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Caring For Your New Baby Goat

Updated: Feb 10

A sleeping newborn babygoat

Welcoming a new baby goat into your life can be an incredibly rewarding experience. These adorable and curious animals can quickly become beloved members of your family. However, proper care and attention are essential to ensure their health and well-being. In this article, we'll provide detailed instructions on how to care for a baby goat from birth to thriving adulthood. Whether you're a farmer, a hobbyist, or simply an animal lover, you're going to want to give your baby goat the best possible start in life.

Before your baby goat arrives, you will need to ensure that you have the right facilities and supplies in place:

  • Shelter: Prepare a clean, dry, and draft-free shelter for your baby goat. This shelter should offer protection from the elements, including rain and cold weather. While you want to prevent drafts, goats need plenty of fresh air and ventilation even in the coldest climates. The build-up of ammonium from their urine can cause serious respiratory issues. More on shelter and fencing for your goats.

  • Predators: Your goats' shelter should be predator-proof as goats, especially babies, are highly susceptible to predators. You will need to make sure that there are no gaps in their fencing more than 1" and that nothing can dig under their enclosure. Bobcats have been known to access pens with 2-3" gaps!

  • Pasture Access/Fencing: Secure the area with appropriate fencing to keep the goats safe while they are outside of their barn. Some people like to let their goats out to graze and exercise while supervised. Be sure to fence off any valuable plants and trees! More on shelter and fencing for your goats.

  • Bedding: Bedding is more than just a cozy spot - it also absorbs their urine and provides a clean place for them to rest. Our favorite bedding method starts out on clean, bare dirt floors. We create a thin layer of "stall dry" or other ammonium-absorbing livestock products. Next, we layer a grass hay, like Bermuda, about 2-3" deep. Once kids are older, over 10 weeks, we will add a layer of fine shavings under the Bermuda to help absorb their urine. Goats love to nibble and young kids can get very sick from eating the shavings so we do not recommend using shavings of any size until after 10 weeks old. We avoid straw as we find it itchy, can cause obstructions if eaten by baby goats, and is known to harbor mites and lice. Grass hay is safe for them to eat and very soft.

  • Heat Source?: Unless temperatures are below freezing and you have newborn kids under 3.5 lbs, we do not recommend using a heating source. Too many barn fires have resulted in preventable tragedies. Giving kids a smaller enclosure inside of their draft-free -room or barn is a much better option. Using a dog crate or barrel to create a smaller area that can retain their body heat is the safest way to keep new kids warm. A deep layer of grass hay will also allow them to burrow down and keep warm.

  • Feeding Equipment: Ensure you have the necessary feeding equipment, such as bottles, nipples, and milk (or milk replacer if needed). Make sure their water buckets are either small or secured in a manner to prevent drowning. Our Amazon Barn Set-Up list has some of our essential items for new and adult goats.

  • Milk: The type of milk used is a personal preference. The official and vet-recommended replacement for fresh, raw goat milk is goat milk formula. However, many breeders have had horrible results (sick, weak, and failure to thrive kids) using formula. We have never had to use formula so we can not give any advice based on personal experience. We suggest using milk in the following order of preference:1. Fresh, raw goat milk from a store, farmer, or co-op2. Store-bought pasteurized goat milk3. Fresh, raw cow’s milk from a store, farmer, or co-op4. Store-bought, pasteurized WHOLE cow’s milk (for kids older than 3 weeks)5. Goat Formula Be sure to read our Bottle Feeding Instructions for a more in-depth bottle feeding overview.

  • Food: Your babies will need hay, fresh water, and minerals from day one. Our baby goats are offered hay from birth as they are usually with their moms who require hay. They learn quickly to mimic what Mom is doing and at just a few days old are already practicing eating solids. They cannot digest and utilize the solid foods until their rumen gets going around 3-4 weeks. However, these early days of practice are an essential part of that process. The same goes for water. They do not need water until they are 3-4 weeks old but they will begin to practice alongside Mom. Minerals are an essential part of a goat's nutritional intake and should be offered at all times, free choice. We only use goat-specific loose minerals. Our favorite brand is Sweetlix. Please reference our Feeding Goats article for more in-depth information.

