Sometimes a mother goat (doe) has more baby goats (kids) than she can care for, other times the mother dies while giving birth or shortly there after. Either way if you keep goats, you may find yourself caring for an orphan or “bottle baby” kid.
When a doe is overwhelmed with her kids, or has too many, one or more of them will start to look poorly, standing hunched up and generally not thriving. Some does refuse to look after all their kids, or are unable to produce milk for all of them. If she is not producing enough milk, but not being aggressive against the youngster, you can have a vet check her. If she is feeding one kid but not the other, you can leave the kid with her and feed it yourself throughout the day. If she is being mean to the kid, you will need to treat it like an orphan and remove it altogether.
Bottle feeding kids is hard work. It is not something a busy farmer does for the fun of it. As such bottle kids are often cared for by children in 4H (a group for teaching children about raising livestock), or those who have “petting zoos”. Ideally family members can take turns caring for the little one, as this will help everyone not become too overwhelmed.
If the doe has died and the kid is newborn, dry it off and warm it up. In most cases this may mean bringing it into your home. Goats, and especially baby goats, need to be kept warm, you can leave them in a small pen in your barn, but will be making several trips out so this may be inconvenient. They will need to get colostrum as soon as possible. This is a does first milk and contains anti-bodies.
Occasionally you may have success grafting the kid onto another doe, this is something to try if another doe has given birth and lost the kid, or had only a single. Never give a young doe more than two kids to care for. You can can try to graft a kid by putting the kid in the pen with the mom, if she is an exceptionally good mom she will accept it with only a small hesitation. These moms are very hard to come by. More often a mother will have to be held and forced to allow the new kid to drink, never leave them alone until you have determined if she will care for the new one or not. See the information about Colostrum in “Bottle Feeding” below.
Having another doe raise the orphan is much easier than you doing it and will also save you a lot of expense on milk. The other advantage is that the youngster knows that it is a goat. It will fit into the herd well.
You: Bottle Feeding
The first and most important thing is to ensure your kid gets Colostrum, this is the mothers first milk. Colostrum contains the first antibodies and it is very important that the kid gets some within the first 18 hours after birth. It does not have to be their first drink, but it is important that they get it.
Colostrum can be obtained by milking the doe, by milking another doe who has also just given birth, or by purchase. If you have several does, you might want to purchase Colostrum before hand and store it. Colostrum may be purchased from a Veterinarian, Veterinarian supply store, or a livestock feed stores. It may come frozen or powdered. In an emergency powdered calf colostrum is acceptable. Colostrum can be fed by gently squirting it into the kids mouth with a syringe. Use caution, if you go too fast you risk it entering their lungs.
You will need to purchase proper kid/goat starter milk formula. This is a powder that comes in large bags, you can purchase it at your livestock feed store. Do not use cow milk for human consumption. If goat milk is unavailable look elsewhere, or get lamb or calf milk replacer. You can also buy bottles and nipples from your livestock feed store. I like the kind of nipple that attaches to 750ml pop bottles. If you don’t have a bottle and nipple on hand, use a syringe or even a turkey baster at first. If you need emergency formula, as the case where it is late and stores are closed, you can use canned evaporated milk, adding a wee bit of molasses will give the lamb extra energy.
Bottle feeding is tricky at first because the kid will not understand the milk is coming from you. It is their nature to look for a nipple from their mother. Pick up the kid and hold it in one arm. Then use your hand to pry open its mouth and put the nipple in. When I use the plastic pop bottles as bottles, this enables me to gently squeeze some milk into the youngster if it is too week or confused to suck. After a few days the kid will start to understand what is going on and will be able to drink normally from the bottle while standing. If you have multiple kids you will eventually want to get a system where you can put the bottle and the kid can drink on its own.
In a day bottle kids need about 5 oz of milk per pound of weight. You can figure this out and then break the feedings down to multiple times per day. In the first 24 hours you will want to feed around the clock, usually every 2 hours in the day, every 3 at night. Then to make your life easier, the kid will be okay over night if you feed as late as possible, and again as early as possible. With the other feedings 3-4 hours apart throughout the day for the first week. The water used to make the formula should be warm, you can test it on your wrist to make sure it is not too hot.
As your kid gets bigger it will eat bigger meals, but less often. After about 1 week your kid can be fed every 5-6 hours. You can reduce this so that at 4 weeks of age it only is feeding twice a day. Of course as you reduce the number of feedings you need to increase the feed per feeding.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/waiferx/375666901/ Keeping Orphans together is a good idea.
Your kid should also have hay (or grass) after a few days of age. They start to eat by watching their mother. You can teach your kid to eat by picking grass or hay with your hand, or by having it with other kids who are eating. Baby goats can also have kid ration feed, a crumbly product you can buy at a feed store. They wont understand that it is food so you may have to put their faces in it, or pinch some in your fingers and put it in their mouth. Of course, when introducing any new food it is best done slowly so you do not overwhelm their tummies.
If your bottle baby was kept in the house it is important to get it out with the other goats as soon as possible, especially if it is a single. If you have to, you can keep it in a pen with some of the more gentle goats and their kids. Goats raised by people will be friendly to people, and will make excellent pets, however they may have a hard time fitting into the herd if they are not going to be a “pet” as such.
Be careful with billies, if they are not wethers they can become “bullies” as they get older. Do not allow a billy bottle baby to think is is anything other than a goat. Resist the urge to pat or cuddle them.
Raising orphaned goats is hard work, but rewarding if you do it right. If you are not prepared for all the expense and time involved you are best to try to sell your kid or give it away to somebody who is better prepared.
Good luck with your kid.