The qualifier in the title of this post is a little bit of a joke, but also is how things work generally in raising livestock. We are constantly evolving our processes and no single year has been exactly the same. This has been because of variables such as the quantity of kids, the weather, managing parasites, work schedules and a whole host of other reasons. What works at my farm might now work at yours and this is just how I do things that work for me.
Our kidding season in 2023 was a long one. The first kids came March 13th and the last ones arrived May 30th. This made things especially challenging because I like to keep my kids in groups by age and since I mostly have Nigerian dwarfs I need to separate out the buck kids pretty early sometimes.
Prep for kid raising starts before birth. This year was the first time we began feeding a pellet with a coccidiostat 30 days before kidding. I use decoquinate (deccox) in my operation because some of the other options are hazardous to dogs and pigs, rather than having to warn help I prefer it to not be an issue. The other prep we do is a CDT vaccine 30 days before kidding and Selenium and Vitamin E gel.
Birth to Two Weeks
The biggest thing for the survival of the kids is being there for the birth. I’ve had situations where the does kid and I wasn’t there where everything is fine and there have been a couple situations where we lost a kid.
Once the kid is born we suction their airway, dry them off and get them nursing. After they have settled in a little bit we dip their umbilical cords with iodine as well. Most of the time this is all that needs to be done, but if they are looking like they are struggling at all I take their temperature. Kids need temps of at least 101.5 F to eat and if it is low you need to get it up. If a kid has a low temp I bring them in the house and float them in 102.5 F water in a plastic bag and put molasses on their gums. I have had to do this a couple times a year and in most cases they perk up within a short period of time and I’m able to get colostrum in them and return them to their mother. I try to have the does raise their kids the first two weeks if I can.
We have many polled goats on our farm, but we still need to disbud. Generally we try to disbud as soon as possible in the first week. This generally happens a little earlier for bucklings (3-4 days old) than doelings (7-10 days old).
Switch to Bottle
At two weeks old I separate the kids from their dams and completely bottle feed. Key to this has been the Bess Bottle for whatever reason I find it much easier to switch them over with this nipple than any of the other options. The way I start the process is by putting the kids in a separate pen the first night, then I offer them a bottle in the morning. At this point I offer bottles four times a day until they get it. I only had a couple this year that took more than the first day to figure it out. The kids are also offer a kid starter, alfalfa and water during this time.
They are generally just kept on the bottle a few days. If someone is taking home kids on a bottle I send them home at this point once they are on the bottle really well. That means I walk into the pen and show them a bottle and they immediately grab it.
Switch to Lambar
The real game changer this year was using a Lambar. We did the same basic bottle feeding last year but used the Bess Bottles the entire time. It became a challenge of washing, refilling and managing all those bottles. The lambar was so much easier in terms of managing and cleaning. I chose the Milk Bar system because it didn’t have any tubes and it was well recommended.
The reason I start the kids on the Bess Bottle first is I find it helps them get used to sucking on something else and associating the humans with food. Then putting them on the lambar is much easier. To get them on the lambar we gently put the nipple in their mouth until they figure it out. This process sometimes takes a day or so, but generally they switch over pretty well.
One the kids are on the lambar it is mostly a matter of regular feedings. Roughly this is our feeding chart.
|Age||Milk Feedings Per Day|
|Birth – 2 Weeks||All they want on their dam|
|2 Weeks – 4 Weeks||4 times|
|4 Weeks – 6 Weeks||3 times|
|6 Weeks – 10 Weeks||2 times|
|10 Weeks – 12 Weeks||1 Times|
The other main things during this time is providing fresh water, alfalfa and start pellets. We also keep an eye on everyone and if there is any sign of coccidiosis we treat them with Albon. There seem to be a few different variables if they needed to be treated this year and I cocci is the biggest thing I worry about when raising kids.
This year I moved most kids outside after they were about four weeks old. I made new pens in areas that had never had goats for them. I’m not sure if it helped with cocci or not, I have other ideas for next year.
Kids get their CDT shots at around 6-8 weeks and at 10-12 weeks during this time as well. My timing is partially designed so that the boys have it on board prior to banding.
Weaning and Beyond
Weaning since we are lambar raising at this time is pretty simple, we stop offering milk. Everything else is mostly the same regarding feeding, I keep everyone on a medicated pellets feed until they are five months old. I also start introducing timothy in addition to alfalfa at this time.
At twelve weeks I band all the boys that at not staying as bucks. I give them oral banamine 30 minutes prior to banding and then keep an eye on them for a day or so. If they seem uncomfortable I give them 1 more dose of banamine that only happened 2 times this year.
Well that is how we raised kids this year. I kidded 14 does this year and 38 kids were born. We lost 1 kid at birth because we weren’t there and 2 kids to floppy kid syndrome at under a week old. 35 kids survived until weaning. We kept 5 kids and 30 went to other homes.