Learning to feed your dairy goat kids correctly is an extremely important part of raising milk goats. Dairy goats need to be fed colostrum within about 30 minutes after birth. When the doe begins stage 2 of labor, have someone take last year's frozen colostrum from the freezer and put it in a pan of hot tap water. Do not put it in a pan of boiling water. Use only hot tap water from the faucet. To make sure no tap water gets into the container that the colostrum is in, you can clip the bag to the pan. It takes about 15-30 minutes for the colostrum to turn into liquid, and then it will be ready to feed the baby. By the time it has turned to liquid, the baby will probably have been born, unless there are complications. In the case of an extended birthing time because of complications, make sure you put the colostrum in the refrigerator so it won't spoil while the difficult delivery is being taken care of.
For the first 2 days, feed lukewarm colostrum to the baby 1/2 cup per feeding, 4-5 times per day. Save half of the first days' colostrum in a freezer bag or a plastic yogurt container and put it in the freezer until next year. Use last year's colostrum that was kept in the freezer for the baby that is just born, and continue to feed the newborn fresh colostrum from the doe minus the colostrum you freeze for next year. If you don't have frozen colostrum from your doe from last year, find someone with dairy goats to purchase frozen colostrum from, or you can purchase colostrum through some dairy goat supply companies. Make sure you feed the babies colostrum as it is essential to their health and development.
We heat treat our colostrum to prevent the kids from getting CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis). To do this, put the colostrum in a canning jar with a tight lid in a water bath at approximately 131 degrees F, and keep it at that that temperature for one hour. Put the heat treated colostrum in the refrigerator and use it during the next 2 days. If you feed some of the colostrum to the baby right after water bathing the colostrum, make sure you cool it to a lukewarm temperature. When it is time to feed the baby again, take the colostrum from the refrigerator and get it to room temperature before feeding it to the baby. To do this, you can put the 1/2 cup of colostrum into a sanitized glass soda bottle which you can sanitize in the dishwasher. Put the nipple on the bottle and fill the sink with water up to the level of the colostrum in the bottle, allowing the bottle to stand upright in the sink for 10 minutes. If the bottle starts to tip over in the sink, put heavy things like glasses filled with water in the sink to prop the bottle up.
Colostrum will be a thick, light, yellowish color. After approximately 3 milkings or 36 hours, you will be able to see that the milk has come in because it will have a white color and thinner consistency. When the baby is first born, if it refuses to drink the colostrum, you may need to start tube feeding. We have never had to use a tube feeder because we are very persistent about helping the baby get small amounts of liquid by extremely slowly pouring small amounts of colostrum into their mouths by lifting the bottle with the nipple on up and down so little drops will go in their mouth. If the baby won't drink the milk, stroke their chin gently too. You might take the baby in the house, get comfortable and coax it gently and patiently to drink. So far, this method always works for us. If you do have to tube feed a kid, measure the feeding tube from the mouth to behind the front elbow. Use a permanent marker to mark how long that is, and when you insert it, do not go in further than the mark. If you hear gurgling from the other end of the tube, you are in the stomach; if you hear breathing, you are in the lungs which is bad, so pull the tube out and try again. Give the baby goat 2 ounces of colostrum. Just hold the tube of colostrum up. After it has gone into the stomach, pinch the tubing before you pull it out so milk won't go in the lungs.
Colostrum can last in the freezer for one year for sure. The first milking of colostrum is the richest and best with the most colostrum. Sometimes the doe continues giving colostrum up to three days, but by then it is very milked down. When you save some for the next year, put the name of the doe, the date, and which day's colostrum it is.
On the 3rd through the 7th day after birth, feed the kid one cup per feeding 3-4 times per day. If you have a really small kid, weigh the kid to make sure you don't over-feed it. One year we just followed a commonly used schedule, and one of our little doelings got sick because we were over-feeding her. Now we weigh all of our kids about once a week or so, and use the following formula: First weigh your kid by weighing yourself first, then hold the kid and weigh it, then find their weight by subtracting the two numbers. Multiply the kid's weight by 16 (because there are 16 ounces in a pound). Multiply that answer by 15% or 20%, so you would multiply it by .15 or .20, whichever you choose. For a smaller goat, we use 15%. The answer will tell you how many ounces per day of milk or milk replacer to feed your kid. Now divide that by how many feedings you want to feed the kid. After the first week, it is ideal to feed the kid three times a day, but your schedule might not allow you to do that, so you would either divide it by 2 or 3 depending on the number of feedings per day. That answer will tell you how many ounces to feed the kid at each feeding. From 8 days old until they get up to 16 oz. twice a day, we keep them at 16 oz. twice a day until they are ready to be weaned. If you want to feed them 3 times a day, it would be about 10.5 oz. 3 times a day.
We pasteurize our goat milk to prevent our kids from getting CAE. To pasteurize, you can get the milk up to 165 degrees F. If you buy a pasteurizer, it will make it easy, and it will be well worth the investment. At 2 months of age you can start weaning them by slowly decreasing the amount of milk at each feeding. You might decrease it 1/4-1/2 cup at one feeding the first day, then the next day decrease the same amount at the next feeding, and continue going down each day like that until they are weaned. When they are about one week old, start introducing grain to them. At first they will just play with it, but over time they will want to eat it. Even though they probably won't eat it this young, free choice, high quality grass hay should be put in their stall starting at one week old. Also start putting water in their stall at one week old.
Last year our kids got coccidiosis. Since it is very contagious, all of the kids got it, and it was a lot of work cleaning their diarrhea and treating them. We didn't want to go through that again, so this year we treated them all with Di-Methox 40% which is a preventative coccidiosis medication. Begin treating them at three weeks of age, and give it to them 1/2 cc by mouth twice daily for one week and then 1/2 cc once a week until they are weaned. Put it in a syringe and give it to them orally. This will deplete some of their vitamins and minerals, so you can give them Red Cell orally every day while you are treating them. Red Cell can be purchased at feed stores. Our babies don't like the taste of Red Cell. At first we tried mixing some into their milk, but they didn't like the taste of the milk with it , so we just put it in a syringe and give it to them that way. We gave them approximately 1/2 teaspoon daily. On the bottle of Red Cell it says for horses, but it is okay for the baby goats.
To find out how to feed adult dairy goats, click here.
Three Willows Ranch
Located in Western Oregon
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