There are many situations in which you, as a goat farmer, homesteader or backyard hobbyist, may need to take care of an orphaned baby goat. Of course the most obvious would be a situation in which the mother goat has died leaving a baby to be cared for, but it’s not always sad.
Other situations that might find you bottle feeding a baby goat include the purchase of baby goats from a dairy farm that separates babies from mothers in order to maximize milking. Additionally, if one of your does has three babies (as opposed to the usual two) you may need to take one baby and bottle raise it.
In this article, we present the basics in feeding an orphaned baby goat. Read on to learn more on what to feed an orphaned baby goat.
What You'll Learn Today
- What Should You Feed An Orphaned Baby Goat?
- Can You Give The Kid To A Doe To Raise?
- What Kind Of Bottle Do You Need?
- What If The Kid Won’t Accept The Bottle?
- Protect Your Baby Goats From Disease
- When Should Baby Goat Start Eating Regular Food?
- Don’t Let Your Orphaned Baby Goat Get Too Lonely
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Should You Feed An Orphaned Baby Goat?
The most obvious thing to feed a baby goat is goats’ milk. If you have a doe in milk, you can simply milk her, put the milk in a nursing bottle and give it to the baby goat.
If you don’t happen to have a doe in milk, you can purchase commercial goat kids starter milk from your local feed store. If they don’t happen to have this specific product, ask for lamb or calf milk replacer.
You’ll need to have enough milk or formula on hand to provide the kid with about 5 ounces per pound of bodyweight every day.
Can You Give The Kid To A Doe To Raise?
You might think that you could just give the baby goat to a doe in milk, but this doesn’t always work. Very often, does will reject babies that are not their own.
If you are going to try to have a doe adopt an orphaned baby, it’s important to make sure that the orphaned baby doesn’t smell like its natural mother.
If the baby has never nursed from its natural mother, it will not smell like her. If it has already nursed, give time for the baby’s last meal to make its way through its system before introducing it to a potential adoptive mother.
If you happen to have a doe who has lost her baby, she’ll be much more likely to accept an orphaned baby. A doe with only one baby will probably accept an orphan. One with two babies probably will not accept an orphan and probably could not raise an orphan.
No matter what the situation, keep a close eye on the doe and the orphaned baby until you’re absolutely certain that she will take care of the baby and will not harm (head butting is a typical issue) or kill it.
Bottle-fed Vs. Mother-Raised Baby Goats
What Kind Of Bottle Do You Need?
Some people just use regular baby bottles, but it’s really better if you purchase specialized bottles and nipples when you buy your formula at the feed store. Nipples made for this purpose are shaped more like a goat’s teat than those that are intended for use by human baby.
What If The Kid Won’t Accept The Bottle?
It is common for an orphaned kid to reject the bottle for the first day or two. It just takes time for them to get used to it. It helps if you can establish a regular feeding schedule and always handle the kid in the same way every time.
Here’s how to get a baby goat to take a bottle:
- At first, you’ll probably need to hold the kid with one arm and reach around to poke a thumb or finger in the corner of its mouth to make it open its mouth.
- When it does, you can pop the nipple in and squeeze a few drops of milk or formula into its mouth so it will get the idea.
- Be sure to hold the bottle up so that gravity helps the milk flow into the kid’s mouth, this position also simulates the position that the kid would normally have drinking from its mother’s udder.
- With a regular schedule and consistent handling, your baby goat should start taking the bottle easily after a few days.
- When this happens, you may not need to hold the baby anymore while feeding. You should simply be able to hold the bottle up and present it for the baby to take.
TIP: Make certain that the milk or formula is not too hot or too cold. Just as you would with a human baby, test the temperature of the milk on your wrist or the inside of your elbow before presenting it to the baby.
It’s important to continue handling the kid kindly every time you deal with it so that it will become a friendly, outgoing, cooperative goat. Even so, if you have lots of kids to feed, you may wish to set up a stand to hold the bottle so that the baby can drink on its own once it’s gotten started.
Protect Your Baby Goats From Disease
If your baby goat is a true orphan and has never had a chance to nurse from its mother, you will need to start your feeding regimen with a colostrum replacer. Colostrum, or first milk, is filled with calories, protein and the benefit of the mother’s immune system.
A baby goat that has not had a first meal of colostrum needs to have a meal of colostrum replacer as soon as possible. You can pick this up at your local feed store.
You should also keep orphaned baby goats separate from other livestock. This helps prevent the transmission of disease (don’t forget to drench it as well), and helps keep them safe from being harmed accidentally or on purpose.
When Should Baby Goat Start Eating Regular Food?
It’s always a good idea to have fresh hay around so that the babies can start nibbling on it if/when they decide they want to. Naturally, ample fresh water is also a must.
After a couple of weeks of bottle feeding, you may also purposely begin introducing some fresh greens. After three or four weeks, begin introducing pelleted goat feed soaked in the milk or formula that the babies are used to.
Don’t Let Your Orphaned Baby Goat Get Too Lonely
Remember that goats are very social animals. They depend on having each other for company. If you’re raising a single, orphaned baby goat, you’ll need to devote yourself to spending quite a bit of quality time with it or it may become depressed. This can have very negative impact on its health.
The more time you spend with your baby goat, the better behaved and more sociable it will be. If you’re raising a little doe, this will really pay off when it comes time to start milking.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you can get it, goats’ milk is the very best choice. It is available fresh, pasteurized, canned and powdered. Always look for whole milk. For fresh milk, you may need to go to a farm. Health food stores may have fresh or pasteurized goat milk. Powdered and canned goats’ milk can often be found in standard grocery stores and places like Wal-Mart.
It’s not the best choice, but if it’s your only choice, it will do. Whole cows’ milk is actually better, though.
Yes, there are many good milk replacer products on the market. Some are specifically made for goats. Some are specifically made for calves. Baby goats do well on either, and studies show that they are very adaptable to all available nutrition.
It’s a good idea to get the baby eating on its own and independent between the ages of six and eight weeks. Natural weaning by the mother can take up to twelve weeks, but when you are hand feeding a kid, it’s more desirable to transition to independent feeding earlier.
Tempting as it is, this is not a good idea. A baby goat should always be upright when given a bottle to prevent aspirating. If the baby is not able to stand, wrap it cozily and prop it up to drink from a bottle. If it is able to stand, allow it to stand just as it would if nursing from its mother. It is not a good idea to teach a goat (or any hoofed animal) to climb in your lap to cuddle. It’s cute when they are small, but it can be disastrous for adult animals – even pygmy varieties.