Have you found yourself in a place where you will be bottle feeding a goat? This is a simple guide to bottle feeding a goat, including reasons to bottle feed, what bottles to use, colostrum usage and storage, milk replacer supplementation of goat kids, and a basic supply list with all the links.
Why to Bottle Feed a Goat
While it is my personal philosophy that goat kids should stay with their mothers until they are ready to wean, but there may be a variety of reasons to bottle feed a goat kid. Some of these include:
-Choosing to separate off the kids at birth to avoid transmission of diseases from the mother through milk.
-A nanny may have multiple kids and be unable to support all of them with her milk supply.
-The mother dies or develops an utter problem such as mastitis.
-A kid may be rejected by the mother.
-A small kid may be too weak to nurse, or gets pushed aside by other kids.
-Bottle fed goats are often more friendly and comfortable with human interaction. This can be especially important if you plan to exhibit the animal in shows and competitions. Many times bottle goats are a common entry for younger children at local county fairs.
The Joys of Bottle Feeding
Perhaps you’re thrown into a bottle feeding situation, or maybe it’s been your plan all along. Either way, I hope you find the information below helpful in feeding your bottle goat. It can be a lot of work, but also a really exciting and memorable experience, especially if you have younger children that are able to help. I haven’t yet a human kid yet who didn’t find bottle feeding a goat a desirable task.
This spring, every time we have had people stop by, or come to visit, I am sure to make a bottle and send it out with the kids and their cousins or friends. It’s always enjoyable to see them have so much fun as the baby goats run up to them and drink from the bottles with their little tails wagging.
The First 24-48 Hours
The first hours after a kid is born are crucial to the health and development that will occur for the rest of its life. Some suggest that getting food into their tummies in as little as the first 30 minutes can be critical for survival, others say at longest in the first hour. Getting the necessary colostrum during these first hours of life will set it up for a healthy and prosperous life.
What is Colostrum?
Colostrum is the first milk that a mother produces for her young. It is thicker in texture than her later milk and contains beneficial anitbodies (IgG), fats, proteins, and lactose. Arguably the most important thing is colostrum are immunoglobulins (IgG). These antibodies are essential to the developing immune system. Since these antibodies can only be properly absorbed in the first 18 hours or so of a kids life, it is essential to get them as many colostrum feedings as possible in the first day or two of life. The sooner a kid is able to get the first feeding, the better. Within the first two hours of life is best, within the first hour is even better. Kids that receive large amounts of IgG will be better equipped to fight diseases and maintain health later in life.
Using Colostrum from another Dam
If you have a multiple nannies kidding at the same time, you can choose to harvest some colostrum from another nanny to feed to subsequent kids. This colostrum can be properly heat treated to prevent the spread of diseases and frozen for up to a year to be available with needed.
Heat Treating Colostrum
Heat treating the colostrum from another nanny when bottle feeding a goat helps eliminate the transfer of pathogens from the mother to baby. It can effectively eliminate CAE and other diesease pathogens, like Johnes.
The following instructions for heat treating colostrum were taken from a dairy goat seminar we recently attended that was hosted by a local university extension. Find more detailed information HERE.
Using a double boiler and an accurate thermometer, heat the colostrum to 133-136 degrees Fahrenheit and maintain the temperature for an hour. Take caution to not let the temperature reach above 140 degrees Fahrenheit or you risk denaturing proteins and altering the colostrums consistency.
Allow to cool and freeze in pint quantities for later use. Thaw in a warm water bath before using to best preserve the colostrum’s integrity.
If you don’t have access to colostrum from another nanny, or simply don’t want to hassle with the process of preparing and store it, powdered colostrum replacers are readily available. Prepare and feed according to package directions for the first 24 hours of life. (This is the one we use) After which you can switch to a milk replacer. We’ll talk more about that later.
Preparing a Bottle
Cutting the Nipple
We use bottle with Prichard nipples like this one. These nipples come with a sealed teat (meaning it doesn’t have a hole for the milk to come out yet.). Before using the bottle you will need to slice a slit in the nipple or cut a small section of the nipple top off to reveal a hole. A benefit of using this style of nipple, is that you can adjust the flow rate to the needs of your kids. It can start with a small level of flow and be increased as the kid grows. It’s similar to flow levels in human baby bottles.
You may need to purchase replacement nipples for your bottles if you plan to use them year after year. It’s also an option to initially just purchase the nipple lids, and use a common soda or water bottle with the same threading to hold the milk. This could save you some time and money over the purchase of a complete bottle and nipple set.
Milk Replacer (2 days to weaning)
After the kids has made it through the first 24 hours of life, and hopefully received a good dose of colostrum and IgG, they can be switched over to a kid milk replacer.
If your kid is past the 24 hours mark, and has received colostrum from its mother, but is now needing supplemental or complete nutrition from a bottle, you can start them right away on standard milk replacer and skip the colostrum.
Making the Bottle
Prepare the powdered milk replacement powder in accordance with the package directions. How much milk you need to make will depend on the age and size of your goats. It may be helpful to weigh your kids to know how much milk they should be receiving. You want the bottle temperature for goat kids to be between 101-103 F. We just use tap water from the kitchen faucet, but you could also warm your milk on the stove.
Bottle Feeding a Goat Kid
Once the kid gets the hang of the bottle, bottle feeding a goat is a great way to include your children in farm chores. My children jump at the opportunity to feed Jimmy (above).
Getting Started on the Bottle
Sometimes it can be tricky to get the kid to take the bottle. This was the case with our first attempt at supplementation. We’re learning as we go with our goat adventure, and this second kidding season we have had more success. If you are struggling to get your kid to take the bottle, here are a few things to try.
- Tip their head. When it’s time to feed, keep the bottle at a level and angle that encourages the kid to reach slightly upward. Tipping the head up is the position a kid takes when naturally feeding under its mother.
- Cover their eyes. When up under the utter, kids often have their eyes closed, or can’t see what is going on around them.
- Wipe their rears. As with many animal species, the mother will naturally lick their babies to stimulate elimination, or in this case feeding. Try using a damp cloth or paper towel to simulate this process.
- Allow short breaks. While feeding, allow them a few opportunities to take a several second break to catch their breath.
How Often to Feed
We only have one kid that we are currently bottle feeding. He was able to be with his momma for the first couple weeks, but she was not allowing him to nurse and would kick him off in favor of his larger twin. We began intervention by holding her or putting her on a milk stand several times per day to allow him to nurse. He still wasn’t getting enough, so we began supplementing him with a bottle and eventually moved him over to formula entirely. He is now about one month old and we currently feed him 12 ounces 3 times per day. (Once in the morning before my husband leaves for work, around noon when I make lunch with our kids, and again in the evening while doing our other farm chores.)
If you’re looking for a resource with a suggested kid feeding schedule, here is one from the Iowa University Extension.
1-3 days, 4 oz, 4 times per day
4-14 days, 8-12 oz, 3 times per day
2 weeks +, 16 oz, 2 times per day
Bottle Feeding Supplies
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