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So you bought a baby goat... Now what?


If you didn't get it from a breeder, one of the first things you should do is find a goat mentor (local breeder, preferably with knowledge about the breed you have) or a good, goat-savvy veterinarian locally.

Raising kids isn't an exact science, but here are some general rules, tips, and info that can help.

Normal goat temperature is 101.5-102.5 degrees. (If you think there's an issue, this is normally the FIRST/BEST thing to check)

If you want the kid disbudded (horns removed), it should be done before it is 2 wks old. Usually somewhere between 3-7 days of age. A local breeder can usually be found to do it for you, or a vet with disbudding experience. Disbudding after 2 wks of age (or a certain amount of horn growth) may not work. If they start to grow horns after disbudding, re-burning is possible but doesn't always work. Boys are more difficult than girls. The older the kid was when it was done originally makes a difference.

Male goats (bucklings) that won't be used for breeding should be wethered. Wethers make wonderful pets. Bucks stink and have some nasty habits, even the most adorable buck kids will turn into big smelly monsters at breeding time. This is done several ways, but banding is usually the easiest and least expensive. It should never be done before 8 wks of age to give the urethra time to grow. That, and the proper diet, will help prevent Urinary Calculi in wethers. A vet can surgically castrate them for you, or use a Burdizzo to crush the blood vessels that supply the testicles, but it isn't always 100% effective.

Kids should be vaccinated with CD-T vaccine to prevent clostridium perfringins type C and D and clostridium tetani. The 1st shot should be given between 1-3 wks of age, with a follow up booster shot 3 wks later. Then boost annually. There are other vaccines available and you can research what is needed in your area, but CD-T is very important, to protect against enterotoxemia and tetanus.

BOTTLE BABIES: Newborn - 3 mos


Any kid under 2 mos of age still typically still needs milk. If the kid is younger, but already weaned, and is eating kid starter feed and hay well, you do not need to put them back on milk if they don't want to take a bottle. Just be sure to feed adequate amounts so they grow to their full potential. Sudden dietary changes can make a goat very sick, very fast, remember to make any changes/additions gradually.

Kids should be trained to a bottle before being sold, but sometimes the mom dies suddenly or other things prevent that. Training a dam-raised kid to bottle can be a challenge. Try sitting above the kid so it is "under" you and reaching up for the nipple, like it would if it were still on mom.

Bottle feeding:

Feed them 3x a day, with at least 6 hours between feedings.
Whole milk is best (vitamin D from the grocery) unless you have a supply of fresh goat milk.
Some milk replacers work fine, but generally "multi species" replacers will cause scours and you don't want to risk that with young kids. If the kid is already on replacer and doing fine, use the same replacer throughout the feeding process. If the kid begins to scour, consider switching to whole milk. If replacer is the culprit, the whole milk should straighten them out in a day or so.

Warm the milk as you would for a human baby. A warm water bath or short zap in the microwave will suffice. Shake well if you use the microwave, it can cause hot spots.

If you bought them / are buying them from a breeder, ask them for a written-out schedule, how much milk they're drinking, and what style nipple they are using.
1. Nipples can be purchased at farm supply stores like TSC, Rural King, etc.
2. Human baby bottles can be used for mini kids.
3. Standard kids prefer a bigger nipple, especially as they grow.

A 1 week old kid won't take as much milk as a 2 mo. old kid, obviously. Gradually increase the amount given until they peak at around 20oz for standard kids, 12 oz. for mini kids, 3 times per day.

Newborn Bottle Feeding Basics:

Newborns NEED colostrums for the 1st 24 hours. If you don't have any, farm stores carry colostrums REPLACER. It needs to say REPLACER, not supplement. Standards take 4-8 oz every 6 hours for at least 3 feedings... 4 is even better.

Below is a suggested feeding schedule for standards (use a little more than half for minis and adjust accordingly) Not every standard kid will eat this much, and some minis may want more. Make any/all adjustments gradually.

Days 2-7: Bottles at 8am / 2pm / 9pm - 6-8 oz. (for exceptionally small kids, 4x @ 6 hour intervals w/smaller amounts may be better for a couple of days to get them started)

Days 7-14: Introduce them to hay. They will probably only play with it at first, but put a little in front of them. Change it daily if it's soiled / stepped on. Bottles at 8am / 2pm / 9pm - 10-12 oz.

Days 14-60: Introduce them to pelleted feed - a good 16% goat ration. Offer only a handful at first, and change it out daily. They typically won't eat "old" feed. You can research what is a good feed in your area, not all feeds are available in all places and there are many additives you may (or may not) want to consider, such as ammonium chloride to help prevent Urinary Calculi or Deccox / Rumensin to help prevent Coccidiosis. A good, loose mineral should be offered as well. Be sure it has adequate copper levels and is formulated for goats. Refresh the mineral often, goats will ignore "old" minerals.

