How to Care for Bottle Baby Goat Kids

A guide on how to raise an orphaned goat kid or one that is neglected by its mother. Bottle feeding information for goats. How to feed a bummer kid

Bottle feeding kids (baby goats) is hard work, this is not something a busy farmer does for fun, although sometimes 4H kids will, or people with “petting zoos”. Knowing what to do will hopefully make the process easier. Ideally you may want to have family members take turns caring for the bottle kids, as this will help everyone not become too overwhelmed.

Sometimes a doe (female adult goat, also called a nanny) will be overwhelmed with her kids, and after a few days, one or more of them will start to look poorly, it will standing hunched and will not look like it is thriving.  Other times the mother goat dies, leaving orphaned kids. These youngsters are often called “bottle babies” or “bummers”.  Some times the kids are removed from a dairy goat so the farmer has more milk for himself.

If a doe simply is not producing enough milk, but not being aggressive against her kid(s), you need to have your veterinarian check her for problems such as mastitis or other problems, sometimes the vet can give her a shot to help her produce milk.  If the doe is feeding one kid but not the other, you can leave the neglected kid with her and feed it yourself throughout the day. If the nanny is being mean to the kid, you will need to treat the kid like an orphan and remove it altogether.

If the doe has died and the kid is a newborn, dry it off and keep it warm. In most cases this may mean bringing it into your home. Goats, and especially new 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.

Grafting

With luck, you may have success grafting the kid onto another doe, this is something to try if another doe has given birth and lost the kid, or had only a single. Never give a young doe more than two kids to care for. You can can try to graft a kid by putting the kid in the pen with the mom, if she is an exceptionally good mom she will accept it with only a small hesitation. These moms are very hard to come by. More often a mother will have to be held and forced to allow the new kid to drink, never leave them alone until you have determined if she will care for the new one or not. Very often they will push the strange new lamb away.  See the information about Colostrum in “Bottle Feeding” below.

Having another doe raise the orphan is much easier than you doing it and will also save you a lot of expense on milk. The other advantage is that the youngster knows that it is a goat. It will fit into the herd well.  However, it is not easily done, so very likely you will be bottle feeding the kid.

Bottle Feeding Kids

bottle feeding a goat kid

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jdickert/485771161/  A little more tilt to the bottle is needed.

The first and most important thing is to ensure your kid gets Colostrum; this is the mother's first milk. Colostrum contains the first antibodies and it is very important that the kid gets some within the first 18 hours following birth. This does not have to be their first drink, but it is important that they get it.

Colostrum can be obtained by milking the doe, by milking another doe that 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 for use. Colostrum can be fed by gently squirting it into the kid's mouth with a syringe. Be careful, if you go too fast you risk forcing it into their lungs.

For regular feedings you will have to purchase proper kid/goat starter milk formula. This is a powder that comes in large bags that you can purchase it at your Livestock Feed store. Do not use cow milk for human consumption. If goat milk is unavailable at all stores in your area get lamb, or calf milk, replacer. You will need to also buy bottles and nipples from your Livestock Feed store. It is good to get extra in case they bite the nipple off when they get older.  I like the kind of nipple that attaches to 750ml pop bottles. 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, and by adding a tiny bit of molasses it will give the lamb extra energy. 

*Always wash the bottles and nipples between feedings.

Bottle feeding can be difficult at first because the kid will not understand the milk is coming from you.  Kids naturally look for a nipple from their mother. Pick up the kid and hold it in one arm. Then use your fingers to pry open its mouth and put the nipple in. When you use the plastic pop bottles as bottles, you can gently squeeze some milk into the youngster's mouth if it is too weak, or confused, to suck. After a few days the kid will 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 and the kid can drink on its own.

Bottle kids need about 5 oz of milk per pound of weight per 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. Then to make your life easier, the kid will be okay over night if you feed as late as possible, and again as early as possible, with the other feedings 3-4 hours apart throughout the day for the first week.   In most cases you can fill a bottle and let the kid drink as much as it wants.  There is little risk of them drinking too much, the problems start when they do not drink enough.

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.  In most rural areas tap warm is fine as this is the water the livestock will normally be drinking. 

As your kid gets bigger it will eat bigger meals, but less often. After about 1 week your kid can be fed every 5-6 hours. You can reduce this so that at 4 weeks of age it only is feeding twice a day. Of course as you reduce the number of feedings you need to increase the feed per feeding.

Always follow directions for mixing the formula as indicated on the bag.  Every brand is different so if you switch brands be sure to read the new mixing instructions.

General

Your kid should also have hay (or grass) after a few days of age. They normally start eating by watching their mother. You can teach your kid to eat by picking grass or hay with your hand, or by having it with other kids who are eating. Baby goats can also have kid ration feed, a crumbly product you can buy at a feed store. They won't understand that it is food so you may have to put their faces in it, or pinch some in your fingers and put it in their mouth. When introducing any new food it is best done slowly so you do not overwhelm their tummies and make them sick.

bottle feeding a baby goat

http://www.flickr.com/photos/4x4jeepchick/398307685/  This kid is older and does not need to be held.

If your bottle baby kid was kept in the house it is important to get it out with the other goats as soon as possible, especially if it is a single. You can keep it in a pen with some of the more gentle goats and their kids.

Use restraint when bottle feeding young billies (male kids), if they are not weathered (neutered) they can become “bullies” as they get older. Do not allow a billy bottle baby to think is anything other than a goat. Resist the urge to pat or cuddle them, and do not offer them treats from your hand.

Raising orphaned goats is a lot of work, but rewarding if you do it right. If you are not prepared for all the expense and time involved you are best to try to sell your kid or give it away to somebody who is better prepared.

*Please note the black and white animal being bottle fed in the thumbnail photo is a lamb, not a goat kid*

Other Livestock Related Links

How to Care for Bottle Baby Lambs

How to Become a Sheep Breeder and Producer

Four Novelty Farm Animals

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