When baby goats are first born, it is very important that they get their colostrum. The colostrum is the first part of their mother’s milk that is rich in antibodies. If they do not get enough (or any) colostrum, most baby goats will either die or never thrive.
We weigh each baby goat shortly after they’re born. We take their weight (in pounds) and multiply it by two (math practice!) to get the number of ounces they need. So for example, when Greyden weighed Castro, he was 7.5 pounds. Castro therefore got 15 ounces of colostrum put into a bottle. Because we bottle feed, we are able to make sure each baby gets what they need to be healthy.
Each goat needs to drink their colostrum bottle within 24 hours. We use an empty 16 or 20 oz soda bottle that has been washed out. Then we take one of these nipples* and put it on the bottle:
Before we give it to them, we take a knife and make the holes a bit larger so they look more like this:
Most of our baby goats have no trouble and usually drink all their colostrum in the first 12 hours. Occasionally somebody will have a rough birth and need the entire 24 hours to consume their colostrum. If they don’t want to drink for a while, I usually let them sleep. After about 6 to 8 hours is when I start to get insistent that they really do need to drink.
If you have a baby goat that is having difficulty drinking, try switching out the nipples. Sometimes the way you cut the nipple makes a big difference in whether or not they’ll drink from it.
Once the babies are drinking well from their bottle (after 2-3 days), we switch them over to a lambar. A lambar is just a communal milk jug with many nipples sticking out of it.
We’ve used many versions of a lambar over the years, including an empty washed out cat litter bucket. Jim drilled holes in the bucket, inserted the nipples and then attached plastic tubing to the nipples that reached to the bottom of the bucket so that they could suck up the milk.
This worked well, but keeping the tubing clean so it didn’t grow bacteria was always a challenge and concern.
With our new barn, we decided to take another look at our lambar situation. We tried this variation in 2013:
It worked very well when the babies were little, but we weren’t super pleased with it once the babies started getting bigger and started pulling on the nipples more. The file box* wasn’t quite thick enough so the holes around the nipples started leaking all over the place, which isn’t very sanitary.
Hopefully Greyden (who is in charge of feeding the kids) and the baby goats will both love it!
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