Your baby goat is crying. The mama goat can’t or won’t feed her. Now you’re frantically wondering how to bottle feed a goat. Take a deep breath and calm down. We’re here to help.
We’ll show you not only how to bottle feed a goat but also cover what’s best to feed your adorable babies and how much they need to drink to grow up strong and healthy.
So let’s dive right in and talk about what works best when bottle feeding goats.
Why Bottle Feed a Goat
Of course, the most natural way to raise goats is to let the mama feed her babies. But unfortunately, that’s not always possible. There are a number of different reasons you may be bottle feeding your goat. So before we get into the details of how to bottle feed your goat, let’s cover some reasons you may need to bottle feed your goat.
Childbirth for all animals can be risky. And sometimes, despite everything, we lose a mama goat in childbirth. When the mama dies, but the babies survive, the kids will need to be bottle fed.
Less tragic but equally serious for the babies is when the mama goat rejects them. This can happen with first time mamas who just aren’t ready for kids. Or other times, it occurs with multiple births. It can be super taxing on your nanny goat if she has a lot of kids. You may find she just isn’t willing to nurse them all.
You may also choose to bottle feed your goats for more practical reasons. Bottle fed goats are usually friendlier and easier to handle. Bottle feeding also allows you to control exactly how much your kids are eating. This way, you can be sure that you are receiving adequate nutrition.
What to Bottle Feed a Goat
Once you’ve decided to bottle feed your goats for whatever reason, you need to know what is best for them to drink. Depending on their age and the situation, baby goats have different needs.
Newborn goats should drink colostrum for the first 24-48 hours after they are born. The mama goat will produce colostrum for her babies. Ideally, you will milk from her and feed her colostrum directly to her babies.
You can freeze extra colostrum to save for feeding babies in emergency situations.
Unfortunately, that is not an option if the mama has died. In that case, if you have it, you want to feed frozen colostrum from a previous birth. If you don’t have access to fresh or frozen colostrum, then you will want to feed your babies a colostrum replacement. Make sure it is specific for goats, not for cows or sheep. Every animal has different nutritional needs.
After the initial feedings, you can feed your babies regular goat milk, either from their mama or another nanny goat. As long as the mama is healthy, you can milk her and then directly feed it to her babies. If, for some reason, you are concerned about potentially passing on an infectious disease like CAE, you can pasteurize your milk. Simply heat the milk to 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 seconds.
Now, if you don’t have fresh (or frozen) goat milk available, it’s ok. Baby goats can drink other animals’ milk and milk replacer. According to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs, several studies have been done to determine which type of milk, goat, cow, or replacer, is best for kids (1).
“The findings indicate that young goats use milk substitutes very well. Meaning that they can adapt to any of these readily with growth and health being maintained. Another conclusion drawn from the research is kids can grow equally well on all three milks.”
So if you don’t have any goat milk or powdered replacer around — don’t worry. Your goats will thrive even if they are drinking plain old cow milk from the grocery store. (Though you should stick to whole rather than low-fat milk).
How much to bottle feed a goat
Now that we know what to put in our bottles to feed our adorable baby goats, let’s talk about how much they should be fed. To have healthy kids, you want to make sure you feed the right amount. Overfeeding can be as unhealthy as underfeeding your kids.
When determining how much to feed your goats, size does matter. Full-sized goat breeds will need more milk than miniature breeds like Nigerian Dwarfs. Also, as the babies grow, so will their needs. So knowing the baby’s weight and age is important in determining how much and how frequently they need to be fed.
To ensure your newborn baby gets the best start in life, it should consume at least 10% of its body weight in colostrum in the first 24 hours of life (2). So let’s do the math on what that would actually look like. Imagine your kid was born and weighed 4 pounds. We need to figure out what 10 percent of four pounds is.
4 X 10% = 4 pounds
Once we know that, we can convert it to ounces.
4 pounds equals 6.5 ounces
So you need to feed your 4 pound newborn goat a total of 6.5 ounces of colostrum during its first day or two of life. But you don’t want to feed them that all in one sitting. You will want to feed them every 3-4 hours during those first two days of life.
By day three, your kids can switch from colostrum or colostrum replacement to regular milk or milk replacer. While you can find many charts telling you how many ounces to feed your goats per day, the most reliable way to ensure you aren’t over or under-feeding your kids is to feed them based on their weight.
You should feed baby goats between 10-20% of their weight in a 24 hour period.
When they are younger, your kids will drink small amounts quite frequently. As they grow and get older, they can consume more in each feeding, and you can slowly begin to feed them less frequently. You should expect to feed them four times a day for the first two weeks. Then you can reduce it to three times a day for the next two weeks. Keep increasing the quantity of milk according to their weight and decreasing the frequency of feeding until finally, your goats are ready to be weaned.
Bottle fed goats often appear like they are always hungry. They miss suckling on their mothers. But it is important not to be tempted to exceed 20% of the goat’s body weight per day, no matter how hungry that little kid may appear. Too much milk can lead to diarrhea. If you find that your babies are experiencing diarrhea, then you should reduce their milk consumption to what they had been consuming previously.
How to Get them to Take a Bottle
Some baby goats take to a bottle right away. Others may require a little coaxing before they get the knack for it. However, there are some tricks that can help make it easier to bottle feed those adorable babies.
First, place the baby on your lap. Then tilt its head back and put the nipple in its mouth. The bottle should also be held up a an angle to help the milk flow easily. If the baby doesn’t immediately begin to suck, try squeezing a few drops into its mouth. This should help get the process started.
Pritchard nipples are what most people choose to use to feed baby goats. These nipples can be attached to recycled bottles. They are also easy to manually squeeze milk for babies that can’t quite figure it out on their own.
Finally, you can watch this video where Pritchard nipples are used:
Whatever reason you choose to bottle feed your babies, you can rest assured that bottle fed babies can grow up just as healthy as kids that are raised by the dams. Luckily, baby goats can thrive on goat milk, cow milk, and milk replacer. To give your bottle fed babies the best outcome, you should make sure they receive sufficient colostrum or colostrum replacement within those first crucial hours after birth.
While bottle feeding can be time consuming, it helps form a bond between you and your goats. Bottle fed goats are friendlier and more docile. This is beneficial for goats you plan to milk and, most especially, for goats you want to keep as pets. And besides,, who doesn’t want to snuggle an adorable goat baby while it’s drinking a bottle?
- Nutrition of the Young Goat: Birth to Breeding. Retrieved from: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/goat/facts/goatnutrition.htm
- Getting Your Kid Off to a Healthy Start. Retrieved from: https://www.purinamills.com/goat-feed/education/detail/getting-your-kid-off-to-a-healthy-start
Rachael and her husband arrived on Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua in 2011. There they founded El Jardin de la Vida, a tropical micro food forest, focusing on Sustainable Living Education. She teaches others to build with natural materials, live off-grid, and appreciate slow food.