Tuesday, February 27, 2018

How we Bottle-Feed Goat Kids

Carter using my finger as a pacifier. :)
I repeat this often in posts because I feel passionately about it. We only bottle-feed goat kids as a very last resort; when, for whatever reason, the Mother can't and the alternative would be starving kids. Our reason for this is simple. It is what is BEST for the kids. Period. Goats have a herd hierarchy. Bottle-babies, removed from the herd and raised with people, have a hard time adjusting to that. We have seen kids bullied and have lost yearlings because they were not fully accepted into their herd. I am not saying that this always happens, but it does happen- and it doesn't need to. Mothers teach their young goat manners and protect them when necessary. Secondly, kid-replacer is a suitable substitute for their mother's milk, but it is not the BEST nutrition for goat kids- their Mother's milk is. It contains the right blend of nutrients and is fed in the right amounts to goat kids. I have yet to see a case of floppy kid syndrome in a dam-raised kid. (I am sure there are exceptions, but I have never seen it.) Finally, rows of milk bottles lined up in a board without any kind of contact is.... cold. Sterile. I imagine it saves time and does the job of giving the kids nutrition and nothing else.

I am not saying our way is better than how some commercial goat dairies raise their kids, but I think there are benefits to being hands on with every kid where bottle feeding is necessary. And, I think keeping kids with their Mothers until they are weaned is a kinder, more humane practice than selling kids early.

This is how we do it...

Benton playing on Bailey. She is so patient! 
Carter and Benton are just 2 days old and took to the bottle immediately. We use a regular human baby bottle. Other nipples and styles are sold and some people prefer them. We have purchased Prichard type bottles and nipples, but in our experience, human baby bottles work as well, are inexpensive, easy to clean, and our kids prefer them. These kids will get fed 4 oz of goat's milk every 3 hours around the clock. We increase the amount of milk at each feeding to coincide with the weight they are gaining. The rule of thumb is 4 oz per 5 pounds every 3-4 hours. In time, as the kids' rumens develop and they are eating hay and browsing, we will increase the time between bottles until they are getting 4 bottles each day. When the time comes that their rumen is developed and they can eat hay and browse exclusively, we will wean them until they no longer drink milk. Bailey is with her kids while we feed them. She cleans them. She mothers them. We are only providing the milk but the kids are Bailey's to mother. (Ok... we provide some cuddles, scratching and appropriate people interaction. It is too hard to resist those faces! Besides, we do want them to be comfortable around people and friendly. We just also want them to BE goats. ♥)

Thanks for visiting with us today. (And tolerating my soap-box rant.)
Sonja ♥

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