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Hand raising goat kids

When milking a dairy goat, you may want to remove the kids completely from the doe and milk her twice daily. This is normal for does in commercial dairies . It then becomes necessary to hand raise the kids. Hand raising kids may also become necessary if a doe dies or becomes ill  at, or shortly after birth, or for some reason a doe  rejects one or more kids.

Removing kids at birth.
If removing kids from a dairy doe the best time to do so is at birth. The kids then accept you as “mum”, and the mum is convinced you are her baby. If at all possible make sure the kid gets the first milk or “colostrum”. This provides valuable antibodies which protect the kid from disease for the first several weeks of life. After this, the kid's own body starts producing it's own antibodies.  The only time colostrum should not be fed is if the doe has the disease CAE. or is suspected of having this disease. It is then vital that the kid drinks absolutely no milk from its mother, as CAE is passed on through the milk. 

What if you have no colostrum?
It is possible to raise kids without colostrum , but extra care with hygiene and keeping the kids warm and dry is necessary. We use the following colostrum substitute.

300 mls fresh or pasteurised cows milk.  
1 dessertspoon fresh, pasteurised or long life cream to make the milk richer.
2 drops of cod liver oil to provide Vitamin A and D.
Some people add an egg yolk, but we have found this gives some kids diarrhoea. 

Make the mix nice and warm.  I feed it at the temperature I would like to have my bath.  Feed as much as the kid wants 3 or 4 times a day for the first 3 days.

What can you feed kids with if you have no goats milk?
The next best thing to feeding goats milk, is cows milk, preferably straight from the cow. Pasteurised cows milk will also do a good job. The feeding of  powdered milk formulas to goat kids is fraught with danger. Some kids on powdered milk replacers can bloat within hours, sometimes leading to sudden death through their stomach bursting internally.  This is the most common problem we get asked about.  Symptoms of powdered formula problems are:

  • The kid looses interest in its milk on and off.  2 to 6 weeks of age seems a particularly common age for this to happen.
  • The kid is off colour on and off for no obvious reason.
  • The kid is bloated looking and reluctant to move several hours after its last feed.  By the next day it may have recovered, only to go through this again every day or two.
  • The kid may have colic or appear to be in pain with grinding of it's teeth not uncommon.
  • The kid may have diarrhoea or constipation intermittently. 

If this sounds like your kid, totally stop feeding powdered milk immediately.  If you have access to probiotics, such as Protexin or Peck's Farmers Yeast, give the kid a dose.  Feed no milk for 24 hours.  Put the kid onto fresh or pasteurised cows milk, starting with only 100mls the first feed, then gradually increasing the amount of milk each feed.  Some kids may be better weaned.  

If absolutely necessary to feed powdered milk, use human grade full cream milk powder and introduce it slowly. The use of probiotics in powdered milks looks promising in the control of bloat.

How much milk and how often.
Feed kids 3 to 4 times daily for the first 2 weeks of life. We feed kids 3 feeds a day for the first month, 2 feeds a day for the second month, and 1 feed a day for the third month.  A dairy goat or boer kid can get by well on 1.5 litres per day, a cashmere or angora kid on about 1 litre a day. Feeding larger quantities of milk tends to discourage the kids from learning to eat solids at an early age.  If you have a need to push the kids growth at an early age - maybe you want to show it - increase this amount of milk by 50%.  This will not make them any bigger as adults - just get to their weight more quickly.

How will you feed the milk?
There are two main choices in how to feed the kid.  - a teat on a bottle, or straight out of a bucket. 

 New born kids drink readily from a bucket, provided the milk is warm enough.  The milk must feel quite warm to the kid, as it is warmth that attracts the newborn to the mothers udder.  Dip the kids nose in the milk, and it will normally have a think about it and say "milk - yum", and go for it.  Dairy goat kids are very good bucket drinkers.  

Weak or premature babies find a bucket easier than a teat.

If you only have one kid you may enjoy the pleasure of feeding it with a bottle.  Most brands of teats are suitable, but we find the thin latex ones do not last well, and collapse too easily.  Choose a sturdy teat.  Baby's bottles and teats do the job well, but the hole in the teat will need to be enlarged for a goat kid.

What else to feed besides milk.
Offer water and hay for the kid to pick at from the first week of life. The sooner the kids begin eating concentrates,  the sooner they can be weaned off milk.  Concentrates can include high protein calf pellets, oats, barley, dairy meal or high protein horse feeds.  It is illegal in Australia to feed any product to goats that contains animal by-products such as meat meal or tallow.  This includes most poultry and pig feeds, plus dog biscuits.  Unfortunately goat kids seem to have a liking for the dog biscuits whenever they can get at them!  

Aim at weaning the kids by 12 weeks of age unless you have plentiful supplies of milk, or need to push it's growth quickly.

What else does the kid need?
All goat kids need warmth and shelter.  No goat likes to be out in the rain.  Never underestimate how warm a baby goat kid needs to be.  Extra warmth in the first 3 weeks of life can be provided by heat lamps, or straw in the bottom of a small deep box.  Two or three kids in one box keep each other warm.  For extra warmth, a quilt or blanket over the box will help keep the warmth in, but don't forget to leave a small ventilation gap.  Little goat coats can be made out of the sleeve of a jumper or long sleeve sweater.

Pattern for a goat kid rug made out of an old sweatshirt sleeve.

Kids need to be vaccinated for pulpy kidney.

From the age of 6 weeks you may need to start worming the kid, and about this time treat for coccidiosis.  It is advisable not to raise goat kids on ground poultry, geese or ducks have access to.  

Remember all goats need clean fresh water at all times.

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