Our first attempt at bottle feeding wasn't too bad and could probably be termed a success. Granted we didn't get too much milk into the babies, but they survived. And I will concede bottle feeding for one day probably wasn't a good test.


Our second and third attempts ran simultaneously – for a couple days. One Friday night at a goat auction in Elgin Crossroads, AL, we purchased a little billy for $6. He was about two or three weeks old (and was sold as a nanny). We got him home, made him a home in a dog shipping container, and fixed him a bottle using Purina calf replacer. (It wasn't easy to figure out how much of the powder to use to make an 8 oz. bottle of milk; the bag seemed to want you to mix the milk by the gallon!) He had apparently been raised as a bottle baby because he took to the bottle with no problems at all.

The next day we were in Lewisburg, TN at a goat auction. A doe with a bad teat and her baby sold, but the buyer didn't want the baby so it was put back on the auction block. And for $2 we had a cute little black-headed, 3/4 (unregistered) Boer doeling. We thought she was about a week old. Hindsight being 20-20, we realized she was probably only a day old when we bought her. We named her Tess.

When we offered Tess a bottle, initially she didn't know what to do with it. But in no time at all she drained the entire thing. Hmmmm, she was really hungry, so we gave her another 8 oz. bottle. A few hours later we went down to feed the two babies. The little billy took his bottle and ate a little goat chow, but the little nanny wasn't too interested (although she did drink another 8 oz.) By the next morning, little Tess had diarrhea. Our first thought was the formula milk didn't agree with her, so we went to Huntsville, AL to Publix and bought some goat milk. We managed to keep her alive a week, but each day she got weaker and weaker regardless of how much milk we got into her.

The lessons we learned with Tess: you can overfeed a baby goat. The mother doesn't let the baby have all the milk it wants. After a baby nurses for 10 to 15 seconds, the mother walks off. More frequent feedings of less milk is preferred (at least for our goats). Also, Tess probably had not gotten enough, if any, colustrum from her mother. Finally, we did not know to treat for entrotoxemia using CD Antitoxin and pennicilian.

The billy, by the way, grew well on the Purina calf replacer, took a 20 oz. bottle twice a day until he was three months old, and sold for $68.

Feeling bad about Tess but good about the billy, we were more confident when we had a doe die the day following a bad kidding.

We had milked her so knew Rex got colostrum. For 24 hours we fed him colustrum with a syringe every two hours. When we ran out of the colostrum, we put Rex on a milk formula we found on a "goat list."

To make this formula take a gallon of whole milk, pour off 4 cups, add 1 cup cultured buttermilk and 1 large (12 oz) can evaporated milk, then refill the jug with as much of the whole milk as it will hold.

When Rex was 10 days old, we had a partially-paralyzed doe whose doe kid couldn't figure out how to nurse. (The buck kid did just fine.) So Rex was joined in the laundry room by Cottontop. Another doe had triplets and rejected one, so Yoda joined Rex and Cottontop.

As with Rex, we started the babies off with 2 oz. of formula every two hours. This was gradually increased to 4 oz. every three hours and finally 6 oz. every four hours by the time they were a week old. By two weeks they were taking an 8 oz. bottle four times a day. The three babies were taken out in the yard for sunshine and play time with the border collie puppy; they were all growing just fine.

Since it was January and we had no heat in the barn, we still had all the babies living in dog kennels in the laundry room. At one month of age, Rex was up to 16 oz. of milk formula. One evening he took his bottle and was fine. When we went in 6 hours later to given them their next bottles, Rex was dead. An autopsy showed a healthy, but dead, goat. Months later our vet said the whole milk/buttermilk/evaporated milk formula may have been just too rich for Rex. In all probability, though, he didn't get enough colostrum. We've had great success with the milk recipe in the years since Rex.

By this time, Bertha had kidded again and had more milk than her baby could manage. (And she had what we termed a "balloon" teat – it would get bigger and bigger until the kid couldn't latch onto it.) Alma had also freshened and had excess milk.

So, we milked Alma and Bertha – and Yoda and Cottontop grew well. At one month of age they moved to the barn. They gradually worked up to 16 oz. of milk twice a day until they were about 2 1/2 months old when we reduced the feedings to once a day. By three months they were drinking well out of the branch, so they were gradually weaned from the bottles altogether.

We tried but could never convince either Alma or Bertha they could easily cut out the middlemen – us – and simply allow Yoda and Cottontop to nurse along with their own kids. Stubborn goats. Fortunately neither minded being on the milk stand because that meant an extra ration of feed.

With Cottontop and Yoda we learned bottle babies tend to grow up to be pests. They are extremely tame and people-friendly, but every time they see you they expect you to feed them. And when you don't feed them, they seem to assume you simply don't see them, so they get as close to you as they possibly can, normally causing you to trip over them. Yoda and Cottontop were sweeties, but they were sold when they were 8 months old.

Bessie being bottle fed.

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Ken and Pat Motes
Clear Creek Farms
33 South Clear Creek Road
Fall River, Tennessee 38468
Phone: (931) 852-2167
Fax: (931) 852-2168

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