If you are purchasing a bottle baby, have a momma who rejected a kid, or are planning to sell a bottle baby, there are some things you should know and be prepared for. Bottle babies are not for the faint of heart, there is a lot of involvement with them. You become their momma and in turn you end up with a creature that is so attached to you, it’s almost like your own kid. But to raise goat bottle babies, there are a few things you should know.
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!
First, let me preface this with: I am not a vet. I am simply a goat farmer that has done a ton of research and “experimented” on my herd. There has been a lot of trial and error…. a lot of error. This information is from my vet and from my experience, as well as the experience of other goat farmers. I encourage you to speak with a vet or find a goat mentor local to you.
Why You Have Bottle Babies
If you bought bottle babies from a reputable breeder, there should be nothing “wrong” with them. This should be the easiest bottle baby you have. But unfortunately, there are a fair amount of situations where you may end up with a bottle baby that are not ideal.
Momma Rejected Or Died
While it’s a very sad situation, when momma doesn’t want to or can’t take care of her babies, you may have to pull the baby from her. Or on the other side of the spectrum momma has died and you now have babies to raise.
It’s Just Too Cold Outside
Sometimes, you have to make the decision to bottle a baby based on weather. Which is weird, I know. This late winter/ early spring has been extremely rainy. We are having weeks of rain with a day or two of sun. That means that our barn and pastures are a muddy mess. Not a great environment to raise babies in. We are also in this weird weather pattern of cool/cold nights and 75* days. Because of that, we had to bring Bailey inside after she kidded because it was just so dang cold and wet. We seriously considered raising one of her kids inside just to give her some relief and to ensure that she could care for the other two better.
Momma Had Too Many
Bailey gave us triplets this last season. If this had happened to almost any other goat, we probably would have been okay. But Bailey has tiny udders and doesn’t produce a ton of milk. We had to supplement with milk we had put up. If your doe birthed quads, quints, or sextuplets? Be ready to bottle raise some of them.
A First Time Freshener
Another reason you may have to raise goat bottle babies is because momma is a first time freshener and doesn’t have a clue what she is doing. Jade is struggling a little bit with her kids because she is really unsure how to handle them. She’s away from her sister for the first time and these things are smashing their face into her udders for milk. We had to catch/pull and then clean the babies because she was totally unprepared. This is all totally fine and normal, but you do need to be prepared.
How To Raise Goat Bottle Babies
Now to the meat and potatoes of this post. Raising goat bottle babies is probably no different than sheep and maybe cows. But I don’t have those creatures so I can really only speak about goats.
Dam Raised or True Bottle Baby
The first thing you have to decide is whether you are going to pull the baby from momma completely or supplement feedings. Our goal is to keep kids with mommas for as long as possible. With Bailey, we “let” her be momma and we just supplemented. We started with 3x a day feedings and then dropped to one “big” bottle at night. If we had taken one of her babies to raise inside, it would have been a true bottle baby.
There are some people that think the red teat nipple is the way to go. Others think a cheap baby bottle will work. Personally, I think fed is best, so do what you’ve got to do to get that baby to eat. We have the red teat nipples and our goats just don’t like them. We use cheap baby bottles and they work fantastic. If you are purchasing a bottle baby from a breeder, that breeder should be able to tell you exactly what bottle they are using and you can purchase that.
Replacer vs Whole Cows Milk
Whole cows milk is the replacement of choice for goat kids. Period. Actually, the replacement of choice would be goats milk. But if you can’t get that, cows milk is the best. There is a ton of research out there on the milk replacers vs whole cows milk but at the end of the day, cows milk is easier for your goat kid to digest. Whole cow milk is an animal milk but milk replacer is usually a bunch of different additives that may be too hard for your kid to digest and use.
How Much To Feed
There is a TON of information about how much to feed your bottle baby and how often. But first you have to start with a weight. The ratio is about 1#= 2.5oz. So if your goat kid weighs about 5# you would feed approximately 12.5oz per day.
Also the age of your kid factors into how many times per day to feed it. A kid that is just born and is 3# would get 7.5oz of colostrum over 12 bottles.
Week 1: 6 Bottles
Week 2- 4: 4 Bottles
Week 5-8: 3 Bottles
Week 9-10: 2 Bottles
Week 11-12: 1 Bottle (start weaning)
****Weaning would be giving 1 bottle per day with less and less milk. I usually start reducing the bottles by 3oz and see how the kid does****
For example: Your goat kid is 3 weeks old and weighs 8# you would feed approximately 20oz over 4 bottles. Each bottle would contain 5oz.
Over Feeding vs Underfeeding
Goat kids will absolutely over eat if you let them. Momma’s have this instinct that tells them when the kid is done eating. But if you are momma, you may think that your kiddo is starving. They’re not. Trust me. If you are using the formula above and they are gaining weight steadily, they are just fine. The biggest thing to watch for after a feeding is done, their belly should feel full-ish. It shouldn’t feel hard and it shouldn’t be sunken in. My suggestion is this: feed like the formula says for the first couple of days and feel their stomach. If it’s hard or rounded? back off the milk just an ounce or so. If it’s sunken or they aren’t gaining weight? Up it an ounce or so.
Temperatures: Milk and Kid
When it comes to goats of all ages, temperature is probably the most important thing you can master. If your goat is too cold or too hot, bad things can happen. Kids are no different and in fact it’s probably more important. When kids get too cold, they cannot digest the milk. If they can’t digest the milk? It will rot in their stomach. So make sure you are checking their temps before feeding. Before feeding, their temps should be between 101-103. If they are not warm enough, bring them inside to get warm and then feed them when they are at least 101*.
When it comes to milk, the temperature should be 103*. This is about the temperature that momma’s milk would be. Too cold and the kid could become hypothermic (cold). Too hot and the kid could scald their mouths. We check on the inside of our wrists, if it’s warm to hot (not burning) it’s the right temp. If it burns us? It will burn them.
Pro-Tips and Hacks To Raise Goat Bottle Babies
If you are getting your bottle baby from a breeder, the kid should already be on either milk replacer or whole cow milk. If they aren’t, that breeder should send goat milk home with you to transition. When I sell our bottle babies, we send goat milk with them to start transitioning if we haven’t already transitioned them to whole cows milk. When we sold Bailey’s triplets, we were not anticipating selling them that quickly. But we sent a gallon of goat milk with the buyer. Then we dropped off another gallon and a half gallon because we wanted to make sure the transition was as smooth as possible.
Preparing For A Bottle Baby…. Just In Case
After our does kid, and depending on how many she gave us, we bring a pint mason jar with us every time we go outside. When we get singles, we milk out the colostrum of ONE teat over the next 24hrs. We do this so we have back up colostrum and a couple of times it has saved our babies. If we have twins or trips? We still bring out that jar and a bottle just in case one of the babies isn’t nursing great. Sometimes we do it at night to ensure that the kids go to bed with a full belly. But being prepared is key.
Much like raising human children, raising bottle babies flies by. Next thing you know, they are jumping off the roof of your car… the goat kid not the human one. Unless you have a Jaxson, then it may be the house and not the car. Regardless, it is such a cool experience. That kid will become a pocket pet for you and watching them get so excited to see you is pretty cool too. Not to mention when you are feeding them and that little tail is going a million miles a minute? Ridiculously cute. And while it’s a TON of work, it’s so worth it.