Basics of Raising Healthy and Happy Kids ( the four legged kind)
The first and very important step in raising healthy and happy goat kids is to have healthy expectant does. At the time of drying off the bred doe should be wormed with a gentle wormer such as Safe Guard, Iverside, Cydectin, or Pyrantel. Her feet should be trimmed and made sure there is no hoof root. She should be fed quality forages during the gestation period and have access to a good goat minerals, free choice. Clean water should always be available. We keep our does on a 13% basic livestock grain ration to keep them in good flesh during this time ( no more than 1/2lb per doe). This is fed one time per day. After freshening we change over to the dairy ration that will be fed at milking time and slowly increase the level to that necessary for optimum milk production. At dry off we vaccinate our does with CD & T, Scour Guard 4KC ( gives protection against a variety of scour causing organisms in kids), and give a shot of Bo-Se or Multimin for cattle, and iron if needed. The does are then booster vaccinated two weeks before freshening to ensure that the protection will be passed through the colostrum to the kids.
Note: For an excellent tutorial on how to trim your goats' feet visit Fias Co Farm-Hoof Trimming page to learn how to do it yourself.
After the doe delivers her kid(s) the first thing you need to do is make sure the kid is breathing freely on its own. Clear the mouth and nostrils of mucus and fluids. This can be done with an infant nasal aspirator or by gently sweeping the mouth with your fingers and pulling out any mucus.
The next step is to get the kid dried and warm. We usually remove the kids from the dam shortly after birth. We bring the kid(s) to the house and lay them out on clean older bath towels. We then rub the kid (s) down with another smaller towel while we blow dry the hair. This rubbing helps to stimulate breathing and blood circulation. It also simulates the licking of the mother thus kicking in the desire to try to stand. At this time navels should be dipped with an iodine tincture to help prevent infection. If a navel is bleeding heavily you can use a new clean clothes pin as a clamp.
If a kid is badly chilled place a heating pad under the towel that the kid is lying on. Then after the kid is dry you can make a warming basket. Take a laundry basket and place a heating pad on the bottom. Next cover with a clean towel. Place the kid(s) in the basket and cover with another towel. Set the heating pad on medium. You will have made a nice roasty-toasty warm environment for the kid. After the inside of the mouth of the kid feels nice and warm the heating pad can be turned off. We also will put one of our fleece kid coats on the chilled kid before placing in the warming basket.
The next and very important step is to get colostrum into the newborn kid as soon as possible. This should be within the first 2 hours. As the hours pass the ability of the kid to absorb the antibodies in the colostrum quickly diminish. We feed the kids with a human baby bottle. The nipples are small enough and the bottles can be gotten at very reasonable prices. Gently work the nipple into the kids mouth. Make sure you have warmed it. However, never warm colostrum in the microwave oven as that will denature the proteins in the colostrum and it will be ineffectual. We heat ours by placing the bottle in a measuring cup that has very hot water in it. If you have a weak kid you can place a pinch of instant coffee in the colostrum this helps to perk the kid up. We have on occasion put a splot of Nuti-Drench into a weak kids colostrum as well. Make sure to get at least 2 to 3 ounces into the kid in that first feeding. A one time Bo-Se can be given to weak kids as well of 1/4 to 1/2 cc depending on the size of the kid (1cc/40lbs.).
If you are having trouble getting the kid to take the nipple try dipping the nipple in brown sugar and then placing it back in the kid's mouth. The kid will usually start to chew and move the nipple around in its mouth thus causing some of the milk to be excreted. After tasting the milk most kids will start to suck.
The first few days we feed three times per day increasing the amount to an 8oz. bottle per feeding. Then we begin to feed two 8oz. bottles per feeding twice a day. When the kids are strong enough we group them in pens of similar age and size where they are introduced to a calf starter grain with a coccidiostat in it, free choice water, and minerals. Before placing the kids in the group pens we train them to drink from troughs in which we will feed the equivalent of 1 quart/kid per feeding. A vitamin supplement and pro-biotic is added to the milk.
Some suggest that colostrum should be heat treated. We, however, do not chose to do so as we are concerned that the antibodies in the colostrum maybe denatured by the heating process and that valuable enzymes found in the colostrum may also be damaged. If CAE is an issue you may wish to consider heat treating and pasteurization of your milk. Also feeding only milk from does that tested negatively is a good managerial practice.
If you choose to raise your kids on milk replacers we have found that these often cause digestive problems such as constipation and bloating. This can be avoided by feeding half replacer with half whole milk.
The first time you feed a kid gently hold the head in a secure position and work the nipple into the mouth. You can wrap the kid in a towel or baby blanket to keep it from struggling and to protect your lap from meconium (that first sticky, black poo a baby mammal does).
At three to four weeks kids should receive the first in a series of two vaccinations of CD&T. There are several vaccines available for this. Most are for cattle or sheep but are safe to use on goats. Use the sheep doses that are listed on the packaging. We use Covexin 8, but this vaccine is know to cause shot knots and so you may wish to look into others that are available. However, if you are careful in giving the shots there will be few if any knots. It is however one of the more reasonably priced CD&T vaccines available. This covers clostridium types C and D (known to cause "over eating disease") and tetanus. then a second shot is given three to four weeks later. After that it is recommended to give an annual booster shot.
Worming the kids for the first time maybe done at this time using a gentle wormer such as Safe Guard or Pyrantel . You can get the dosages from the packaging.