How to Take Care of a Bottle Baby (Goat)

Bottle babies can be an cheap way to add goats to your farm or homestead. Our neighbor who raises goats recently had a doe that gave birth to triplets. Many times with triplets the mother will only want to nurse 2 of them so the third needs a bottle to help raise them. We got the third kid that the doe didn’t seem to be nursing and have been raising it in our garage.

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Little Marigold is now 3 days old.

We’ll detail here the things you should know in order to successfully bottle feed a baby goat at home.

Heat

If it’s cold where you’re keeping your baby goat, you may need to add supplemental heat. This is especially important if temperatures are below 40 or if the goat had a rough birth or was wet for a number of hours after birth (i.e. born out in the open on pasture in the rain or snow).

You can set up a single bulb heat lamp 3-4 feet above where your goat will be kept. A large dog kennel works well for holding a baby goat. You should cover the bottom with straw or hay and change it every couple days to make sure it stays clean and dry.

From a safety standpoint, all heat lamps need to be secured properly so they cannot be knocked down or broken as there is a high fire danger with dry straw or hay and hot heat bulbs.

If it is warmer (in the 40-60 degree range) you can keep the lamp 4-5 feet above the goat or may not need it at all after the first couple days. In all cases, keep the lamp on one side of their kennel or enclosure so they can move to the other side if they get too hot.

Shelter

As mentioned above, a dog kennel makes a great first shelter for your baby goat assuming you’re keeping it indoors. If your temperatures outside are mild and you’re going to keep it outdoors, you need to make sure there is a a roof over the shelter to keep any precipitation out.

You should also consider predators when keeping a young goat. Even in the garage if you have a large dog that has access the goat needs to be secure from an over zealous dog that may “just want to play”. Outdoors, your shelter needs to be extra secure to protect from coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions, etc.

Surrounding the goat’s area with Premier1 electric netting is by far the best way to keep your herd safe from predators (and keep the goats contained). We’ve used their products extensively for both goats and chickens with excellent results. If your far from a power source you can use their PRS 100 Solar Charger which we used with our forest raised pigs this past year.

Milk

You basically have 2 different options for milk: store bought goat milk and powdered goat milk replacer.

The store bought goat milk is convenient if you get a surprise new baby like we did. It’s expensive though. At around $4.72 per quart, you’ll spend a lot of money going that route for the long term.

The more economical solution is powdered goat milk replacer. You can get this again from Premier1 or from other suppliers. You may have limited success finding it locally so plan ahead. This comes as a dry powder that you can then mix in a bottle for feedings.

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Bottles

It’s fine to just use a cheap baby bottle from the grocery store. Another option is to get some Pritchard teats which will screw on to many bottles, including soda and water bottles.

The hole in the nipple of a standard baby bottle may be a little small for the goat to get a good flow of milk so it can be beneficial to use an extremely sharp knife and push the knife into the end of the nipple to make a slightly larger opening. Do it a second time turned 90 degrees to make an X.

Feeding

Feeding schedules and amounts can vary slightly from breed to breed and goat to goat but for a general rule of thumb, the following schedule works well:

Day 1: Ideally the kid should get some colostrum from their mom which contains many antibodies that will drastically increase the chance of survival. They make powdered colostrum as well which works as a back up if they can’t get it from their mother.

Days 2-10: Plan on bottle feeding your goat every 4-6 hours, giving it about 3-4 ounces each feeding. The first few days you’ll probably want to plan on waking up in the middle of the night to do a feeding depending on your sleep schedule. We go to bed at 10:30pm and are up around 6:00am and woke up around 2:30am for a feeding.

Days 11-30: You can slowly start spreading out the feedings to around every 5-6 hours though they’ll be drinking more as well (starting around 5 oz going up to 8+ by day 30). They should be able to make it through the night at this point as well.

Weeks 4 & 5: Move to feeding 3 times per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner times) with 8-12 ounces of milk per feeding.

Weeks 6-10: Transition to 2 feedings per day (morning and evening) with about 10-16 ounces of milk per feeding. You can also begin giving small amounts of hay or grain along with fresh water to help facilitate the weaning process.

Weeks 10+: Give a single bottle of milk (12-20 ounces) once per day along with a little more hay or grain and fresh water. You can stop bottle feeding all together when you’re ready.

Companionship

A single kid is going to get pretty lonely if kept by itself. It’s best if you can have at least 2 kids for companionship. Plus, watching 2 kids play together is just a whole lot more fun.

