Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Care For Bottle Fed Baby Goat Kids

Sometimes a doe (mother goat) has more kids than she can care for, other times she dies while giving birth or shortly there after, or she may just reject one of her kids. Either way the result is a kid that must be raised by hand.  These are often called bottle baby kids, or bummers.

When a doe is overwhelmed with her kids, not feeding them all, or does not have enough milk, one or more of them will start to look poorly, typically standing hunched up and generally not thriving.  If a doe is not producing enough milk, but is not being aggressive against the youngster, the kid may be left with the doe and will require bottle feeding. If she is being mean to the kid, it should be removed and treated as an orphan.

Bottle feeding kids is hard work. Ideally family members can take turns caring for the little one, as this will help everyone not become too overwhelmed. Bottle feeding will be especially difficult if you have more than one kid to care for.  Some farmers will give these kids away, or sell them, rather than do the work themselves.

If the doe has died and the kid is newborn, dry it off and keep it warm. In most cases this may mean bringing it into your home. Goats, and especially baby goats, need to be kept warm, you can leave them in a small pen in your barn, but will be making several trips out so this may be inconvenient.  A temporary pen, such as a dog pen, may be used to contain young goats in the house.

How To Bottle Feed Baby Goats

The most important thing, is to ensure the kid received, or receives, Colostrum, which is the mother's first milk. Colostrum contains the first antibodies and the kid should get some within the first 18 hours after birth. It does not have to be their first drink.

Colostrum can be obtained by milking the doe, by milking another doe who has also just given birth, or by purchase. If you have several does, you might want to purchase Colostrum before hand and store it.

Colostrum may be purchased from a Veterinarian, Veterinarian supply store, or a livestock feed store. It may come frozen or powdered. In an emergency powdered calf colostrum is acceptable. Colostrum can be fed by gently squirting it into the kids mouth with a syringe or by using a bottle with a small nipple. Use caution, if you go too fast you risk it entering their lungs.

You will also need to purchase proper kid/goat milk replacement formula. This is a powder that comes in large bags, and can purchased at livestock feed stores. Do not use cow milk for human consumption. If goat milk is unavailable look elsewhere, or get lamb, or calf, milk replacer. You can also buy bottles and nipples from the livestock feed store. Most young goats like the kind of nipple that attaches to 750ml pop bottles.

Larger breeds may prefer a larger nipple. If you don't have a bottle and nipple on hand, use a syringe or even a turkey baster at first. If you need emergency formula, as the case where it is late and stores are closed, you can use canned evaporated milk, adding a wee bit of molasses to give the kid extra energy.

Bottle feeding is tricky at first because the kid will not understand the milk is coming from you. It is their nature to look for a nipple from their mother. Pick up the kid and hold it in one arm. Then use your hand to pry open its mouth and put the nipple in. When using the plastic pop bottles as bottles, you can gently
squeeze some milk into the youngster if it is too weak or confused to suck. After a few days the kid will start to understand what is going on and will be able to drink normally from the bottle while standing. If you have multiple kids you will eventually want to get a system where you can put the bottle in a holder and the kid can drink on its own.

Bottle kids need about 5 oz of milk per pound of weight every day. You can figure this out and then break the feedings down to multiple times per day. In the first 24 hours you will want to feed around the clock, usually every 2 hours in the day, every 3 at night. After one day the kid will be okay over night if you feed as late as possible, and again as early as possible. With the other feedings continue every 3-4 hours throughout the day for the first week. The water used to make the formula should be warm, you can test it on your wrist to make sure it is not too hot.

When it is two or three days old the kid will also want to eat hay and grain. Kid ration is a dry feed that can be offered instead of grain, and contains more nutrition for young goats. This should be offered in small amounts. If the kid is uninterested in eating this, it can be encouraged to do so by actually putting small bits of food into its mouth. Introduce new food slowly so as not to cause an upset tummy which could cause scours.

As the kid gets bigger it will eat bigger meals, but less often. After about 1 week the kid can be bottle fed every 5-6 hours. Reduce this so that at 4 weeks of age it only is feeding twice a day. Of course as the number of feedings are reduced the amount per feeding needs to be increased.

Bottle fed kids grow into friendly adult goats, but in the case of billies (intact males) care should be taken not to allow them to become too friendly or they may be aggressive as adults.

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