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.