You may find your baby goat starts to bond with your dog or cat if they’re living in close quarters.

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Monitoring

There are a number of things you should watch for as your baby goat grows. Scours is a diarrhea they can get from a number of things but over feeding them is most common. If cutting back the amount of milk doesn’t help after a day or so, consult your veterinarian as baby goats can get dehydrated very easily from scours.

If you want to get really crazy, you could even get a video baby monitor to keep an eye on your goat from anywhere in the house.

Moving Outside

Once weaned and the weather permits, it’s time for your kid to move outside. As mentioned above in the shelter section, you need a warm dry place for your goat that is protected from predators and will keep them secured.

They should always have access to hay or other forage to eat along with fresh water and straw for bedding to help keep them warm and dry.

Conclusion

Bottle baby goats can be a lot of fun to raise but they do take a lot of work and planning. Make sure you have your milk supply figured out as store bought goat milk will be very expensive in the long run. A little planning now will help you successfully raise your first bottle baby goat.

How to Sell Your Eggs at the Grocery Store

So you got a bunch of chickens and now you’re overrun with eggs and not sure what to do? That was our story this past summer. We built a 8x16 coop on skids we’ve been moving around our pastures all summer. We got 80 new layers in the spring and once they started laying, we were sure we’d be able to sell all the eggs directly to consumers. Supposedly at all the local farmers markets, pasture raised eggs sold out right away. People were going to be beating down our doors for our amazing eggs!

Well, you can produce an amazing product but if no one knows about it or how to buy it, you’re not going to sell it. This is one of the biggest failures of all businesses (not just farm based ones). It takes a lot of time and work to get your name out there (building your brand).

We were absolutely overrun with eggs. We were giving them away to family, eating them at almost every meal, and feeding some to the pigs. We finally decided we should try and get them in the grocery store.

Our Store

Luckily for our community (and us), we have a customer owned Co-Op focused on natural and local foods. We reached out to them via a form on their website for new vendors and after a week or so we heard back. They were excited about the prospects of another local egg vendor.

Every store is going to be different with how they do pricing, markups, etc. With our specific case, we had the flexibility to set our pricing. We just wanted to be similarly priced as other locally grown, pasture raised eggs. Our store has a 25% markup on eggs which isn’t bad.

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Collecting Eggs

This may seem like the easy part, and usually it is. There are a few special things to note about collecting eggs. We currently use rollaway nest boxes from Best Nest Box. These work great because as the hens lay, the eggs roll into a separate compartment thus keeping them cleaner and also preventing broody hens.

The other important factor is the weather. If it’s much below freezing, as it is here right now, it’s wise to collect several times per day to prevent eggs from freezing and splitting. All it takes is a few hours at temperatures below 28 degrees to freeze and split down the middle of the egg.

Licensing

Again, this is going to vary state to state (here is a list of links to each state’s laws). Here in Kansas, you’re required to have a $5 annual egg license and also pay a tax of $0.0035 per dozen eggs either by purchasing egg stamps from the state or paying a quarterly fee. You must also affix safe handling instructions to the outside of the carton along with the pack date and use by dates. You can see a video of this process we use at the bottom of this post.

Sizing, and Grading

So as part of the licensing process, you need to be selling that size and quality of eggs the consumer is expecting. For a 56 page read on how to grade eggs, check out the USDA Egg Grading Manual. We’ll give you the TL;DR below.

The main things you’re looking for from a grade stand point to be Grade A, are uniform shell textures, no splotchy colors, no cracks, and a standard egg shape. We’ve all had those crazy tall cone-head looking eggs - keep those for yourself, we call them “rejects”.

Weighing eggs is what’s going to determine if you’re selling Medium, Large, X-Large, or Jumbo. What’s interesting is it’s not the weight per egg that determines the size, rather it’s the weight of the entire dozen. Here is a list of the official weights per dozen from the USDA:

  • Peewee: 15 ounces

  • Small: 18 ounces

  • Medium: 21 ounces

  • Large: 24 ounces

  • Extra Large: 27

  • Jumbo: 30

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So while it’s best to try and have a consistent size of eggs for your dozen, if there are a couple that look a little smaller or larger it’s okay as long as the total dozen hits your target weight.

Packaging

We went with a vintage 4x3 egg cartons from eggcartons.com. We then purchased a custom made, 3” x 5” stamp from an artist on Etsy. The stamp has our farm’s logo, our address, and pack and sell by date spaces that we then make using a date/price label gun. We then bought an extra large ink pad and use a piece of 2x6 lumber as the support when stamping the cartons. Finally we affix the safe handling instructions required by our state using Avery 8160 labels which fit on the back of the carton just perfectly.

