For babies that are going to be bottle raised we pull them from their mothers at birth, milk her and feed the babies the colostrum. At about three days of age we disbud them (if they are not polled) and by that time we know they are healthy and eating well then they can go to their new homes at about a week of age. After the babies have had their colostrum we feed them the raw goats milk from our does. A lot of people have had bad results with milk replacers and I do not recommend them. The best thing to use is whole cows milk from the store (or raw from a dairy) if you do not have goats milk.
When you get your baby at 7 days of age they will usually be on 3 bottles a day, drinking approx 8-10 oz each feeding. By 7-10 days you can slowly increase that amount to 12-16 oz each meal according to the babies appetite. However, we may sometimes keep a baby on 4 bottles for the first week or two of age, if they are on the smaller side of our minis and therefore drinking smaller amounts at each feeding. This is something we do on a case-by-case basis.
Guideline for Bottle Feeding (We give babies bottles on demand for first couple of days.) 4 bottles day - first few days up to 1-2 weeks of age, depending on the baby. (breakfast, lunch, dinner, before bed) 3 bottles day - until 6 weeks for males, until 6-8 weeks for does. (morning, midday, evening) 2 bottles day - until 7-8 weeks males, until 10-12 weeks for does. (morning, evening) 1 bottle day - until 8-10 weeks males, until 12-16 weeks for does. (your choice, morning or evening)
The earliest dates in these ranges are generally the earliest that breeders recommend weaning babies. The later date of these ranges is preferred if your are able to do so. Even though bottle feeding is a big responsibility and involves being available midday for a period of time, once a baby goes to 2 bottles per day, anyone can generally get this done even if working and one bottle a day is not a big deal at all. Keep in mind that babies that are dam raised will get an occasional sip of milk up until 6-7 months of age.
Each time you want to drop one bottle from their feeding schedule, you need to reduce the bottle you are eliminating gradually. You should not reduce it by more than 2 oz. every 2 days and the slower the better. They are going to replace this milk with an increase in grain, chaffehaye, hay, etc. Any large increases in food can cause diarrhea and can occasionally cause overeating disease. Please monitor babies during this time.
Many people say that if you let a doe raise their own babies the kids will ruin their udder from hitting it too hard. Now I find it very hard to believe that God would create an animal with a gorgeous mammary system only for it to be ruined by raising their babies as He intended. But this is just my opinion. I have raised lots and lots of baby goats in many different ways and I cannot say one is any better than the other, I can say that you have to decide for yourself what way is best for your farm. My favorite method is half bottle feeding and half dam raising, this is the most common method I use on kids born on my farm. I think that if you bond with the kids at birth and give them a bottle before they nurse mom for the first time, this way the kids see you as mom just as much as they do their real mom. This method has worked really well even when we were super busy and didn't have time to handle and play with the kids until they sold. I simply pulled them from their mom and gave them a bottle for a day before they left for their new home and they took right to it and acted like they had been bottle fed all their lives. It is best to spend as much time as you can with the kids and give them a bottle once or twice a week so they continue to see you as nice and fun and a food source. I normally bottle feed any kids that I bring in from other farms because not everyone I buy from has the time and ability to spend bottle feeding or handling the kids to keep them friendly. Also even if they were on a bottle before I got them I like to bottle feed them for the last week or two before they are weaned so they will bond with me as their mommy.
I have added some pictures below of some does udders that have raised their babies for years as well as being milked once a day and you can see that they have very nice udders that are certainly not ruined. I have let quite a few of my does raise their babies and have bottle fed and milked the does from birth as well and I have never seen a difference in their udders.
Photos courtesy of Fias Co Farms, Molly has some great tips and goat care info on her website. Check them out at - http://fiascofarm.com/
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