If you're a farmer keeping goats, sooner or later you may have baby goats to care for. Particularly if you're raising dairy goats. Providing a baby goat, aka a "kid," with the right care, feeding and shelter are critical to helping them grow into a healthy, hearty adult goat.
For issues beyond the scope of this article, make sure to contact your farm vet for advice and treatment.
Right After Birth
Immediately after your baby goat is born, you should be present.
(This will help with socializing later.) Allow the umbilical cord to break naturally, and only trim it if it's longer than four inches. You will want the cord to be about three to four inches in length. Use a sterilized pair of scissors, then clean the cord with iodine and allow it to fall off naturally.
If possible, leave the baby goat with the mother. She'll lick it clean, and the baby goat and its mother will bond. The mother goat will likely eat some of the afterbirth; that's fine. Your job as the farmer is to stay and monitor the situation.
Make sure the baby goat feeds from its mother within the first hour after birth. If the kid doesn't feed from its mother, you'll need to bottle-feed it colostrum, which can be from its mother, another goat, or purchased at a feed store.
Bottle-Fed or Mother-Raised?
You will need to decide whether you're going to have the mother raise and nurse the baby, or whether you will bottle feed your baby goat kid.
The difference is that bottle-fed goats are usually more attached to humans, tamer and less skittish.
Even if you want to bottle-feed your baby goat, leave it with its mother for at least a few days so it can get the early milk, colostrum, that is high in nutrients and immune-building properties.
Feeding a Bottle-Fed Baby Goat
You'll need to teach your baby goat to drink from a bottle.
Squirting milk into its mouth quickly will help it associate the bottle with milk and it will learn. Baby goats should be fed at least four times a day for the first month, and then you can reduce the number of feedings to three. Follow the advice of your vet on exact amounts of milk to feed and any other supplements needed.
Feeding a Mother-Raised Baby Goat
If you allow the mother to raise the baby goat, she does all the work! For the first six to eight weeks the baby goat will drink only from its mother, and then you can transition to hay and other foods.
If you choose this route, you'll want to spend lots of time cuddling and handling the baby goat so that it learns to tolerate human contact and doesn't end up skittish.
Transitioning From Milk To Other Foods
You may start offering small amounts of grain at one week old to help jump-start the goat's rumen development. Weaning usually happens at around four weeks old, but can happen at six to eight weeks old.
You may offer hay, small amounts of grain, fresh water, and pasture time to baby goats at around thirty days old.
You will want to ensure that your baby goat doesn't transition too fast to hay, as that could cause bloating and digestive issues.
Goats eat mostly hay, around 80 percent. About fifteen percent of their diet should be pasture and weeds or hay pellets, and only about 5 percent should be grain. You will also need to provide your kids (and your adult goats) with a mineral block or loose minerals.
You'll slowly decrease the amount of milk until your baby goat is eating just like the other adult goats.
The Best Environment for Baby Goats
Baby goats need a draft-free, warm, and dry shelter with clean bedding. Each goat needs roughly ten square feet of space in the shelter. You can cover the dirt with hay or wood shavings for bedding.
Once on pasture, your baby goat kids will need a clean pasture without too much manure or waste in it. Avoid pasture with these azaleas or rhododendrons, which are poisonous to goats. Also make sure they do not have access to moldy grain, which is also poisonous to them.
You will want to keep baby goats together and separate from other goats, though you should socialize them sometimes as well (see below). They may need a separate pasture to ensure they stay healthy.
Supplies for Baby Goats
For bottle-feeding, you will need:
- Goat baby bottle
- Lamb/goat kid nipple
- Goat milk replacement
- Colostrum replacement if necessary
Socializing Baby Goat Kids
Raising the tamest, calmest and most human-friendly goats possible is a great goal. You will want your goat kid to imprint on you, the human. Be there when they are born and spend time with mother and baby in the first few days, which are most critical to imprinting. Also, give them time with the rest of the herd to socialize.