Whether you have a surprise goat kid or trying to help a momma out, if you own goats you will probably, at some point, end up bottle feeding goats. This may come in a variety of forms, like getting suckered into bottle babies at an auction, a sudden loss of a doe, or maybe on purpose. But the reality is that there are times when it will happen and if you aren’t prepared, you may struggle to get calories into that goat kid. Let’s not wait till last minute to figure out how to bottle feed goat kids.
Before we get too far into this, I have a great course on the basics of goat care. I call it Goat Crash Course: Goat 101. In this course, I explain things like types of shelter, types of feeds and hays, basic assessments and so much more! Check it out!
When To Bottle Feed Goat Kids
First and foremost, we really, REALLY want a kid to stay on mom for as long as possible. There’s a couple of reasons for this but the biggest is that the milk from momma is the best for them. Period. Yes, bottle babies can do well being bottle raised, but the reality is that they do much better with momma. Momma’s milk is specifically designed for THOSE kids. Removing those kids from her can lead to unthrifty kids. We don’t want that.
BUT there are situations were you need to bottle feed babies. And that’s okay. I liken it to the argument of breast is best vs formula fed babies. At the end of the day, the only thing that REALLY matters is that the kid (human or goat) is fed. So if you have to bottle feed a baby, no worries. I’m going to help you through this.
Too Many Kids
One of the situations that you may encounter that has you asking, “Should I bottle feed these kids?” is too many kids. Your goat only has two teats. Therefore only two kids can nurse at a time. If you have triplets, quads or quints? You may need to seriously consider bottle feeding a couple of them.
There are plenty of does that can handle trips or quads. In fact, Bella is helping to feed quads right now…. And three are not even hers!
However, Bailey is not a doe that can handle a lot of babies, at least not yet. A couple of weeks ago Bella gave birth to twin girls but we lost June to Bacon the AGH. Three days later, Bailey dropped her triplets. Now, Bailey is not a fantastic milker. She produces, but not a whole lot and now she’s trying to produce for trips? Well, we decided to help supplement her milk with Bella’s milk.
I really wish we had grafted one of the trips but I wasn’t exactly expecting triplets from Bailey!
Not Gaining Enough Weight
Sometimes momma just doesn’t make enough milk. While this can be because of too many kids, it’s not always. After every birth, you should get a weight on every kid that is born. This will show you if the kids are gaining weight. If they aren’t, you may need to supplement milk because momma isn’t making enough.
Usually, this isn’t a problem unless you have multiples. But again, it does happen.
Some mommas will just never take care of their babies. Usually, this is because they are young or they’re babies have always been taken from them. Other times, momma knows the baby is weak. Finally, they could reject the baby because the sky is the wrong shade of blue.
If the momma rejects the baby, you have a couple of choices. You can try like hell to get momma to accept the baby, or you can just take the baby and bottle feed. Bottle feeding is a last resort for me. I want that baby to stay with momma for as long as possible. So I will try and try to get momma to accept the baby. If it doesn’t happen, okay. But I’m going to try.
Injury or Illness
If one of those kids is born with a defect, is ill, or has something going on that makes them fragile, I would highly consider bottle feeding. If June had survived Bacon, she would have been one that we bottle fed because her jaw was broken in multiple places. Sometimes it’s as “simple” as a kid not being able to maintain temperature.
Like I said, sometimes these things happen, and you have to be prepared to step in and start bottle feeding.
Hacks For Bottle Feeding Goat Kids
Everyone has a different way of bottle feeding. Some swear that you can only use a teat nipple like this. Others, like me, say fed is best so they get whatever they will eat. I use regular baby bottles. It works great and I can get them literally anywhere.
If the kid just won’t latch, try different nipples. Just like with human kids, they may not be able to work the nipple right. It happens.
Sometimes you need to cover their eyes so they think they are up against mom. We have also found success with rubbing a stuffed animal all over momma to get the scent and then holding that over the kid’s head while holding the bottle upside down.
Other times, the kid may want to be held while they feed. Samantha is like this. She will drink about an ounce or two and then walk away. If we hold her, she will gobble down the whole bottle.
Another thing you can try is to put a little bit of honey or molasses on the nipple and see if the kid will take the bottle that way.
If the kid still won’t latch, you may have to put a stomach tube in and force it. This is usually the last ditch effort.
How Much To Feed Your Kid?
According to the internet, it’s all over the map. Since I try my damnest to keep my kids on their momma, I don’t have a hard fast true rule to give you. BUT this is what I have found that works well for us. You should keep an eye on your kids for signs of overfeeding (lethargic, floppy, grinding teeth, head thrown back, etc).
You want to start with colostrum only for the first 24 hours. Hopefully, you have colostrum from a healthy goat you can use. If not, replacer will work but it’s not as good.
After that first day, start with 2-4oz every 3-4 hours for the first couple of days. Then, I increase to 4-6oz about 4-5x a day for a couple of weeks. Then I move to 6-8oz 3x a day for a couple of weeks. They should be eating hay and drinking water at this point.
Then I move them to 8-12oz 1-2x a day until they are at least two months old.
I would only deviate from this if 1) my vet said to or 2) the kid wasn’t gaining weight. They should be gaining about 5-10#/ month depending on breed. If they are not on pace with that, I would up their feeding SLOWLY to avoid overfeeding.
What To Feed Them?
The goal would be only fresh goat milk. But if you don’t have access to that, the next best thing would be whole cow milk from the grocery store.
Goat milk replacer really isn’t that good. In fact, most goat kids just don’t do well on it. They have issues with bloating, lethargy, and just generally not doing great. It could be that particular goats genetics, but I’ve heard of more problems with the replacers than just using cows milk.
We are lucky to have Bella. She may be a total pain in the butt but she has single handedly supplied us with milk for over a year AND provided milk for her own babies. Plus Bailey’s babies.
I’m also really happy that she gave me a girl! Fingers crossed Ursula is just as amazing of a mother and milker as Bella.
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