I thought summarizing information on raising kids, instead of forcing you to jump between several posts to put it all together, would be a good idea.
There are several things to pay attention to before a goat turns a year old. Particular attention needs to be paid to feeding. It’s also when some diseases will make themselves apparent. Their bodies grow fast. They grow teeth and personalities. They hit puberty.
Heck, think of a 16-year-old, and shove all the previous 16 years into one year, and then put it inside a goat body.
First off, you’ll want to decide if you’re going to dam-raise or bottle-raise. My post here highlights the considerations to take into account. The different ways will add certain factors into their care.
Secondly, you’ll want to decide if you are de-horning or not. If you want to show, you’ll need to dehorn. If you have already de-horned goats, it’s GREATLY advised you de-horn going forward. Mixing horned and non-horned animals is generally a bad idea and results in moderate to severe injuries. The On Disbudding Kids post can help.
We’ll start with feeding. If you’ve read through my feeding posts you’ll know some of this already, but I’ll put it all together here.
Newborn babies should get as much colostrum as they want. Colostrum, or the mother’s first milk, is packed full of vitamins, minerals, antibodies, and immune system helpers that kick-start a babies growth and health. If you’re bottle raising, the best idea is to try to find (or have) colostrum directly from the source. If you’re bottle raising to prevent CAE infection, make sure you heat-treat the colostrum to kill any virus in the milk. Otherwise, there are colostrum replacements available that you can order. Try to find one specifically for goats.
After about a week dams will no longer produce colostrum but straight milk, and babies will have had enough to kick start their health. At this point, if you’re bottle raising and are using milk replacer, I highly recommend you mix the replacer with cows milk. There have been instances of baby goats getting bloat from being on straight milk replacer.
By a week or two babies will already be interested in eating solids. You can offer a little bit of alfalfa and they may start trying to eat. Dam-raised babies will naturally be interested in whatever mom is eating and they’ll nibble on things by even just a few days old!
By a month, they should be eating alfalfa. If they’re interested and eating some beforehand, great! Alfalfa has all the good things that kids need to grow up big and strong.
Feeding a little bit of grain by 1 1/2 – 2 months is all right, but too much can cause problems, and many breeders don’t like to “growthy” kids that come out of that. Minimize grain intake until about 4-6 months old, when they should be getting a handful or two. You can slowly increase this amount, but do not exceed 1 1/2 lbs a day.
Offer minerals, too, starting at a few months of age. Either a block or loose. They’ll like that.
Technically doelings can be bred at 7 months of age. I don’t know anyone who recommends this. It is best if you wait until they are at least a year old, and have gotten all their growth and maturity, before you expose them to bucks.
This also means that bucks can breed at 7 months. Make sure they’re separated from their female companions by that time!
By the time they’ve hit a year old, they don’t need alfalfa or grain. You can switch over their feeding regime (remember, slowly!) to a quality grass hay, and pasture if that’s available. If you’re breeding your doelings around this time, it’s best to just continue feeding alfalfa, but you may want to decrease how much grain you’re feeding until the last couple weeks of their pregnancy. This will help prevent pregnancy ketosis and hypocalcemia, a topic that I will explain in an upcoming post.
Bucks can stop receiving grain after a year and rut is over with, and you probably won’t need to feed them grain after that (though, if they’re struggling to keep up weight, you can feed them some). Alfalfa can be important during winter months and rut, as well as a quality grass hay to make sure they’re getting enough roughage and staying warm (since goats gain heat from the movement of their stomachs).
Any questions? Comments? Anything to add?