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goat keeping, health information

Kid (baby goat)
Care and Information

There are as many ways to raise (goat) kids as there are people who own goats. The following is how we raise our kids here at Fias Co Farm. It is often helpful to know how others do things, and with this knowledge you can then develop your own way of raising kids that works for you. I do not contend that the way we do things is the only way, or the right way, or the way you should do it. (Footnote on CAE)

Index:

 

A note on raising friendly kids into friendly adult goats...

Some people believe that to insure friendly kids, and thus insure friendly adult goats, you must bottle raise the kids. We have not found this to be necessarily true. While most "bottle babies" are very human oriented (because they see humans as a food source), it is not a guarantee of their true affection. All our kids/goats are extremely friendly, and we do not bottle raise them. We have bottle raised some kids, for various reasons, and have actually found that our dam raised kids grow into friendlier adult goats than the bottle raise ones. Why are they friendly? Because we make it a point to spend time with them every day, starting from the day they are born. We are present at every birth. We hold the kids and pet them and show them affection. We sit with them everyday while they are very young and let them climb and play on us and chew our fingers (but be careful no to let them get you with their back teeth... they are sharp!). These loved kids/adult goats look to us for affection, not food. Yes, this way of raising goats can be a little time consuming, but then, so is bottle raising. Remember, the bottle only lasts 'til the kids are weaned... love lasts a lifetime.

Here are some hints on raising friendly kids:

First, understand how they like to be touched. Goats have a "G" spot that they like to be rubbed: this is the side of their neck where it meets their chin, their breastbone and armpits. Trying to pet the top of their head will make them nervous. They cannot see what you are doing. Due to the way goat eyes work, they can see almost all the way round them, but do not see that well above them. Don't "go at them" with you hand from above to pet their head like a dog, but come at them from in front towards their neck/chin. They can see exactly what you are doing and will not get as scared.

Starting the second day after birth, send the mom out to graze and sit in a closed stall... just you and the kids. Let them approach you, but at first do not try to pet them at first. You want to let their curiosity get the best of them. Sometimes, the kids will start to nibble and explore. Even let them climb on you, if they want to (they like that a lot). Sometimes trying to pet them will scare them, so let it be their idea.

If the kids will not approach you at all, pick up one and hold him in your lap. Pet and soothe him, but make sure to not let him go. Offer your fingers to him to chew and sniff (don't let him get you with his back teeth... they will hurt) The other kid may get curious as to what his sibling is doing and begin to approach you on his own.


These kids are not bottle raised;
they are being raised by their mothers.
You can see they like people and are certainly not "wild".

You are trying to show the kids that you are OK. Two things that earn their trust is letting them chew on you and letting them climb on you.

Now my secret weapon... if necessary earn their trust with raisins.

After two weeks after birth, if the kid is really standoffish try this: Hold the kid in your lap and offer him a raisin. He will not know what to do with it. Squish it a little to release the sweetness and stick it in his mouth. "What is that" he will say and maybe let it fall out of his mouth. Try giving it to him again. If he will not take it, stick it in his mouth. Once he actually eats the raisin, offer him another. Only give him a few, one at a time from your fingers. I have won over the hardest kids with raisins. Always carry a handful in your pocket and be ready to offer one or two whatever the kid approaches you. Once he realizes you are safe and a source of raisins you can start rubbing him in the "G" spots.

Once you can start petting and touching the kid, you can cut down on the raisins, and eventually do not offer them anymore. You know when you can stop because the kids now climbs all over you.


Before the kidding...

We try to be present at every birth. We know the exact date of every breeding and hence know the probable date of kidding. This is 150 days from the breeding date, give or take 5-7 days. We are familiar with our does and pay attention to them. We know the "signs" and so usually know when kidding is near. (See Prenatal Care for more information on this subject).

Starting 7 days before the expected due date, we keep our eyes on the mother to be. At night she is confined in a clean stall. This stall has been thoroughly clean out and given a dusting of "ag lime" (not hydrated lime, see white wash) and then this lime is swept up. Once the stall is cleaned, a new coating of straw (not hay) is added to the floor for bedding. No other adult goat, except the mother, will be allowed in this stall for the next two weeks. We have audio monitors as well as video cameras installed in each birthing stall so we can see and hear what is going on from inside our house (which is 450 feet from our barn). You can use various types of monitors. For sound when the cameras are off, we have run a telephone wire from the house to the barn and our monitor is "rigged" from old telephones. FOr video, we use a home security system I picked up at Home Depot and added extra wire.  Many people use baby monitors for this purpose. Our audio monitor is installed right next to our bed, this is so we can hear if labor has started. The video monitor is at teh foot of our bed.  This has saved many a long, cold and pointless walk to the barn to check on the does (at 2 hour intervals).

 

Birth....

Have your birthing kit ready (See Birthing Kit) We always try to be present and ready to assist kidding if necessary. Goats usually have no problems kidding, but "better safe than sorry".

