottles with more water (or Pedialyte) for the next 48 hours. As always, call your veterinarian if you are concerned.
FREQUENCY OF BOTTLE FEEDING BABY GOAT
1. 1 week of age feed every 2-4 hours as needed
2. 1-2 weeks of age feed every 2-4 hours as needed
3. 2-3 weeks of age feed every 5 hours (can go 6 hours without feeding during the night). Hay or grass should be available at all times from here on.
4. 4-5 weeks of age feed 4 times a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime). Start offering grain twice a day from here on along with hay or grass.
5. 5-6 weeks of age feed 3 times a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Continue feed and hay.
6. 7-9 weeks of age feed 2 times a day. Continue feed and hay.
7. 10 weeks of age until weaned. Feed 1 bottle a day, gradually cutting back the amount of milk given each day.
Should only take 1 week to be completely weaned. Note: Kids will still want a bottle, but they don’t need a bottle. Should be eating plenty of grass and hay by now. Continure offering grain each day.
Feed 1 bottle a day, gradually cutting back the amount of milk given each day. Should only take 1 week to be completely weaned. Note: Kids will still want a bottle, but they don’t need a bottle.
Should be eating plenty of grass and hay by now. Continue offering grain each day.
We recommend feeding a 16% protein goat feed with Decox (Decoquinate) in it. This can be found at most feed stores and may be listed as a Medicated Goat Feed or may have DQ at the end of the name. The Decoquinate helps to prevent coccidia in young kids. Once they reach 4 months old they can be switched to a non-medicated feed.
When changing grain or milk type/brand, change gradually over 5 days adding more of the new type & less of the old type at each feeding but keeping the total volume the same.
Things to Remember
Do NOT give too much milk at one feeding.
Diarrhea (aka scours) is a symptom of a problem and should not be ignored. Typically, it is caused by over feeding though it may also be caused by switching type or consistency (not enough water) in milk replacer.
Prevent dehydration by using Pedialyte instead of water in the next bottle and resolve diarrhea by reducing the # of ounces you are giving at each feeding.
Deworm kids at 4-5 weeks old and to treat for coccidia around 6-8 weeks old (coccidia needs a repeat treatment 14 days after initial treatment).
***Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. The information on this page is based on information gathered from long time goat breeders, veterinarians and our past experiences. This is not intended to replace professional veterinary and/or medical advice. We disclaim all liability in connection with the use of these products and/or information.
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May God Bless You!