  • First Aid Kit: Goats are pretty easy to keep but they can get sick or need some extra help staying in top shape, especially if you are breeding and/or milking them. You will want to keep as much on hand as it makes sense for your herd and your situation. A hobby farm with 2-3 goats won't need the same supplies as a breeder with 35+ goats. We have collected our personal favorites in this Amazon list.

  • Veterinarian: Finding a vet knowledgeable in goat health is not always easy. Most vet schools teach horses, cattle, sheep, and companion animals with very little attention to goats. Also, a lot of supplements and medications are not tested on goats so some creativity and knowledge are required. Don't wait until you have an emergency to ask around and find a good vet.

  • Livestock Guardian Dog: We love our LGD's and can't imagine ranching without them! However, they are not a good fit for every situation. If you have the means, we can't recommend them enough. They are specific breeds of dogs bred over thousands of years for instincts to protect and bond with livestock. This bond and instinct to protect drives them to be on guard 24/7 and keep their charges safe. In parts of Africa, there is a cheetah conservation effort donating LGD's to farmers to prevent the farmers from having to shoot the cheetahs to protect their livestock. It's been incredibly successful. We discuss LGD's more in our Shelter article.

  • Vaccines: We do not administer any vaccines to our goats. Consult with your veterinarian and discuss the risks of "vaccine-preventable" diseases in your area.

Bottle Feeding Your New Baby Goat(s)

We bottle-train all of our kids and do our best to place them in their new homes by four weeks old. We do this to facilitate a strong bond with their new family. Bottle-raised kids are typically easier to handle as adults which proves to be crucial if you are planning to breed and milk.

We also bottle train so that our kids can keep on milk for as long as possible. Kids left with their dam will nurse upwards to a year! While that isn't feasible with all bottle situations (we have known of a few!), we do feel good about starting our kids out with the ability to get milk beyond the traditional six to eight week weaning age of dam-raised kids.

Our personal target weaning age is sixteen weeks for breeding stock. Eight weeks is the minimum age and sixteen weeks is our goal with our own bottle kids. Our keeper does who stay with their mom in the herd will nurse for up to a year! By bottle training all of our kids, they are able to go to their new home at a younger age to solidify the bonding process with their new families as well as access nutrient-dense milk for the ideal duration.

Please reference our bottle-feeding instructions for more in-depth information.

Disbudding After Care Instructions

There is not much to do after your baby goat has been disbudded other than monitory the healing process. It can take over a month for the scabs to dry up and fall off completely. There may be a small amount of bleeding like that of a normal scab release. If there is active blood flow, apply pressure and call your vet for advice.

Occasionally, kids will get too rough and break open the wound before it has healed causing significant bleeding. We had this happen one time with a kid who was playing too rough and we simply cauterized the area that had broken open.

If you feel that the disbudding area is too exposed to flies or needs care, you can apply Vetericyn spray followed by Blu Kote. The Vetericyn is an effective astringent and antimicrobial and the Blu Kote acts as a liquid bandage. We do not use alui-spray as it contains aluminum.

Below is the progression of healing from immediately after the procedure to both scabs coming off. The horn bud area is shaved before the disbudding and will grow back to cover the area completely.

If your baby goat was disbudded by us, we give them a homeopathic blend for pain and to prevent inflammation. We blend Arnica, Aconite, and Bellis in 30C & 200C potencies. We give one dose before the procedure and one 15 minutes afterward. If there are complications or any swelling, we administer this remedy again, hourly, until we see improvement.

We also give a very small dose of CBD oil sublingually to each baby before they are disbudded. This helps with stress and pain as well as keeping them calmer during the procedure.

For more information on how disbudding is done and if disbudding is necessary for your goats, check out our article on goat horns.

Banding (Wethering) After Care Instructions

Banding is the process of using a tight rubber band to cut off the blood circulation to the scrotum and testes of male goats to castrate them. Banding is considered the most safe and humane method of castration for young goats. Goats over 16 weeks of age should be surgically castrated by a licensed veterinarian.