Bottles at 8am / 2pm / 9pm - 16-20 oz.

2 months: Assuming they are doing well at eating their grain / hay, cut them back to 2 bottles a day and adjust the amount of feed you put out. They'll quickly figure out that the empty feeling in their tummy is helped by eating the pellets. 1/8-1/4 cup of feed offered 2x a day. Bottles at 8am / 2pm - 20 oz.

2.5 months: One bottle, 1x a day, and adjust feed amounts accordingly to roughly 1/4-1/2 cup 2x a day. Meat breeds will need more than dairy, minis less than standards, etc.

3 months: No more bottles "You're a big kid now"!

Notes / Comments:

Never feed a "cold" kid. If their mouth feels cold and they are lethargic, warm them before feeding. A cold kid can't digest well and could get very sick if the milk goes "sour" in the stomach.

If a trained-to-the-bottle kid refuses 1 bottle, but is otherwise acting fine, it's probably ok. It may have gotten too full at the last feeding or filled up on hay or pellets. If it refuses two feedings, there may be a problem. Baby goats LOVE to eat.

If the kid feels "sloshy" - weak / floppy, and seems "off" - put a ½ tsp of baking soda in just enough water to dissolve it and give it to the kid w/ a syringe. Wait 2-4 hours (or until they're no longer sloshy) before attempting to feed it again.

If the kid feels / acts constipated, give an enema using a luer slip syringe and warm soapy water. Try 6cc (for standards, 3cc for minis) and repeat until they poop. Be careful... it can be messy.

Normal newborn poop is tarry and black. After a couple times, it should turn mustard colored and firm up. Continued runny poop or scours can indicate a problem.

If a kid hasn't had any dietary changes and begins to scour, keeping them hydrated is essential. Replace their milk with Gatorade, Pedialyte or a gelling electrolyte (available from farm stores). Do not try to stop the scours with pepto or kaolin unless / until you know the cause. Scouring is the body's way of getting rid of "bad stuff" and you need to "cure" the problem behind the scours.

If you are new to goats it is always best to enlist the help of a knowledgeable vet or goat mentor with diagnosing illnesses.

There is usually not much time to wait to get help with a sick kid. If they get sick on a Friday night and the vet is closed, chances are, waiting until Monday will be too late.

A kid under 3 wks that scours could have a bacterial infection, like salmonella or e coli. It will take antibiotics to cure them.

A kid over 3 wks that scours could have coccidiosis and / or a bacterial infection. A fecal test and vet exam can help diagnose their illness, and the vet can suggest a treatment.

Weanlings (over 2-3 mos)

Continue with goat feed / hay / fresh browse and monitor their growth / condition. Increase feed amounts gradually. Meat breed kids usually need more feed than dairy kids to reach their full potential, and the end purpose of the animal must be kept in mind, too.

A pet wether will do fine on good browse and / or hay and very little, if any, feed once they're past the fast-growing "kid" stage. Pygmy goats can become fat very easy and it's better for their health to not be overfed. The best thing you can do is put your hands on the kid often and "feel" their condition. You should not feel the ribs or backbone through the skin, there should be layer of "meat" over the bones.

If you buy a kid and you're not sure if it's been vaccinated with CD-T, it's usually better to go ahead and do it. The vaccine is available at farm supply stores or online, or a veterinarian can give the shots for you.

Any time a kid has had antibiotics administered, is stressed, or has scoured, administering a probiotic (available in paste and powdered form) can help repopulate the rumen with the "good bugs" goats need.

Learn all you can about parasites - they can and will kill a young goat quickly. Coccidiosis is the worst, but worms (especially Barberpole) can kill quickly, too.

There are several ways to treat / prevent coccidiosis. Using medicated feed alone will not be enough to prevent it in small kids, they cannot eat enough to get the medication up to therapeutic levels. If a fecal shows coccidiosis, using DiMethox, Corid, or SMZ-TMP is usually recommended, and talking to your vet or mentor and having a plan before you need it is best.

Knowing which dewormers to use, and at what strength, will help tremendously to help reduce the huge problem of dewormer resistance. There are several university studies available online that go into great detail on both traditional and alternative ways to treat / manage parasites.
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Dwarfs are referred to as mini kids in the article. Mini kids need more than what is listed. Perhaps mini could be changed to dwarf in the article. This would cause less confusion. There are standards, mini, and dwarf- 3 different "sized" goats.
One of the best, most comprehensive articles on bottle feeding! Very thorough!