For more detailed information on kidding, assisting with the kidding, and photos of kidding see Kidding.

For photos of an actual birth, see Kidding Photos.

Babies need to have Colostrum within an hour of birth.
Please read the important information on Colostrum

Normal things to look for:

  • The bottoms of the baby's hooves will "shed" their protective white coating right after birth.
  • The kid's first poop will be "black tar"
  • The kid will poop "soft yellow mustard poops" for at least a week after birth.
  • The kid may poop and pee right after birth, even before he has his first meal.
  • Sometimes it takes a couple days for the babies legs to straighten out completely and/or work properly (you may want to give them a Bo-Se shot).
  • There is usually one afterbirth per kid, but sometimes there is only one per kidding. If you don't find the afterbirth, the mother probably ate it (gross, but not a problem)
  • The mother will "leak" blood and goo for about 2-3 weeks after kidding, this is normal.

 

The first few days...

The mothers and kids get to stay together in their personal stall for the first few days, in this way, they can bond and neither mom nor kids are bothered or bullied by other members of the herd. The babies pretty   much have "24/7 full access" to their mother's milk (see note below), and continue to have milk "full access" for the next 2 weeks. The mother is not milked the first two weeks; the babies get all the milk.

Note: The kids don't literally have 24/7 access; they aren't going to be literally sucking constantly 24 hours a day; they sleep and play as well, and can bare to be away from mom for a few hours.  I was trying to make a point that the kid gets all the milk they want and the mother is not milked during this time.  The mother needs to get out and do some browsing. Starting on the second day, the mother is let out for a couple hours in the afternoon to browse, so at this time the mother is away from the kids, but the kids just usually just sleep during this time anyway.  The mothers are not always happy to be away from their kids (especially first timers) but it's good for them to get out and away from the kids for a little while.  Once the moms realize the kids are safe, they chill out a bit.

If it is sunny out at lunch time, starting on day two of life, the new kids get to spend an hour or so in the sun, where they can meet the herd under our supervision. The length of time the babies get to stay out is slowly increased as they show they are "ready". By two weeks of age, they are spending the entire day with the herd.

Note: Adult does do not like other does babies, but once they tell the new kids to stay away from them (with a swing off their head, or a light butt) the new kids learn who they can get near and who they should stay away from. This is natural behavior and it is important that the new kids learn how to interact with other herd members at this early age. We have never had a problem with other goats actually hurting very young kids.

On the fourth day, the kids are given a dose of Probios (see Probiotic Rumen inoculate) to help get their rumens going.

If a few different does kid around the same time, these kids of relatively the same age are put together for a few hours each day to "socialize" while the mothers are allowed to go out with the herd and forage. We feel this socialization is very important. We give the babies some cinderblocks to play on... what fun! At this time, with the mothers off foraging, the kids are offered grain and minerals (usually to walk and sleep in).

The kids are provided a dog house or 1/2 a large "Pet Porter" in their stall. The kids really like being able to crawl into this "cave" (with as many other kids as possible) and take a safe (if cramped) nap. This goat baby house, also helps the kids stay warm at night... they can snuggle up inside and sleep.

Sometime within the first few days after birth the kid will need to be disbudded (See Disbudding). Even thought this is one of the worst jobs of goat keeping. It is extremely important not to procrastinate and do this job when it needs to be done.

 

Is the kid getting enough to eat from his mother?

"Hollow sides" is a dairy goat trait. The side to side, "barrel" width of a goat is due to their rumen (a big fermentation vat), not whether they are "fat" or "full". Because of this, their width is not a good barometer of whether a kid is eating or not, because his rumen is not working yet, it is not fermenting yet, so it is not big/wide/full. You can feel the kid's belly, this is a better barometer of wether he is eating or not. The kids will only start to get "wide" when they begin eating solid food and start ruminating.

The mother will begin to put everything she has into her milk. No mater how much you feed her, she will begin to get thinner than you are used to seeing (she has been pregnant, so you are used to seeing her "fat"). This is normal. You need to make sure she is being fed properly, see feeding.

In all the years we have raised goats, even before we introduced better milking genes into our herd, all our goats have always been able to produce enough milk for their kids. Even first timers with twins. You just have to make sure they are fed and cared for properly.

 

What if the kid (or kids) is/are only nursing from one side of the udder?

Often when a doe has only one kid (and sometime when she has two), it is very common for the kid(s) to nurse only one side. This starts a "vicious circle" because the more full the udder and teat becomes, the harder it is for the kid(s) to get the teat in his mouth and nurse, thus, the kid(s) will choose to suck only the "easier" teat. It will become a favorite, the baby will not even think about going to the other side, even if his "favorite" is empty.

In these cases, you must milk out the full side so that the mother's udder isn't so full she is in pain. Eventually, as the kid(s) grows and can drink more milk, he will start to nurse the other side, but until them, you need to be "the second kid".

