Healthy baby goats are full of character. They bring joy and laughter to your farm by playing, jumping, and kicking up their hooves. This amusement is dependent on their first feeding.
Colostrum, the first milk produced by a doe after giving birth, is essential for giving baby goats a strong, healthy start. Because baby goats are born without immunity, colostrum provides immune protection until their immune systems mature. It provides critical antibodies that the doe cannot pass on during pregnancy.
"The body of a newborn kid is uniquely suited to absorb these antibodies into the bloodstream via the intestines — but only in the first 24 hours of life. "Absorption of these critical antibodies contributes to a healthy, playful life," says Julian (Skip) Olson, DVM, technical services manager for Milk Products.
Here are five colostrum success factors:
- Do a Test Before Kidding
Check your does for diseases that can be transmitted by colostrum before kidding season. For testing, consult with your veterinarian.
"It's critical to know if any of your does have caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE) or Johne's disease," Olson says. "Testing for these diseases prior to the kidding season can help ensure that the disease does not spread throughout your herd."
2. You Play an Important Role in Colostrum Delivery
Because it contains antibodies specific to your herd and environment, a doe's colostrum provides the best nutritional start for her newborn kid. When it comes to giving colostrum to newborn goat kids, timing is everything.
The antibody concentration in a doe's colostrum decreases as time passes after birth.
"Baby goats should start nursing naturally within hours of birth," Olson says. "You'll need to step in and feed a colostrum replacer if they don't nurse within 4 hours or receive an adequate amount of colostrum."
3. Give Colostrum As soon as possible, replacer
"Maternal colostrum deficiency is a medical emergency. During the kidding season, you should be prepared by stocking up on colostrum replacer, bottles, and nipples," says Olson. "Colostrum replacers can provide critical immune support and nutrition to your baby goats."
If your kid does not nurse within 4 hours, begin bottle feeding a colostrum replacer, such as Sav-A-Kid® colostrum replacer. If the child does not begin nursing properly, continue to feed only colostrum for the first 24 hours of life, according to package directions.
Within the first four hours of life, a baby goat's body is best equipped to absorb colostrum," says Olson. "Feeding a colostrum replacer can help ensure that your newborn kids receive the antibodies they require for a strong start during this critical time window."
4. Determine How Much Colostrum to Feed
Most goat pregnancies result in twins, but a goat can have one to 5 kids per pregnancy. At birth, a healthy newborn baby goat will weigh between 8 and 11 pounds.
You should feed 2 ounces of colostrum replacer powder per 4 pounds of body weight," Olson recommends. "Divide the mixed solution into two or three feedings during the first 24 hours of life."
For example, if a baby weighs 8 pounds, you should feed 4 ounces of colostrum replacer powder total. Feed 1.3 ounces every 8 hours or 2 ounces every 12 hours.
"In addition to feeding the correct amount, colostrum replacer should be fed at a baby goat's body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit," says Olson.
Other colostrum replacer feeding suggestions include:
- After mixing, immediately chill any unused colostrum replacer solution.
- Before feeding, gently reheat over warm water and thoroughly mix.
- The solution should not be microwaved or frozen.
- After 24 hours, discard any unused refrigerated colostrum replacer solution.
5. Switch to a milk substitute
If your baby goat is still not nursing properly after the first 24 hours, milk replacer will provide the balanced nutrition it requires to grow and develop.
Always use a milk replacer designed specifically for goat kids. "To ensure proper nutrition, carefully follow the packaging mixing and feeding instructions," says Olson.