Caring for your new baby
Proper care and nutrition for newborn goat kids provide the greatest chance for a long, healthy, productive life. A kid’s feeding needs change quickly in the first weeks, so being prepared ahead of time for each phase will help get your kid off to a strong nutritional start.
Feeding & nutrition in the first weeks
0-24 Hours: Goat kids will naturally begin nursing within hours of birth, where they enjoy the immense immune benefits of the doe’s colostrum. However, if the kid is unable or unwilling to nurse, or if their mother has tested positive for diseases that can be transmitted by colostrum such as CAE (caprine artritis encephalitis) or Johne’s disease, a colostrum replacer is critical to ensure that your newborn kid is receiving adequate nutrition and hydration in the first hours. Start bottle feeding a colostrum supplement like Lamb & Kid Colostrum Replacer is within 2 hours when the newborn’s body is best equipped to absorb this first, critical nutrition. If supplementing the does’ colostrum, feed Multi-Species Colostrum Supplement.
Days 2-9: After 24-48 hours, it is time to switch to milk replacer for goat kids who are not nursing naturally or adequately. Milk or milk replacer is the kids’ primary source of nutrition in the first few months, until weaning. Always choose a milk replacer that is specifically formulated for goat kids, such as Sav-A-Kid® Milk Replacer to provide the optimal blend of energy (carbohydrates and fat), protein, vitamins and minerals for healthy kid development. As a general rule, it is best to feed them milk replacer by bottle or pail 4x per day, because smaller, more frequent feedings can increase digestibility and minimize digestive upset.
Days 10-20: Continue feeding milk replacer 3x per day or as needed to supplement nursing, while introducing forage (hay) and a grain ration or concentrate feed. Goats are ruminants, with a 4-part stomach built for digesting large quantities of forage, and this early feeding of forage and grain helps jump-start rumen development. Fine-stemmed hay or pasture are best at this age for optimal digestion.
Days 21-30: Continue feeding milk replacer 2x per day or as needed to supplement nursing. Once your goat kid weighs 30 lb. and is eating at least ¼ lb of concentrate feed per day and free choice forage, you can wean the goat kid off of milk or milk replacer. The kid’s exact age doesn’t matter as much; the important thing is that they are consuming ample nutrition from forage and grain before weaning begins.
Don’t forget the water! Water is one of the most important elements of the goat’s nutrition. Keeping the water clean and fresh will encourage the goat kids to drink adequately.
Special nutritional needs
Even the best-cared-for kids will occasionally fall ill, and your veterinarian will be the best source of information and advice for caring for sick kids. But when kids develop scours (diarrhea), it is important to make sure they are consuming enough nutrients and are staying hydrated. The kid may benefit from additional calories to help fight off the infection or illness that is causing the scours. But most critically, you will need to help reverse the fluid and electrolyte loss by feeding an electrolyte supplement such as Electrolytes Plus™. Electrolyte supplements do not contain all the nutrients of milk replacer, so be sure to offer electrolytes in addition to the kid’s normal diet.
Mixing & feeding tips
Follow the mixing instructions listed on the package. Measuring the powder by weight with a scale is more accurate than measuring by volume with a scoop or cup. Always mix until the powder is dissolved.
Feeding the kid milk replacer that is at body temperature (100-105ºF) will encourage optimal consumption. However, always follow the mixing and water temperature instructions on the package for the colostrum or milk replacer product you are feeding, as the recommended mixing temperature will vary by product formulation.
Sanitation is another important aspect of feeding your goats and preventing illness, because bacteria can grow very quickly on feeding equipment. Wash your bottles and nipples in soapy water and rinse well after every feeding, and never mix new colostrum or milk replacer with already-mixed product that has been sitting out, unrefrigerated. Moisture creates an optimal breeding ground for bacteria, so allow your equipment to dry thoroughly between feedings. Check the nipples often for damage, because cracked or worn nipple holes can lead to over consumption or faster-than-usual feedings that can cause digestive upset.
In addition to a strong nutritional start, your goat kids need a comfortable place to stay, with ample clean, dry space. Adult goats will need 20-25 square feet of clear space each, but goat kids will be fine in a 4’ x 4’ pen, as long as one side is slatted for good ventilation. Although goats are most comfortable between 55-70 degrees Fahrenheit, they can withstand much colder temperatures if they have a thick layer of clean, dry bedding to insulate them from the cold of the ground or floor. In open barns, building panels can help reduce cold winter drafts. And if your goats are housed together in larger pens instead of hitched individually, they’ll naturally find the spots that are most comfortable for them.
Ensuring adequate ventilation without direct drafts will make the goats more comfortable, as well as reduce the moisture, animal odors and gasses that can cause respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia. If you can smell ammonia in the barn, or if you see condensation on the walls or ceiling, it may be a sign that the barn does not have adequate ventilation for your newborn goats. Windows, fans and inlets around the ceiling perimeter allow fresh, cold air from the outside to mix with warm air before coming into contact with the goat kids.