How to Bottle Feed Baby Goats
We brought our little goats home from Vermont when they were just a couple of days old. Since we did not have access to mom's milk or any other does in milk, we needed to bottle feed them.
Through a lot of research, I quickly discovered that there are many conflicting opinions out there when it comes to bottle feeding.
While I can only share what worked for us, I encourage you to consider what will be best for you and your baby goats. The following post is meant to inform you of your available options, but if you’re still questioning anything, ask your breeder!
It’s very important for baby goats to get colostrum (the first milk produced by does) for the first 24 hours of life. Colostrum is rich in antibodies that are critical for newborns to develop a strong immune system.
It is recommended that newborn kids receive at least 10 percent of their body weight in colostrum by 18 hours of age.
In our case, our goats were able to get this right from their moms before we took them home. However, if you are in a situation where that isn't possible, you can purchase colostrum replacer.
Colostrum replacer is a great thing to have on hand during kidding season. It's something better to have and not need, than to need and not have!
Mom's Milk Alternatives
If your baby goat isn't able to nurse from their mom directly, bottle feeding with milk from their mom or another doe in milk is the next best thing.
While this alternative is preferred, it may not be an option. We personally did not have access to mom's milk because we lived several states away. We didn't have any other does in milk either so we discussed what the next best option would be with our breeders and mentors.
Bottle feeding with milk replacer
This is route we went and it worked out great. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when it comes to milk replacer:
Make sure that it is goat-specific. There are milk replacers out there intended for multiple species that lack the proper nutrient profile for a baby goat’s unique needs.
Follow the mixing instructions for the replacer EXACTLY. If the directions recommend weighing vs measuring, invest in a good kitchen scale and weigh for accuracy.
Be sure to warm the water up to the specified temperature before mixing. Use a thermometer! Giving a baby goat formula that is too cold or too hot could have devastating effects.
We chose Land O Lakes Doe's Match based on the ingredients, reviews and recommendations we received. Our local stores didn't carry this brand so we ordered several at a time from Amazon. Our doelings did great on this replacer and really thrived.
Other Milk Alternatives
Other options include local raw or store bought goat milk, local raw cow's milk or store bought whole cow's milk. We opted not to go this route but I've heard many success stories from those who have.
If you are getting raw goat milk, make sure that it's from a herd that has tested clean for CAE and CL. Likewise, if getting raw cow milk make sure that cows are negative for Johne's disease. These are diseases that spread through mom's milk to baby goats and cause them to be very ill.
Make sure that milk is being warmed to ~105 degrees F before giving to baby goats.
In addition to their bottles, your baby goats should always have free choice hay, grain, and water available.
Feeding amount and schedule
This will depend on the breed size of your goats as dwarf and pygmy goats will have different needs from full size breeds.
The amount of milk/milk replacer is based off of your goat’s weight so it’s important to weigh them on a weekly basis to recalculate and update the amount they are getting.
Note that your baby goat will likely act like they are still hungry after feeds, but it’s important to avoid overfeeding. This can result in serious illness and even death.
Be sure to thoroughly wash/sanitize all equipment used for feedings in between uses to avoid bacterial contamination.
To calculate feeds
Weigh goat and convert to ounces.
Ex. 12lb goat x 16oz/lb = 192oz
It is recommended to give goats 10-12% bodyweight in milk per day in ounces. We’ll use 12% for this example.
Ex. 192oz x 12% = 23oz per day
For days 3-7 we fed our goats 4x/day
To determine the amount per feeding, you would just divide the total oz by the number of feedings.
Ex. 23oz/4 feedings = 5.75oz per feeding
For days 8-21, we dropped number of feedings down to 3.
Don’t forget to re-weigh and recalculate to get the new daily goal based on 12% bodyweight. Then divide by 3 to get the amount per feeding.
For weeks 4-8, we dropped down to 2 feeds per day.
Using the same method as above to calculate amount per feeding based on updated weekly weight.
By weeks 8-12, our goats were regularly nibbling on their starter feed and hay so we gradually started the weaning process.
Once goats are reliably eating their solids, you can gradually decrease the amount of milk they get.
We followed our vet’s advice on this one and reduced the amount of milk in each of their two feedings.
Then we dropped the second feedings and gave them one feeding per day.
Next, we cut that feeding in half and finally dropped the feed completely when they were around 3 months old and reliably eating their solids.
Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will make a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
It took us a couple of tries to find the right size bottle nipples for our baby goats. Luckily, we came across these, and they work perfectly!
Note: they do not come with a precut slit/hole so you will need to cut one with scissors.
These will screw on to soda bottles if you have some on hand. We rarely do so we purchased these bottles which worked great for us.
As previously mentioned most nipples will screw on to soft drink bottles so buying bottles may not be necessary. Since we're not drinkers of soda or bottles water, we didn't have any old bottles available so we purchased these.
They were the perfect size, quality, and help up great after months of feeding and washing.
It's SO important to get an accurate read on the temperature of the milk before you give it to your baby goats.
This thermometer is my favorite by any digital food thermometer will do!
Most milk replacer requires you to weigh the replacer rather than using a volume measurement to ensure accuracy.
This was an item I did not have on hand initially and this resulted in a lot of spilled formula. Having to pour formula into bottles is made SO MUCH easier when you have a funnel.
We had great results with Doe's Match but there are several other brands out there. As with anything, do your research and ask around to determine which is the best choice for you.