Kid Care

Kid Care

By Debbie Cassidy

There is nothing better than a baby goat unless maybe it is two or three baby goats! I just love kidding season but there are a few things that we should know about taking care of a baby. Mom generally does a fantastic job at taking care of the little ones, but sometimes we need to help, or do things that mom can’t do.

First let us talk about cleaning up the baby. As soon as the baby is born I tie the navel cord with dental floss about 2” down and then cut it. I will then place the baby in front of mom and allow her to clean up the baby. This is one of the ways that they bond. You may wish to assist mom with this, but let her do most of it on her own.

Next thing we should do is to clean the navel cord. It is one of the easiest things to do to prevent navel ill. Don’t let your kid suffer from something so easy to prevent. Once the baby is born, dip the navel cord into iodine, this will prevent bacteria from being introduced through the cord. Naval ill can be painful and cause swelling in the joints. Kids may not be able to stand to nurse. It does not, however, affect their appetite. In bad cases you may see discharge around the navel area. If this happens the kid will need to be treated with antibiotics. By just taking some time to dip the cord we can save ourselves and the kid a lot of grief. They sell special cups to use for dipping the cords. Some breeders have been known to use an old shoot glass and dip the cord into it. Others will use a syringe to drench the cord with iodine. It is also important to keep the area in which the kid will be born as clean as possible. I use pine shavings in all my kidding pens. Fresh hay or straw will work too.

Next let’s make sure that mom has milk and that the babies can nurse. Babies need to nurse as soon as possible if they are going to remain with mom. They need to receive the colostrum to build up their immune system. It will take a little time for them to be able to stand up, but from the moment they are born they are looking for mom’s teat! Babies should have a drink at least within the first 2- 4 hours. The sooner they nurse, the better it will be. Sometimes there will be a plug preventing the milk from coming out. If this happens, just remove the plug by milking the teat until milk flows. You may need to scrape off the end of the teat to allow the opening to become unblocked. You should check each teat to ensure that the milk will flow. If you watch the babies you can see that they will wag their tails when they are getting milk! If mom has no milk then you will need to call the vet. There are medications available to help them bring down or produce milk.

If the baby for some reason is too weak to nurse you can try to feed it with a syringe by dropping small amounts of milk into their mouths. On a rare occasion you may need to tube feed the baby.

If you decide that the kids will be raised on a bottle there are several different theories on which formula is best. I think we can all agree that real goats’ milk from mom or another mom would be best, but I also realize that many times this is not an option. My second personal choice is to use a mixture of whole cow’s milk mixed with a can of pet milk. I will dump out just enough milk to add a can of pet milk into my gallon jug of milk. I use only whole milk. I never the 2% milk or fat free because the babies need the calories found in whole milk. There are of course milk replacers and I have used them as well. Many breeders are not fond of the replacements. If you must use a replacement, make sure it is for goats and not a generic one type fits all.

So how much and how often will you need to feed these kids? First of all I will start by saying that Bottle babies are a big commitment. The first few days they will require feedings every few hours. It is like having a newborn in the house. I bring most of my bottle babies inside where it is easier to take care of them through the night. If I am just giving a supplement bottle then I will leave them with mom. I prefer to let the dam raise her babies even if she is unable to nurse them. Other breeders will pull the babies once they are born and begin to bottle feed them.  The following schedule is just a reference. I raise Fainting goats and they are a small to medium size goat. They rarely get over 27-28” tall so this schedule is geared towards them. You will need to make adjustments for smaller or larger goats. Most of my Fainting goats are about the same size as my Nigerian goats and I also use this schedule for them.

Day one you should offer a bottle every 2-3 hours. 1-3 oz is about what they will eat. The milk should be some type of colostrum; either real or a replacement. The first 24 hours are the best time for the kids to utilize the colostrum. After the first 24 hours it is debatable by many as to how effective it will be.

Over the first week I will continue with 7-8 feedings per day. They will begin to take a little more each time and by the end of the week they may be up to 6 oz each time.

For the next few weeks I will gradually increase the amount per feeding to 8 oz and cut feedings down to about 4 times per day.

I will continue with 4 feedings per day until they are about 6-8 weeks old. At this point I will cut them back to 3 feedings per day. By now they should be eating a little hay or grain. The next week I will cut back to 2 feedings per day. Then after another week, I will only offer 1 bottle per day. I will then go to 1/2 bottle per day and wean them around 3 months of age. Some breeders will wean them a little earlier.

You can tell if they are getting enough by feeling their tummies. Their tummies should feel full but not tight. You don’t want to over feed them. Most babies will eat all that you are willing to give so be careful.

Of course they will need hay and grain offered to them during this time. Fresh water too. Once they are eating their hay and grain good then it is time to wean them.

Weaning is a difficult time for both mom and her babies. They will both cry for a day or two once they are separated but it gets easier with time. Goats should not be weaned before 8 weeks of age. Some are just not ready even by then. Much of it will depend on the breed of goat that you raise. My Nigerian goats wean easily at 8 weeks of age while most of the Fainting goats wean between 8-12 weeks of age. Again make sure that they are eating well before they are weaned. Due to the stress of weaning the baby may get some diarrhea. If so you will need to treat them.

The last thing we will discuss is what is normal for baby poop. The first poop will be black and remind you of tar. After the babies begin to nurse, the poop will become a very thick yellow. It is important that the babies butt stays clean. Most moms are good at keeping their kids clean, but sometimes we need to help. If the sticky poop stays on and builds up; the kid could become clogged and he/she may no longer be able to poop. If you have to help mom, you can clean them with a wet, warm wash cloth or even some baby wipes. The poop will stay yellow until the kids starting eating solid foods such as hay or grain. The poop will then turn brown. They will make tiny pellets.

Sometimes a baby will become constipated. This is most often seen in premature newborns and babies born in the summertime. You may also see it if the moms colostrum is extremely thick. If you notice the babies tummy is getting bigger and tighter and the baby does not want to drink milk; than constipation is most likely the problem. The baby may be fussy. The baby may be hunched and the tail may be down. If this is the case you should give the baby a warm soapy enema. Mix a few drops of liquid soap in a few ounces of warm water and give it as an enema. It is best to have the baby on its side. Administer slowly until you see results.

Having kids is always a fun time. Enjoy them while they are young. Remember that most of the time the moms will know how to take care of the babies and you will be required to do very little.