There is just nothing more adorable than baby goats, called kids, on the homestead. The first season of kidding brings about an excitement on the homestead that can only be understood by experiencing it first hand.
Seeing those baby goats romping and playing will melt anyone’s heart. However, as cute as they are, there are necessary steps to take to ensure their good health and well-being into adulthood.
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When baby goats are born they are covered in mucus. Mom will usually lick this mucus off as soon as she can. When mom is busy trying to deliver the next one, you can assist her by cleaning off the baby goat.
If the baby is not breathing yet you can tickle the inside of its mouth with a piece of straw. If it sounds as though the kid is congested, gently lift it by its back legs to allow the air passages to drain. The kid should start to bawl which is a sign it’s okay.
At times, when the kid is born in extremely cold weather, drying the kid prevents it from freezing. When you find a kid that is not moving or cold to the touch, you can soak the kid in a tub or warm water and then dry it completely.
Never use a heat lam. It will prevent the kid from adapting to normal temperatures. A kid that has been cold or wet too long may not survive.
Other Newborn Maintenance
The baby goats will have what is left of the umbilical cord hanging from their navels. If the cord is dragging, there is a chance the goat may step on it. You can tie it about one inch from the belly with dental floss and cut off the excess. Sharp scissors can be used for cutting.
Dip the end of the cord in iodine to keep it clean and keep an infection from happening. Sometimes baby goats have weak legs and have problems standing. In this case, you can tape jumbo popsicle sticks to each side of its legs. Remove these “braces” every 2 days until the goat is walking as it should.
Record the birth weight and sex in a birth record. Here is a free birth record pdf you can download and print for your records.
If you have twins born make sure you note differences in their markings. You can also mark the inside of one of their ears with a temporary marking pen. Be sure you do not combine mama and her new babies with the other goats until all of them are strong enough to run away if needed.
Feeding Your Baby Goats
Mama goats feed their babies a milk called colostrum. This is thicker and more yellow than regular milk. This milk contains antibodies that help protect the kid from diseases.
Don’t allow the kid or kids to go more than 2 hours without getting fed the first feeding. Make sure you clean the teats with warm water and dry them.
Also be sure to milk the first stream or so of milk. Doing this releases a waxy plug that has built up in the teats and can cause difficulty for the newborn.
Colostrum can be warmed in a bottle with a rubber nipple if the kid has a hard time nursing. You simply squirt some of the milk into the kid’s mouth toward the back of the throat. Then, rub the throat until it swallows. After the kid drinks about a half of a cup of milk and naps, it should nurse with no more issues.
Bottle feeding baby goats allow them to become more tame and friendly. It is a huge responsibility, though. Babies must be fed every couple of hours. The milk must be heated. The bottles and nipples must be sterilized after each feeding.
Some mothers will not feed their kids. Usually, they do this because they were bottle fed themselves. Read more about goat behavior.
Most goats no longer need their mother’s milk by around 8 weeks of age. Or it may not be until they reach three times their birth weight. Whichever happens first is fine. The only exception to this rule is with the Angora Breed. You wait until they are 4 months old before weaning.
If bottle feeding, simply substitute more and more water for the milk until the kid is drinking only water. A nursing kid must be separated from its mother. This requires specific goat housing requirements.
This is stressful and both mama and the young will cry and holler. Placing them in a pen next to each other can help. After a few weeks, they can be reunited again.
Meat and fiber breeds that are nursing do not need to be weaned. The doe will produce only as much milk as her kids need. Then she will dry off. At this point, the kids are naturally weaned.
Health Issues in Baby Goats
Learning about your goats health is always important. However, when it comes to your baby goats, you must be more cautious.
The kids first bowel movement is black and sticky. After that, it passes a yellow pasty substance for about a week. Do not allow this to stick to the rear end. It will cause problems and blockages.
At a week old, baby goats start dropping brown pellets. If the manure is loose and white, yellow, or brown, instead, it has scours.
Scours, another name for diarrhea, is common in baby goats. It is usually caused by cold feedings, erratic feedings, dirty bedding, dirty bottles, and overeating.
If the problem is not corrected within a day or two your kid will die. Correct these situations and all should be fine.
Scours in two or three-week-old baby goats is usually due to coccidiosis. Coccidiosis is caused by microscopic parasites in the soil.
Most kids that are cared well for will develop an immunity to them. Symptoms of this disease include diarrhea with blood.
Even the kids that do survive through this disease may not ever grow to be strong. Sick baby goats can be treated with Coccidiostat. This is available from farm stores and veterinarians.
Outside of coccidiosis, two diseases that kids are vaccinated for are tetanus and enterotoxemia. Both diseases are fatal but can be avoided if proper care is taken with your baby goats.
Processes for Baby Goats
The right ear is usually tattooed with three letters that designate the heard name. A registry will assign these to you.
The left ear usually has a letter that indicates the birth year and a number to identify the number in sequence the baby goat was born. For example, if all goats born in 2014 are assigned a D for the birth year and a baby goat was the second of 3 goats born, its ear would be marked with “D 2”.
All baby goats are born without visible horns. Some kids develop horn buds and some don’t. Kids that are born without them are called polled.
The way to identify if a kid is polled or not at birth is fairly easy. Polled goats will have hair that twists in a circle where their horns will be. Goats that are not polled will have straight hair.
Because having horns can cause danger and injury to people and other animals, disbudding is required. This procedure can be done by you. However, it is normally done by someone trained in this area. Disbudding should be done as soon as the horns start budding.
Castrating a buckling
If you plan to raise a buckling past the weaning age he must be castrated. This process removes the testicles of the baby male goat so he cannot be used for breeding your goats. The goat will then be called a wether.
A wether will make for a better pet, will train easier, can’t get the does of the herd pregnant, and will grow faster (if being raised for meat). If you do not want to do this process yourself, you can hire someone to do this for you.
Unfortunately, most people can’t keep all the kids they are blessed with. We sometimes become attached to them and it is hard to see them go.
A piece of advice in this area would be to decide how many you will keep and how many you will sell in advance. Try to make arrangements for purchase before the kids are born. By doing so, the kids enter the world and you already have the mindset that they are leaving.
Raising baby goats is a rewarding experience. They are cute and fun to watch daily. Their care is fairly simple and most tasks can be done at home.
Do you raise goats? How many do you have and what guidelines have you set for yourself when it comes to keeping or selling the kids. Share your answers in the comments below.