FAQ:  Don't Buy Dam-raised Kids to Bottle Feed!
Maxine Kinne

This FAQ chronicles a 2-week correspondence with someone who asked my advice and didn't take it. It demonstrates a new owner's great panic and frustration when an unscrupulous seller takes a young kid directly away from its mother for a new owner to bottle feed. In my opinion, these sellers are irresponsible and do not care for the long-term well-being of their kids. They won't be there to help when you run into problems, which will be very soon. In my opinion, there is no lower form of life. 

Q.  I want to buy a 2-week-old kid and bottle raise it so it will be friendly. The seller does not have time to handle her kids, so they end up wild. She says that most kids will take a bottle when they are taken away from the mother but that the mother will not take her back if the bottle doesn't work out. What are the chances that I can get this kid on a bottle?

It is extremely difficult and frustrating to get a nursing kid on a bottle. These frightened, starving kids are under a great deal of stress and can practically starve themselves to death. They don't realize that taking a bottle means getting a full tummy. Wild kids can be tamed over time, but it is a time-consuming challenge to build their trust in people.

The seller is obviously aware that dam-raised kids can fail to make the transition to a bottle. In my opinion, if this person cared about her goats' welfare and/or about the sanity of her buyers, she would not engage in this sleazy business practice. If she wanted you to have a tame, healthy kid, she would find the time to handle her kids from birth to make sure they are socialized with people.

Q.  I also plan to get a buck from her out of a doe that is due soon. Should I get him when he is born?

Snatch him as he is born. Milk 3 ounces of his mother's colostrum into a baby bottle and head for home!

If you do not know whether this herd is free of Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis Virus (CAEV) and Johne's Disease, you would be much better off buying from a herd that tests negative for these incurable diseases. While colostrum from CAEV-positive does can be heat-treated to kill the virus, heat-treating will not kill the bacteria that cause Johne's Disease.

Q.  I wrote a week ago about the 3-week-old doe kid someone wanted to sell me as a bottle baby. I told her my fears about the difficulty of the kid making the transition from the mother to a bottle. The seller said someone else wanted the kid and pressured me to take her. I took the kid 24 hours ago, and she will not drink from the bottle. I have tried several different kinds of milk and several different types of nipples on the bottles. Does it take more than 24 hours for the kid to learn to nurse from a bottle? Will she ever learn? How long can she go without eating? I am so afraid I will lose her!

Sigh... It should be obvious by now that the seller really doesn't care what happens to her goats, or she wouldn't have done this.

Kids can have a very hard time learning to nurse from a bottle. They aren't fussy about taste. Diarrhea can easily develop from being so abruptly switched to different types of milk.

Whatever nipple you can get her used to will be fine.

There is no magic time frame - maybe she will learn to nurse from a bottle, but maybe she won't. All you can do is keep trying. It might help to get a plastic baby bottle (I use Even-Flo) so that you can squeeze a little milk into her mouth. It also helps to use a cross-cut nipple so the milk comes out a easier than from one tiny hole. Milk temperature is very important. Use a thermometer to make sure the milk is right at 102o F. Hold the bottle to approximate the position of the mother's teat.

If you have other goats, there is a trick that worked for me when I was left with 2-week-old orphans whose mother died in an accident. The goat you use as a "surrogate mother" for this will not like what you are going to do one bit, but hopefully this trick will work the first time.

1) Warm the bottle and take the bottle and the kid to the barn.
2) Clip a doe's collar to the fence so she can't move her head.
3) Have someone else hold her hind legs so she can't stomp the kid.
4) Put the baby by the doe's udder, and she should be eager to nurse something she recognizes.
5) Let the kid nurse very briefly
6) Hold the doe's teat back and put the bottle in its place, with the bottle nipple where the teat should be. This should fool the kid, and she will probably nurse the bottle. Once they get the feel of the bottle, they usually start taking the bottle.

Q.   Trying to fool the baby to drink from the bottle did not work. My doe went crazy and nearly stepped on the kid. Yesterday she took a few sucks from the bottle but has refused it ever since. I put some milk in a bowl and she drank a little, but she does not seem to want to do it again. Have you ever heard of kids that starve themselves to death? I will never forgive myself!

At this point, it's all a matter of keep trying, keep trying, keep trying. As I told you to start with, this is can be one of the VERY HARDEST things to do.

If you haven't already, offer her the best hay you can get. Get some Probios (rumen inoculant) from the feed store and give her some. Probios comes in a tube, and you squeeze some into the mouth. That will help activate her rumen so she will begin to eat and digest hay. Also offer a bowl of water so she can drink as she feels the need.

Q.   I have good news. Although she will not take a bottle she is now drinking her milk from a bowl and she is eating some hay. Should I continue to give Probios? Can she have alfalfa? Should she get some grain?

I can tell you one thing - I have learned a lesson from this. I will NEVER buy a 3 week old baby to bottle feed and will never consider it when I get babies to sell. Thanks so much for your help.

The Probios can only help her. Give her a dab out of the tube twice a day for several more days. It will put good bacteria into her rumen and help her digest roughage. She will eat more hay and utilize it better.

Either grass hay or alfalfa are fine. She really needs the plant roughage to grow a big, healthy rumen.

You can offer her grain now, but very little. Start with less than a teaspoonful. Grain is hard to digest, and she's got a tender little tummy. ;-)

And you thought that I warned you against taking this kid just for fun? ;-) It's one of the stickiest situations in goatkeeping, but you just don't realize it until you do it. If a kid starts on mama, leave it on mama!

I'm glad your little doe kid seems to be doing so much better.

Q.   Thanks so much for your help, It looks like my little girl is gonna make it. She is 3 1/2 weeks old. When should she have vaccinations, coccidia treatment and worming?

I'm not sure how much you know or can find out about the care the mother received before the kid was born. I doubt it was ideal, just because of the circumstances of how you got the kid.

Good management includes giving pregnant does some prenatal shots to benefit the kids through the colostrum (first milk). Passive immunity from the colostrum lasts several weeks, then kids are usually started on their own vaccine injections at about a month old. You may as well start on those now. There is a vaccination chart in the article, Starting Normal Newborns Right: Birth to Weaning.

I read in a mail-order catalog that 3-week-old kids should be treated with 1/2cc of Albon orally in their milk twice a day for one week and then once a week unitl weaned to prevent coccidiosis. Is this something I should do?

I am not surprised that you found coccidia treatment directions in a catalog, but most of the information was faulty. Albon is a good drug for treating coccidiosis, but I seriously disagree with the dosage and length of treatment you read about. This drug is always given in a double dose on the first treatment (given all at once), and the treatment is continued for four additional days. Do not split the daily dosage in two or the effectiveness will be reduced.

Your kid isn't taking a bottle, so you can't guarantee that she would get a worthwhile dose of any medication in a bottle. Always give coccidia medication orally so you are sure the dose has been given. Dosage size is dependent on how much the kid weighs. Albon comes in both a suspension and a liquid

It would be a good idea to go ahead with a coccidia treatment before she develops diarrhea. Albon is a good drug to use for coccidia. Why don't you get some Albon suspension from your vet? You need to double the first day's dose, then continue to give it for another four days. The amount to give would be based on your kid's body weight, and your vet can help you figure out the dosage - it's the same as the dog and cat dosage on the label.

I have never dewormed a kid before 3 or 4 months of age. Again, I'm highly suspect of the management practices of the place you got your kid from, so deworming now certainly wouldn't hurt.

Maxine Kinne
Kinne's Mini's Pygmy Goats & Parrots

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