As miraculous as assisting a new life can be, looking after a newborn can become overwhelming at times, no matter if you’re a goat, a lion, a human or a reptile.
Our recent post is looking deeper into the first stages of a newborn’s kid life and how to create the perfect calming environment for your goat, including installing some goat feeders to make sure the new mothers remain properly nourished while breastfeeding. So, here are some easy tips to look after the baby goats and how to help them transition to independence by weaning.
How to look after a baby goat
Generally speaking, does are great mothers and closely look after their kids’ needs. Therefore, the easiest thing to do during the first stages of your baby goat’s life is to simply let it spend quality time with its mother.
Right after birth, help the mother trim the umbilical cord. The goat will want to lick its baby clean, so you should let them bond for a while. You can provide the newborn and its mother a warm and cozy environment to sleep and rest. Make sure the bedding is dry and warm, so it would be best to opt for pine chips, hay or wheat straws.
You will also have to look after the navel cord as this is a highly sensitive area that can get easily infected. Never cut the umbilical cord between the newborn and its mother but let it break on its own. If you don’t have too much experience in the field, you should ask for the help of a vet.
Feeding is a natural process for all newborns and helps to create a bond between the kid and the mother goat. Generally speaking, the kid should have its first milk meal within an hour after birth and you should expect it to continue feeding for up to five times a day.
Sometimes, the mammary glands in the udder can be blocked, so you’ll have to try pulling a few streams of milk from the goat yourself to make sure the kids can feed themselves. Although feeding is an instinct most animals are born with, sometimes, the kids will still need some guidance or directions to find their way to the milk.
Goats can have milking problems just like all other animals so, if your kid doesn’t receive milk from its mother for some reason, prepare to bottle feed it if necessary. The milk doesn’t have to come necessarily from the mother but can belong to any other doe.
It’s important the kids receive the necessary amount of milk on a daily basis in the first few weeks of life to make sure they can develop and become strong and healthy adults.
If the mother cannot provide the right amount of milk for all its newborns, it’s high time you stepped in and took over the situation. As a general rule, newborns up to three days old should be fed five ounces of milk four times a day. You should double the amount up to 10 ounces for kids age 4-10 days while maintaining the same feeding schedule of four times a day.
Baby goats between 10 and 14 days should be fed 13-17 ounces of milk three times a day, while after the age of two weeks, the amount should increase to 33 ounces two times a day until the age of eight weeks. After this age and until the kid is weaned, you should reduce the amount of milk to 17 ounces which should cover two meals.
When to wean your baby goat
The weaning time differs from one kid to another, but you should consider it when the baby goat is about three times its birth weight. Keep in mind that kids cannot switch from an all-milk diet to solid feed suddenly, so the process should be made step by step.
Kids should be exposed to hay and solid food from the first stages of their lives to ensure proper rumen development. In the first stages of diversification, kids won’t be able to absorb too many nutrients from the solid feed, but it is highly important they get used to the smell and taste of their new food.
Step by step, kids will develop their rumens and will be able to digest all necessary nutrients from solid feed while eliminating milk from their diets entirely.
Specialists suggest getting your kid used to solid feed anywhere around the age of 7 and 14 days. You can put a small amount of hay for your baby goats daily and remove any leftovers from the previous day. It’s important to serve fresh and high-quality hay to the kids daily.
Providing access to a reliable source of fresh water daily will stimulate baby goats to try on the new feed until they will get used to it.
The average kid will eat around 1% of its body weight in solid feed and will weigh around three times its birth weight at the age of two months. However, if it’s possible, we suggest postponing the weaning for one more month as this has proved to reduce stress, increase breeding success and growth, as well as stimulate the production of the first lactation later on.
Keep in mind that males become sexually active and can breed as early as seven weeks old, so you’ll have to wean them earlier to reduce the risks of inbreeding. Separate the billies from their mothers and sisters and place them together with the rest of the male goats from your herd.
As we’ve previously mentioned, the weaning process takes time and patience if you want your goats to become strong and healthy adults. Keep in mind that weaning is already a stressful time in their lives, so you shouldn’t put more pressure on them. Avoid stressful activities like disturbing, mixing groups, changing housing or transporting the kids from one location to another.