We band between 8-16 weeks of age and have begun using the "Lidobands" as they provide local pain relief for up to 42 days. A dose of Banamine is also given before the procedure for immediate pain relief.

It can take 3-6 weeks for the scrotum to fully separate and fall off. Once the area below the band begins to separate from the healthy tissue, you may notice some oozing or exposed tissue. This is normal but should be monitored carefully. We recommend a daily application of Vetericyn during this stage to prevent infection and speed the healing. If you notice any signs of infection, contact your vet immediately.

Because our babies go home before the eight-week minimum age for banding, customers can either band themselves, bring the kids back, or have their vet do the banding. Be sure to check your health forms for the date range and schedule with us for your banding. The procedure is included in the cost of our wethers but only within the 8-16 week age range.

Coccidia Preventative in Newborn Goats

Coccidiosis is a common parasitic infection affecting young ruminants, including baby goats. It is caused by various species of the protozoan parasite called Coccidia. Proper sanitation, hygiene, nutrition, and preventative practices, play a crucial role in minimizing the impact of coccidiosis on goat herds.

The lifecycle of coccidia is about three weeks and is spread by infected fecal matter in the soil. Adult goats with healthy immune systems are already immune to coccidia but kids are especially vulnerable to a 'bloom" during stressful times. Symptoms include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), dehydration, poor growth, weight loss, anemia, and decreased feed intake. In severe cases, coccidiosis can lead to mortality, especially in young and immunocompromised animals.

Because coccidia can be asymptomatic and cause irreparable intestinal damage, we have opted to implement a preventative protocol using Zuri Cox 5% at three & six weeks of age. Some breeders will also administer a dose at nine weeks. We only do a third dose at nine weeks if the goat is being weaned around that age or exposed to other environmental stressors. If you know you have a high coccidia load or have environmental factors making your goats more at risk, we recommend a third dose around nine weeks.

If you purchase goat kids from us, we will send you home with the required doses of Zuri Cox 5%. Your yellow health record for each kid will note if and when they have received any medications. We will also note the due date(s) for any future medication doses.

On the date of your kid's scheduled Zuri Cox dose, weigh them to get an accurate dosage amount. The calculation is 1CC/ML per 5 LB's: goat weight/5 = # of CC of Zuric Cox. The medication is measured in an oral syringe provided and given orally. Usually, the bottle babies will easily take their dose, especially if you give it before a feeding.

Coccidia protocols are important to discuss with your breeder. Many holistic breeders report successful usage of herbal dewormers in coccidia control.

Suggested Set-ups: If you plan to breed or milk, these items are very helpful.

  • Kidding Barn: This is a must-have if you intend to breed. Mamas need a secure and private place to deliver and recover. Other does in the herd can be very aggressive with new babies. It is also important to monitor new mamas' food and water intake during the first 2-3 days. In our experience, we isolate mamas when labor begins and then have small groups of 2-3 does and kids in enclosed areas away from the main herd. Having a proper setup prior to breeding saves a lot of heartache and stress when those first kids arrive. Having a "kidding barn" or separate smaller protected area can also be used for new babies when they first come home and they need additional protection from the herd, predators, or the weather. Not a bad idea to include this area in your barn build from the start versus going back later to create a safe kidding area.

  • Milk Barn & Stanchion: The first time I attempted to milk a goat, she was standing on a straw bale chained to the stall door. Needless to say, I was not successful. We have come a long way since then! Moving our milking supplies and stand into a dedicated shed was a game changer. We recommend a stanchion, water & sink and electricity. Having storage is also very helpful. It is noteworthy that even if you do not intend to breed or milk, having a stanchion is very important. There will be times when you need to secure your goat for hoof trimming and other routine care. Start your kids off by giving at least a few bottles a week on top of your milk stand. This will teach them to feel safe jumping up and allowing you to handle them as needed. This is important regardless of gender or future milking plans. Goats need to be able to be contained in a headstall for hoof trimming and other basic care.

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