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Raising Healthy Goat Kids

Raising Healthy Goat Kids

By Lacey Yates

We had a great kidding season this year! Almost every kid presented “nose and toes” with a couple coming head first (still acceptable and can usually be birthed just fine) and one backwards kid.  I thankfully did not have to assist any this season.  The backwards kid even came out with no problems. (He was the last of three. I did make sure he hung upside down with a gentle swing to remove amniotic fluid just in case.) 

Now that the kids are on the ground, how do you raise healthy, happy animals so they’ll grow up to be productive in your herd?  This month’s content will be giving you some tips and tricks to getting kids off to a great start.  Remember, no two herds are the same, and you will also develop what works best for your herd.  

Let’s start at the very beginning with kids just being born.  I attend every birth here and like to be hands on when it comes to the following post birth activities.  Sometimes I’ll gently swing kids upside down to have gravity help get any extra amniotic fluid out.  I’ve also used the baby bulb suckers (for human infants, they work great on goats too).  I then take towels and help mom get those kids cleaned off and dry.  

Often times my does are having triplets, so I like to help her out by drying kids quickly while she’s working on pushing another out.  Once all kids are birthed, and have been towel dried, I check umbilical cords.  I like to make sure and cut any long ones, and prefer them to be about 2” from their bellies.  I then dip their umbilical cords and feet in a 7% iodine solution.  This helps quickly close the open umbilical cord to help prevent bad bacteria from entering and making the kid sick or contracting joint ill.  

At this point, I also like to conduct a newborn check.  I make sure that all kids are born with an anus.  While it is rare and hasn’t happened here, they can be born without and obviously those kids wouldn’t survive.  It would be most humane to deal with that immediately and not let them suffer terribly.  I also check for a good suckle reflex making sure they have no cleft pallet defect.  Moving towards the back end of the kid, I check for only two teats on both buck and doe kids. (Any extra teats or spurs are considered a major defect.)  If found to have any test abnormalities, that kids’ future should only be destined for the freezer or pet quality, not breeding!  

Bucks would get a band at 8 weeks to insure they don’t pass on that trait to future offspring. Buck kids will also be checked for two descended testicles.  If they only have one descended, they are considered a cryptorchid, and should also be destined for freezer camp.  I also check eye lids.  While rare, kids can be born with one or more eyelids rolled in, called entropion.  This is painful for the kid, and can cause permanent eye damage if not treated.  It can be easily remedied by having your vet clip the under or upper eye lid skin with a wound clip.  These fall out by themselves in 10 days or so and the issue is corrected during that time.  

Here at Raising Arrows, I like to dam raise if possible, but bottle raise (in the form of lambar) if need be. Some producers will pull all kids at birth, raising them on a strict CAE prevention plan.  I do urge you to know your herd disease status before making the choice to dam raise. 

We had several sets of triplets.  While my does are capable of raising three, it can be hard on the doe.  I will pull the third.  If I have pulled one or two kids at birth, they head to the house where they stay in a tote for the next 24 hours receiving colostrum feeds before moving to the nursery.  During this time I also make sure the kids that were left on the doe are nursing every two hours.  I make sure they nurse as soon as possible after birth (generally within 20 minutes of the last kid being born) and then every two hours.  

Colostrum is extremely important and a life or death type of thing.  It contains maternal antibodies that help the kid develop an immune system and fight off diseases.  The kids I pull will be bottle fed colostrum for the first 24 hours, then they transition to a lambar feeder.  I love lambars!  I make sure they never run out of milk and the kids train quickly, learning to self regulate and take what they need.  This insures growth-y kids and avoids that poor “bottle baby” look.  When the weather turns warm, I use a repurposed frozen Gatorade bottle as an ice pack directly in the lambar bucket to keep milk from spoiling, changing out as needed.

I disbud all kids here around 7-10 days old (some breeds buds grow faster, so pay attention!  Nubians have some of the slowest growing buds, so this time frame works for my herd).  While disbudding is painful for the kid, it’s over quickly.  It’s one of my least favorite chores to perform as a dairy goat breeder, but a necessity.  It helps to have a warm bottle of milk ready for the lambar kids, and the dam raised kids will be comforted by mom.  They get over it quickly and go on with life like nothing happened.  This is one procedure that shouldn’t be learned by trial and error.  This should be taught by an experienced goat breeder.  It’s easy to learn, but does need to be done correctly.

I also start my kids on coccidia prevention at 3 weeks of age and keep them on it until 4-6 months of age.  I prefer using zuricox (generic baycox) as it is an oral dose by weight once every 3 weeks.  Coccidia can be a problem and if not taken care of, can have a real negative impact on the digestive system, permanently damaging it.  It’s also worth noting that clean pens, and keeping dirty kid feet OUT of feeders (dirty feet contaminates feed and makes parasite transfer easy) goes a long way in prevention.  So make sure kids can’t get into their hay feeder, and no eating off the ground where they are pooping.

I prefer to keep my kids on milk for a long time, whether dam raised or on milk bar.  I’ll often let dam raised doe kids self wean around 6-7 months.  Buck kids get weaned earlier, around the 12 week mark as they start extending/acting buck-ish and I don’t want unplanned pregnancies.  However, I do manage this by still milking twice a day.  After all, these are dairy goats and I NEED the milk too!  I pull dam raised kids (beginning around 10 days to 2 weeks old) each night and they are penned separately with alfalfa land water.  I milk dams in the morning keeping that milk for family dairy needs, and the kids are let back in with the dams to nurse all day.  I don’t get much milk at night, which also cuts down on chore time.  You can say I make the kids work for me.  They are boosting doe production and cut down chore time at night.  

I hope this gives you some ideas on raising healthy kids successfully.  Remember, there are many different ways to do all types of things, it’s just ultimately incorporating what works best for you and your herd.  I think we can all agree that good herdsmanship practices and a clean environment go a long ways to raising healthy kids!


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