Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bottle Feeding Goat Kids

I intended to sit down to share some cute images of Chloe getting fed and an update on Lilly's progress. To round out my post, I looked up some additional sites that I would share with you, in case you ever needed this information. In my research, I stumbled on a couple sites that simply pierced my heart. I wrote this post last night, fresh in the heat of being annoyed. I slept on it and debated sharing it with you on this page. On the one hand, I do not believe that my writing about my feelings is enough to change what others do or how they live. Who am I that it should? At the same time, perhaps writing about why these things hurt my heart might make someone stop, for just a minute, to really think about their actions. Different experiences in life lead us on different paths, but I have to believe that we are all trying to do the best we can, to grow and become better people. Which is why I am shocked and saddened at the things some people will do to "livestock" without a thought; things that if done to their Fido or Tabby, would have them up in arms and ready to fight. For example, kittens and puppies need to be 8 weeks old and eating solid food before they are separated from their parents. This is not to say that there are not some exigent circumstances where humans step in to try to bottle feed, but that is not the norm. Responsible breeders of these domestic animals do not routinely remove day old young from their mothers so that they will be more friendly towards people. And, they do not castrate or neuter them without anesthesia. Why not? I think we all know the reason for that.

So here is my rant, in all its glory. While I doubt my position will change, I will cool off in a day or two and return to posting cute pictures for you all to enjoy. If you want to stop reading now and wait for that, I understand. ♥

Besides our Veterinary, I use a couple websites that I trust when faced with something new on the homestead. We have never needed to bottle feed any of our kids, so when it became necessary, I wanted to read up on what worked for other people. Armed with the two sites I trust the most, I wanted to poke around on other sites to see more information which might be useful. As I read through site after site of people bottle feeding goat kids for convenience, my hackles were raised. Look, to each their own. I get that some people prefer to bottle feed their kids, just as some people choose to disbud or castrate with rubber bands or any number of practices that rub me the wrong way. But, some information I found made me see RED. The advice was not only offensive, it was potentially dangerous and WRONG.

Here is one piece of bad advice I caught. One writer advises bottle-feeding all kids in order to prevent potential diseases from passing from mother to kid. While CAE and other diseases can certainly be passed through nursing and so a goat-keeper might choose this course, she mentioned in her post that she allows her goat kids to receive Colostrum from their mothers. Here's the deal. If you have CAE within your herd and are trying to prevent transmission to a kid, DO NOT LET THEM NURSE AT ALL. Once you have allowed nursing, chances are, it has been passed to the kid, totally nullifying the reason for pulling the kid. In fact, since CAE is linked to white blood cells, if you are truly trying to prevent transmission of CAE, you should not allow the mother to clean the kid at all either. It should be taken away as soon as it is out of the birth canal.

Additionally, I found many recipes for replacement milk to feed goat kids that suggested using whole cow's milk from your local grocer without any mention of better alternatives. Can goat kids drink cow's milk? Yes. Is it the best option? NO. Though they are both ruminants, cow's milk has larger fat molecules for one thing, which makes it much harder to digest. The best option for feeding goat kids is.... wait for it... goat's milk. If for some reason you don't have any available, you can often find it stocked at your local CoOp store. Or, call around to some local goat farms. They may be able to supply your needs. At least, TRY this first before running to your grocery store to use something that is inferior. If you can't find goat's milk and the alternative is a starving kid, then of course, a cow's milk substitute is probably better than nothing. I want to be clear, if the tone of the post was, "Hey, here's what to do in an emergency," I would have said nothing. I would have been appreciative. It is good information to have in the background. That wasn't it. This was, "Get yourself a goat kid as early as possible because it is cute and will bond with you better. So what if you have no Momma goat and no plan; no worries, you can just feed them *this* because it is easy and convenient and it is good enough..." That kind of mentality leads to neglect more often than not. Besides this, (barring any complications) if you wait until kids are weaned before you sell or buy them, so that they are at least eating hay and grain regularly, needing a milk replacement is a moot-point.

Which brings me to another excuse often given for bottle feeding; namely that the kid(s) will be sold before they are weaned. I don't know how young she meant in the post I read, she did not say, but the tone of the post made me think it was very soon after birth. She intimated that "ripping kids away from their Mothers soon after birth" (her words) was nothing to be concerned about. I get that animals are not people. I fully understand that people use animals for food, clothing, and companionship (among other things). But, from my perspective, I have watched our does with their kids. When one is missing or out of sight, those Mommas go crazy trying to find them. And, when a perceived threat comes near their young, they defend them. Perhaps I am a bit sensitive. After all, I remember in detail watching Salome suffer great pain to deliver Miss Ruthie safe and alive and her immediate concern for that kid. The mental picture of Lilly licking her still-born offspring clean and calling for it softly will not soon fade from my mind. While I have found (in our experience), that once the kids are weaned, they become part of the herd; our Mothers generally do not search for their grown kids like they do when they are newly born- to suggest that an animal doesn't have feelings for her offspring, is inhumane.

One last reason given was that bottle-babies are more snugly. And, while that may be true, is it what is best for your goat? What happens when your 6 pound darling grows to 150 pounds and still wants to visit your lap? This is a recipe for someone to get hurt.

Maybe this will change nothing in your mind as to how livestock is routinely managed. But, if there is a more compassionate way to care for our animals, shouldn't we, at least, consider it? It has been said that a nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members. I would apply that to individuals. We will be measured or judged by how we treat all of God's creations- especially those that are weaker, are in our care and should be under our protection. Food for thought.

*************** Rant ended. ***************

This is the post I intended to write for you. 

