Weaning is a stressful time for baby goats. In fact, many people say the day you wean a kid is the most stressful day of their life. Making sure your kid is ready to wean can help reduce their stress and yours. But when are baby goats weaned?
Baby goats can be weaned when they have reached they have reached two and a half times their birth weight. But there is more to successful weaning than simply weighing your goat. Other factors, such as sex and how they have been raised, also play a role in weaning.
We’ll explore all the weaning variables to make sure your kid’s experience is as stress free and healthy as possible for both them and you. We’ll even cover what to feed them after you’ve weaned them.
Keep reading to learn more.
When is a Kid Ready to Wean?
While you might think weaning kids is straightforward, there are a number of different factors that can affect how and when you wean your kids. Age, weight, sex, and how they are fed prior to weaning are all factors that should be considered when deciding the best time to wean. So let’s look more closely at how these elements affect weaning.
Age and Weight
Often times you will hear that kids are ready to wean at a certain age. However, not all baby goats mature at the same rate. So deciding to wean based on age alone may lead to greater stress or even health problems for your kids.
Instead, you should decide to wean based on both age and weight. And in fact, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs tells us weight is the more important factor (1).
“From studies with both goats and lambs, weight at weaning is more important than age at weaning when attempting to minimize weaning shock.”
Weaning shock can cause your kids to stop growing or even lose weight rather than thriving. However, you can help prevent weaning shock by ensuring your kids weigh at least 2.5 times more than they did at birth and are consuming at least 30 grams of solid food before they are weaned. You will usually find they reach these numbers around 60-90 days after birth.
While age and weight are two of the most important factors determining weaning time, let’s consider some other elements.
Bucklings are often weaned earlier than their doeling sisters. The main reason people wean bucklings before doelings is concern that they will mate with their mom and/or sisters. Since bucks can reach sexual maturity as young as seven weeks, they may be weaned sooner than they should be. This can lead to a greater possibility of weaning shock.
However, it is also unhealthy for a buck to breed with his mother or sister. First, this is inbreeding. Inbreeding goats increases the risk of undesirable tendencies in the offspring and so is usually avoided. But inbreeding isn’t the only reason you don’t want your buck doing the nasty with his family.
You want your mama goats to have time to recover after giving birth. Pregnancy and lactation are hard on their bodies. Ideally, mama goats should have time to rest between pregnancies. While this isn’t so much of an issue for breeds that go into heat seasonally, other breeds like Nigerian Dwarfs can breed year round. Most people recommend allowing your does six months between pregnancies, averaging out to 3 pregnancies over two years.
You also don’t want your new doelings to get pregnant too early either. You should wait until they are at least 8-12 months old before allowing them to breed. If your doelings were to breed too soon with your bucklings, they could experience complicated births.
Now, if you want your bucklings to stay with their dam longer, you can look into the goat anti-mating apron. This device is designed to prevent your bucks from consummating their love– think of it as a goat chastity belt.
Weaning Dam Raised Kids vs
Before you wean your goats, they should be eating solid food in addition to drinking milk from their mamas. Dam fed babies will start browsing pretty early in imitation of their mother. But remember, just because they are eating solid food doesn’t mean they are ready to wean. You still want to make sure they have reached at least 2.5 times their birth weight.
You will need to separate the babies from their mama when they are ready to wean. Some people keep the mamas and babies in pens where they can see each other to minimize the stress. Others remove the babies completely from the mothers. Either way, it will be stressful for the animals.
Your babies will cry, and the mamas will cry too. But eventually, nature will run its course, and they will learn to adjust. Now, if you are keeping the mama for milk, you may need to keep your goats separated longer. I have a goat that, even after a month of separation, would sneak in and drink from her mama.
If you plan on letting the mama dry up, you will want to milk a little to ensure she doesn’t get uncomfortably full. This can lead to health problems, including mastitis. Slowly reduce the amount you are milking each day, and she will dry up.
Weaning Bottle Babies
In some ways, weaning bottle babies is easier than weaning goats that have been fed by their mama. Bottle fed goats have already adjusted from the separation trauma. Once they have reached the desired post-birth weight and have begun eating food, you can slowly reduce the amount of milk you are feeding them each day.
First, you can reduce the amount of milk you give them at each feeding. Then you can slowly begin eliminating feeding until you are down to one feeding and then no feedings. You may get some crying as each feeding goes away but just like dam raised goats, they will adjust.
Now That You’ve Weaned Them, What to Feed Them
Once you have weaned your goats, you want to give them access to forage or hay. While good forage is ideal, it’s not always possible. That’s when you need to feed your goats hay. The best hay for goats should have a mix of stems, leaves, and seeds to help ensure your goats meet their nutritional needs.
Your goats should always have access to fresh, clean water.
Goats love variety in their diet. Feel free to provide your young goats with treats. This can be especially helpful if you want friendly, well behaved goats. You can use treats as a training tool. While goats supposed can eat anything, there are some foods they should avoid. However, many common foods like bananas, apples, and carrots make great goat snacks.
Weaning can be stressful for both you and your goats. However, if you wait until your goat is old enough and large enough, it can be done without any detrimental effects on its health. While bucklings tended to be separated earlier than doelings in the past, the anti-mating apron allows bucklings to stay longer with their mamas, improving their long-term health.
Bottle babies often wean a little bit easier because they have already been separated from their dams. And while it may seem challenging to wean your dam fed babies, it too can be done. They may scream like they are dying, but they will, in fact, survive just fine.
Your goat babies should be eating solid food before they are weaned. Continue to give them free access to forage or hay and clean water. Feel free to give them treats as well. Just make sure to avoid any foods that are harmful to goats. Once they get over the initial shock, your babies should continue to grow and thrive.
- Nutrition of the Young Goat: Birth to Breeding. Retrieved from: http://omafra.gov.on.ca/english/livestock/goat/facts/goatnutrition.htm
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.