Margaret and Rose (my nigerian dwarf goats) were purchased with two intentions. The first, and one that certainly got my parents on board was to create a micro-dairy system. Supplying our family with all our dairy needs. The second reason was to fill my summer with baby goat love! I had the opportunity to take them to college with me at the end of that summer, so it seemed like the right move for me! Becoming mom.
After much research I officially brought my girls home, separating them from their mother, and feeding system. I then gave myself the responsibility to feed each girl 4-6 times a day!
… Taking them away from their (biological) mother at two weeks old had me feeling a variety of emotions. Was it too soon? Is this healthy? Will it be too much work? Are there any other options? Not at all comparable to human surrogate motherhood, but to my then 19 year old self certainly felt just as serious.
For all those new to goat mother & fatherhood (it’s true- you feel like parents!) I created a little pro & con list to help understand the benefits and downsides to raising goat kids as bottle babies (taking them away from mother pretty early-like I did) opposed to dam raising (allowing the doe to raise them naturally). These are conclusions I drew from raising my two doelings, an experience I am so very grateful for. I can’t wait till I am able to do it all over again but this time will be with a few changes.
-There is a fair amount of convenience when raising kids with their mother. It’s like having a child and having a night nurse. If you don’t feel like milking or there just isn’t time- no worries, we won’t hold your grades! The kid will drink up any extra milk the momma produces, happy momma =healthy milk!
-Colostrum is produced by all female mammals once giving birth. This first bit of milk that the mother produces is packed with antibodies. A Built in health system. Let’s hear it for Mother Nature!
Inevitably there will be less milk in production for the farmer- depending on how many goats you have this could be a bummer.
-When the mother is the main focus for the kid, you will have to do some major bonding work to get them to trust you. Constant touching, and handling will get your kid affectionate in no time. Nigerian Dwarfs in general are a very interactive breed, constantly looking for attention so no fear! You will have a playful goat companion one way or another!
-As I explained before, bonding is key. When you, the human, become the feeding system by default you are bonding & desensitizing. The kids will now look to you for all their hunger pains & follow every step you make. So lots of goat time!
– The biggest pro of all- You get to give bottles to baby goats!
-Sticking to a schedule- You have to stick to a feeding schedule, just like a newborn human! Those babies NEED nourishment constantly (I’m talking 4-6 times +per day in the first month).
-Eliminating mom from the equation means you become the monitoring system. Keeping a close eye on their weight gain, bowel movements, doting on them so they are used to human touch, etc (you probably would be doing this anyway- however its maximized with bottle babies)
-Coccidiosis (lots of diarrhea, dehydration) is the number one fear I had raising my girls. Kids are prone to get it when they aren’t processing their food correctly… and most common when feeding milk replacement ( powder milk mixed with warm water)
-Like I said.. goat Kid diarrhea is REAL. I kept a huge pack of baby wipes with me at all times before I switched them from milk replacement to actual goat milk (a friend gave me a couple gallons of frozen goat milk from her herd to thaw out & feed to my girls). They went from green diarrhea to soft pellets in a day (TMI?)
changes I will be making with my next go-around…
Bottle feeding my girls was an amazing experience, but I would change a few things for the next batch I raise:
-Raise partially on dam- this means not taking them away until at least 1 month of age, once doing so keeping the kids with their mother for a couple hours a day. This gives you the milk product you want for yourself as well as a happy healthy kid!
-Goat milk only- Instead of bothering with milk replacement I will have a source of goat milk ready (from another herd) for the girls to consume. This means I will be saving some of my own herd’s goat milk in the freezer for the next season)
There are some things that worked brilliantly. If you are able to take your goats on little adventures, do so. Try to introduce them to all the people (you won’t have an issue with getting people to swoon over your new goats!). Snuggle them all the time and you will have yourself some very affectionate ruminants. Oh.. and get two. It’s not an option, they will need a companion no matter how dedicated a mother you may be. My girls stand for their feet to be clipped, follow me everywhere on the farm, and are fine with me “milking”(getting them used to touch on their udders is important- we will be breeding them this fall!). I attribute their kind little souls to our very consistent schedule of bonding during their first 6 months.