Lilly is making progress. As most women who have given birth knows, females were created with not only the ability to nourish our children with the milk from our bodies, but also the very physical need to do so. Being swollen and engorged without relief is uncomfortable to say the least and can be downright painful. A suckling infant releases Oxytocin naturally within it's mother, which assists with milk let down and releases "feel good" hormones. In a mammal that is not going to nurse young with their own milk, thankfully, that uncomfortable feeling declines within a few days with the loss of milk production and goes away entirely before long. Warm compresses applied a few times each day seems to help relieve Lilly's discomfort. We did not need to continue the Oxytocin injections because she passed the rest of the placenta yesterday morning. That is really good news. We are hopeful, she will stop making milk and return to normal shortly. Watching her lumber about the pasture, trying to move with an enormous bag hanging to her knees between her hind legs is heart-wrenching to see. She is still getting injections of the penicillin morning and night, but so far is not showing any signs of infection; no elevated temperature and her udder is not overly warm to the touch. Her appetite is healthy. She is beginning to slowly gain back the weight she lost in kidding. 

Warm rice bags applied 3 times each day for about 10 minutes
What amazes me the most is Lilly's patience and endurance. Chloe has the instincts to suckle and very often rams her head into her mother's udder with the hopes of stimulating milk to drink. She then latches on and sucks for all she is worth. Lilly does not kick her away or walk off. She allows this to happen, despite the frustration it must cause, over and over again. She is a wonderfully attentive Mother. Chloe is licked clean regularly and sleeps most frequently cuddled under Lilly's head. And, when I come in to feed Chloe, Lilly keeps a close eye on things.

Chloe suckling from Bailey.
Lilly keeping an eye on things.
I use a regular child's bottle and nipple for feeding Chloe and warmed milk from that day's milking. I want Chloe to have as normal a life as possible. To that end, Chloe lives in the barn in a stall with her mother, aunt Bailey and her week-old boys. When it is time to feed Chloe, I hold the bottle pointed downward imitating her mother. Chloe crouches down on her front legs, cranes her neck and drinks thirstily, little tail wagging. For the past couple of bottle feedings, I sat on a log with the bottle held in one hand between my knees. Usually, Lilly cleans Chloe while I feed her. This morning, Lilly stood next to Chloe, facing me. She leaned over to smell Chloe's head and the bottle, then, she turned to me and pushed her forehead gently against my shoulder. I slipped my free hand around her neck to pat and hug her back. It felt to me like Lilly knew we were a team in this. It was a sweet moment in time.

I will continue bottle-feeding Chloe as long as it is necessary, but I am still trying to get Bailey to allow Chloe to nurse from her. After each bottle-feeding, Sean or I hold Bailey still and let Chloe latch on for a minute or two. Bailey doesn't like it and she kicks her leg to get away after about that long. This is okay. Chloe is getting milk already, and overfeeding her can be fatal. My goal is to slowly try to get them used to each other, not to give Chloe another meal. If Bailey becomes willing to let Chloe nurse with her kids, I will decrease bottle-feeding proportionally. I do not want to take Chloe from Lilly. There is no need for that, Lilly has not rejected her. If Chloe can get the necessary nourishment from her aunt, that would be better for everyone.

Bottle-feeding is hard. Not because I have found it difficult to persuade Chloe to take the bottle, that was rather easier than I thought it would be. It is difficult emotionally. Kids have no natural "off" button to tell them when they have had enough to eat. Those Momma goats walking off mid-nursing are not being mean. They know that they have to limit the amount each kid gets fed. Too much milk can lead to Floppy Kid Syndrome or Enterotoxemia (Over-eating disease), both of which can be rapidly fatal. (Link to Onion Ranch has more information on these topics.) Feeding a bottle to little Chloe touches my heart and brings out all my maternal instincts. Stopping at only 3 ounces when, despite her bulging full belly, she clearly thinks she is starving is hard to do, but necessary. I am feeding Chloe based on her body weight. She gets 10-12% of her body weight in milk each day. She weighs a little over 6 pounds right now. 6 pounds multiplied by 16 ounces is 96 ounces. 96 oz multiplied by .12 (12%) comes to 11.52 ounces per day. I round to 12 oz. As she grows, the amount of milk she is fed will increase with her weight gain. This is only a guideline. I am also watching for Chloe to act like a healthy goat kid should. If she needs more or less, I adjust it based on what I think is best for her.

We'll keep you updated with how they are doing. And, for more information about feeding goats: CLICK HERE to visit Fiasco Farms. 

All the goats got some outside time yesterday. Here are some images from around the homestead for you.
Baby Ruth napping under the wooden table the kids
use for playground toys. 

Naomi with Bo and Anna

Miss Chloe thinks that fingers are delicious. I stole Sean's rubber boots to wear in the field because mine have enormous holes in the soles. I love his big yellow work boots. I think they make this picture. :)

Thanks for visiting today, friends. We appreciate your company.

~Sean & Sonja


  1. I started up when you wrote about your moment with Lilly and how she knew ya'll were a team. I swear that is an extra special goat you have there my dear!!! I am so happy she is on your farm and no one elses!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. As far as taking the babies away and the Momma's calling out for them and trying to find them. That breaks my heart!
    The folks that have dreamed of having a bottle baby to bond with may honestly not know about this, but for a farmer to see what goes on and encourage it. Just how! Thanks for the education!!

  3. I agree with you on many points. Unfortunately, many goat dairies are in business with the milk, and that is how I ended up with two bottle babies this year. I am supplementing with whole, raw cow's milk though, because Maybelle is not producing as much as she is past her second year since kidding (3/16/13). I do not believe in breeding my goat(s) every year, either. This is why I will now have two does and alternate breeding years. Long story short, the reason I began to leave a comment was to say,"I support you!"

  4. The boots and the baby and the look on his face ~ precious!

  5. Really enjoyed the blog today.