Delivery

We deliver eggs once per month (usually on Sundays). Our store staggers which days local farms bring in eggs so they can maximize shelf space and not have too much overlap. Our eggs usually sell out within a day or two and by then they’re getting eggs in from other farms.

To transport the eggs, we just load them up in several coolers and add ice packs if it’s hot. There is a delivery entrance in the back of the store that takes you right into the storage/cooler area where we unload them into crates, get our invoice signed, and we’re on our way.

Invoicing and Payments

We use Quickbooks for bookkeeping and generating invoices. Our store has us drop off an invoice for them and signs a copy for us to take. They cut checks which are mailed out within a couple weeks. Once we receive and deposit the check, we mark the invoice as paid in Quickbooks.

Conclusion

I wish we’d reached out to the stores sooner. It would have been taken away a lot of stress. You should definitely have a plan with what you’re going to do with your eggs before your ladies all start laying at once 5 months after you bring home the cute little chicks.

Here is a video of how we stamp our egg cartons:

A Tractor vs Skid Steer For Your Farm or Homestead

So you’ve just moved to some acreage and you’re excited but a little overwhelmed with the amount of work ahead of you. You decide you need some equipment to help make some quicker progress building infrastructure, clearing land, and maintaining roads and paths.

So do you buy a tractor as most people do or should you consider a skid steer? We’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of each and why one might be better than the other depending on your situation.

Skid Steer With Goats

Why You Might Choose a Tractor

There are a number of reasons you may choose a tractor over a skid steer or compact track loader. If the land you’ve purchased (or are leasing) is relatively clear, pasture-like land, with little major land moving needed, a tractor will work well.

Tractors are better at pulling than pushing where as skid steers are better pushers. So if you need to do any sort of plowing, finish mowing, seeding, etc. a tractor is going to work better than a skid steer. Here are some other reasons you might choose a tractor:

  • Typically tractors are lighter weight and easier to transport when needed.

  • You can usually find a used tractor a lot cheaper than a skid steer.

  • Tractors usually have a softer footprint on your land and don’t tear things up as much as a skid steer.

  • You get PTO (Power Take Off) which can drive some really cool things like a PTO Wood Chipper, PTO Spreader, or a PTO Wood Splitter.

Why You Might Choose a Skid Steer or Compact Track Loader

If you’ve bought raw land you might have a big task in front of you. From clearing trees, to building ponds, or building roads, a skid steer is going to make that work a lot easier than a tractor.

If you have sloping land like we have, a skid steer, or specifically a compact track loader is going to be able to traverse a lot more terrain than a tractor with its lower center of gravity and wide tracks. Here are a few more reasons why a skid steer might work better for you:

  • If you have a lot of fence to build, a front mounted augur on a skid steer is quicker and can go deeper than a 3-point hitch mounted tractor one.

  • The lifting capacity of a skid steer is greater than an equally sized tractor allowing you to lift 1 ton pallets of feed or other things a small tractor would struggle with.

  • If you need to move large amounts of stuff (gravel, manure, compost, etc) a skid steer will have a larger bucket and be able to carry more at one time than most tractors.

  • There are even more cool attachments for skid steers that run off the auxiliary hydraulics such as: Grapple, Brush Cutter, or Tree Puller.

Conclusion

So both types of machine can help save you a lot of time on your farm or homestead. Each location is going to have a specific set of features and requirements that will help dictate your situation.

Here on our homestead, we went with a skid steer for the reasons mentioned above but will likely trade it in for a tractor once we finish with a lot of the land clearing, pond building, and road work. So that’s an option too.

Below is also a short video we made on the the top along with some specifics on the John Deere 333d that we use.

We're at The Merc!

Applonia Farm pasture raised eggs are now available at The Merc Co+op in Lawrence, KS!

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The Merc is a wonderful asset to the Lawrence community. They support local producers and farmers and have a great selection of products. Becoming a member of the coop essentially makes you an owner of the company so you get to vote for the Board of Directors and you get special member perks such as owner days where you get steep discounts on your purchases.

We deliver our pasture raised eggs to The Merc Co+op at 901 Iowa St. in Lawrence, KS on Sunday or Monday mornings. They typically sell out within a couple days so get there early to find them.

Of course you can still order the eggs directly from us for pick up at the farm or weekly delivery to your areas of town.