Care and Bottle Feeding of Newborns

Babies need colostrum (or the equivalent) for a minimum of 24 hours after birth, and they need to ingest 10% of their body weight. So if the baby weighs 8 pounds (128 oz.) you want to get a minimum of 13 oz. of colostrum in the kid. We have found dribbling the colostrum into the kid's mouth with a syringe works good if the kid doesn't have a good sucking motion and can't figure out the bottle. (We us a 6cc syring and try to get 6 to 18 cc in every 15 to 20 minutes if the baby isn't interested in sucking.)

If the mother had no milk or if the babies were not able to get colostrum from the mother, I highly recommend giving them Colostrix or any other colostrum substitute. (These substitutes are all labeled for calves, but that's fine. They work great. You don’t have to mix up the entire package. What I have is manufactured by CANPAC in New Zealand and distributed by Schering-Plough. I try to keep a bag on hand “just in case.” The bag I’m reading from has an expiration date of 11/14/05; in October or early November, if I haven’t needed it, I will mix it up and feed it to the dogs and buy a new bag. I consider this “insurance.”) Some people tube-feed the babies; we have never done that so I wouldn't have any clue how to tell someone to do it. If the baby takes to the bottle, you can/should give approximately 2 oz. every 2 hours - if they will take that much. But it is extremely important they have colostrum or colostrum substitute for the first 24 hours!!

Normally if the baby won’t suck on a bottle, I put a little Karo syrup on my little finger and try to get it to suck on that (after I first make sure the baby has colostrum – normally with a syringe 6 cc at a time).

When bottle feeding there are a few “tricks” to try on the baby to encourage it to drink. One is to snuggle the baby close to you; they normally like the security of being held close. Another thing to try is to put a lightweight towel over the baby’s eyes – stimulates being underneath the dam. Yet another idea is to gently rub the baby’s neck (down the side) while putting the bottle in his mouth. Some people tickle the tail, but I’m not that coordinated.

We normally start off with 2 hour feedings of no more than 2 oz. We gradually increase both the amount of milk and the amount of time between bottles to be at 6 oz. every 4 hours by the end of the first week. After the first week we gradually increase to 8 oz. 3 times a day and stay at that 3 feedings a day for a couple weeks - gradually increasing the amount at each feeding to 16 oz. At 16 oz. we then go to two feedings a day - and usually have them drinking 20 oz.

Ideally you will have a goat you can milk to provide milk for the babies. But since we seldom live in an ideal world, you are probably going to have to either use a store-bought formula (Purina makes a goat milk replacer) or use the milk /buttermilk / evaporated milk recipe. If you use a milk replacer, mix it exactly according to directions; smarter people than you or I came up with the portions. And do not use a milk replacer that has soy in it; soy tends to give the babies diarrhea. Whichever you use (and I would recommend the milk/buttermilk/evaporated milk recipe only because it's so easy to mix and the measuring doesn't have to be exact), don't change abruptly. We have found we get a better grow-out rate and healthier bottle babies when we add Goat Nutri-drench to the first bottle of the day. Change in a goat's diet almost always is going to make them sick (at least our goats).

We do not heat our milk for bottle babies after the first several days. (Newborns need body-temperature milk to keep their own body temperature up.) Somebody once told us if you feed cold milk they don't gulp it as fast and don't end up with as many upset tummies. It does take a little longer to give the bottle if the milk is cold because they do stop more often. But, mother goats don't let their babies nurse continuously - they walk away after about 7 seconds (yes, I've timed them ). This is why we recommend starting the babies off with a little milk frequently rather than a lot of milk less often.

About every two weeks you need to give the babies a probiotic. We prefer Probios - a blue gel in a tube we can buy at either Tractor Supply or our Co-Op. (The cost is considerably less at the Co-op!!) Some people use a product called Calf Pac by Loveland and swear by it, but we cannot get this item locally. The Probios keeps the rumen functioning properly. If you can't find either Calf Pac or Probios, try feeding about a tablespoon full of plain cultured yogurt...serves the same purpose.

If the babies did not get the mother's colostrum (or if the mother was not vaccinated with CD/T or Covexin 8 or a similar product prior to the birth), I highly recommend giving the babies CD Antitoxin at birth (or close to it). The first two doses, six weeks apart, can be given orally. The bottle we have recommends giving the Antitoxin (not to be confused with CD/T) at birth and at six weeks. At 12 weeks you can then give CD/T or Covexin 8.

At birth we always give our babies a squirt of Nutra-Drench or Goat Aid any time they seem lethargic I would recommend this.

Personally I keep the babies in the laundry room for the first two weeks - especially if the weather is bad. I do this for my convenience - not necessarily because it's good for the babies. I do take them outside to play in the grass when possible. After two weeks, depending on the weather, I have them spending their days at the barn around the other goats. We have an area only babies can get into, and that's where we put them. If they wander out, they know where a "safe" place is for them to hide from the big bully goats. If they are around other goats they learn (1) they are goats, (2) grass tastes pretty good, (3) hay is tasty too, and (4) hey, those little pellet are for eating! (The babies will start eating grain faster if they are around other goats/babies eating grain.) Mainly, though, you want the goats to learn they are goats and not dogs or cats or other house pets. When in the laundry room we keep babies in boxes until they figure out how to get out at which point they move into dog crates; at no time do we allow the babies the run of the house.

I would keep them out of a drafty area if possible. During the winter if you elect to keep them at the barn, put them underneath a 250 watt light (depending on what your weather is like where you are). You want their immediate area to stay above 50 degrees. You do not want them to be using their energy/calories shivering and trying to stay warm, but you don't want to bake them either.

Hopefully you won't run into any problems with the babies and they will grow up big and strong. You will want to watch carefully for diarrhea because you don't want them dehydrated. (I'm a firm believer in Pepto Bismol for diarrhea - mixed with a little Biosol.) You will also want to make sure they get their shots on time because their immune systems are probably already a little compromised.

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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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