 

Two weeks of age...

By two weeks of age, the kids are spending the entire day with the herd. Now is the time I start milking the mothers.

The kids are "locked up" at night in the communal "goat baby stall". The stall has plenty of bedding, "houses", water and grain available. Try to make sure that the food and water are presented in such a way that the kids cannot walk (and poop) in it.

In the morning, I first milk the mothers (see Milking Procedure). At first, I will not milk the mothers out completely... I leave some milk for the kids. The mother quickly learns to hold back milk for the kids, and in about two weeks of milking, I can milk the mother out completely without worrying that the kids are not getting enough. I always dip the mother's teats, even though her kids will nurse and "strip out" the last milk as soon as they get "let out". It is good sanitary practice. Luckily "goat baby spit" is a pretty good antibacterial as well.

Once the mother is milked, we let the babies out to be with their mother and herd for the rest of the day. The kids can nurse their mothers all day, and in this way, they "take care" of the evening milking for me. I do not milk the does at night- I milk only once a day- in the morning using this technique.

Kids being raised Holistically/Naturally should now begin their Coccidiosis & Worm Prevention Treatment, this will continue every week from now on.  We take a holistic approach to parasite control and use Herbal Worm Formula from Molly's Herbals. Please definitely read the information provided here: Coccidiosis

To administer the herbs:

  • You just mix them with enough water so that you can suck the herb slurry up into the drenching syringe. 
    or
  • Make into dosage balls.

Three weeks of age...

If you vaccinate, it is now time for the kids to get their first CD&T vaccinations (we do not vaccinate). This is a vaccination against Enterotoxemia as well as Tetanus, see Vaccines.

The kids being raised "traditionally" (with medicines and chemicals) should also now begin their Coccidiosis prevention treatments. Please definitely read the information provided here: Coccidiosis.

 

Four weeks of age...

Four weeks of age is the time for the boys (if they are not going to stay breeding bucks) to be wethered (neutered). We let the boys grow for three weeks before wethering, so that he can grow and his "pee hole" can get larger, hence aiding in avoiding stones. To wether, we use a tool called a "burdizo". Some people use little rubber bands, called "banding". We consider this way of neutering inhumane. How would you like to have a rubber band placed on your finger, or whatever, until it fell off? We also do not "cut" to wether. We try to avoid drawing blood whenever possible, since this is always an invitation for infection. Many people are unaware of the burdizo, or do not consider it because of it's price. The tool costs about $60-$80, but we have found it well worth it. The procedure is quick and sure and the kids are back out with the herd and playing within an hour (though they do "mince" in their walking a little) (who wouldn't). For more info on neutering, click here.

Worm - The kids being raised "traditionally" (with medicines and chemicals) should be wormed.

 

Six weeks of age...

Time for a CD&T booster (if you choose to vaccinate)

The kids being raised "traditionally" (with medicines and chemicals) should be get another treatment for Coccidiosis.

 

Eight weeks of age....

Worm - The kids being raised "traditionally" (with medicines and chemicals) should be wormed.

At the age of 8 weeks the kids are ready to leave the herd. This is the earliest we will sell kids, we like them to get a "good start". If we are selling the mother, but keeping the kid, the mother stays here until her kid is at least 8 weeks old.

 

Weaning....

If you are letting the mother goat raise, and nurse, her own kids:

There is really no reason for you to have to wean the kids. It causes undue stress on the kids as well as their mother. The mother will naturally wean her kids when she feels the time is right (or she is just plain sick of them). The mother will slowly wean her kids over time, and usually totally wean her kids once she get rebred in the fall. This is the natural way of things. If you want milk, try what we do: milking once a day.

If you are milking once a day:

There is no reason to wean the kids (see above).Though, you should keep in mind that a doe should have at least 2 months off from milking before she kids again.

If you are bottle raising the kids:

For convenience sake, you can wean around two to three months, see bottle feeding. When we bottle feed, we do so for three months.

If you are selling the kids:

Kids are ready to leave for their new homes at two months of age.  Weaning is simple in this case because the kids really have no choice in the matter, the day they leave for their new home, they do not get any more milk.  The kid will be unhappy about this but will get over it fairly quickly.

 

 

*Let me speak a moment on the practice of CAE prevention. If you do not know what CAE is, you should look into it. With knowledge, you can decide how you wish to handle it. CAE is a disease that may be passed from one goat to another through bodily fluids. This includes milk. In an effort to prevent kids from possibly contracting this disease from their mothers, the kids are removed from their mothers at birth. The mother is not allowed to clean or nurse her kids. The mothers are milked and the milk is then pasteurized before it is fed back to the babies via a bottle or "lamb bar". The mother never knows her child, the child never knows it's mother. This conflicts with our philosophical/religious beliefs, and so we let our does raise their kids. You will have to make your own decision on how you want to handle this.
For more info on CAE, click here.

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