Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

How to Bottle Feed Baby Goats or "Be The Udder"

It is a fact that I am the meanest person you know. If you don't believe me then ask any of them *OFG points to Dog Horde and Insane Cat Possee - all of which avoid eye contact except for Zander who still thinks that his momma is the best thing since sliced bread*.  Cold hearted, tough as nails, impervious to sad eyes and weepy little tears - that's me. And that is why I can bottle feed any baby goat.

"Be The Udder"

Its true. If you are gonna start bottle feeding baby goats you need to take a few lessons from the Klingon Book of Management to get the job done. I'm always surprised at some goat sites that talk about how "heartbreaking" it is to take the baby goats from their momma and how difficult it is to feed them with a bottle. Apparently, for some, there is a lot of crying involved. Not here. Any bellyaching around here is met with a sharp reprimand and a reminder that "hay is for milkers" and to get back to work. So I don't get what the big deal is - so far so good for us.

What feeding baby goats looks - and sounds like. Hilarious!

Baby goats are "pulled" from their mommas for a couple reasons:
1. To keep certain diseases from spreading from the mommas to the babies thru the milk.
2. Because the babies will be sold before they are weaned.
3. Some people believe that bottle raised, and not "dam raised" (momma-raised), babies are more snugly.

Of course as with anything to do with goats there is a ton of controversy about the "right way" to bottle feed goats. If you really want to start a brawl, ask goat people about their nipples. There could be a fist fight. I'm not even kidding. So do your research and figure out what works for you. There are lots of goat sites that have tons of information about how to raise baby goats. I'm not saying this is the best or only way - but it works for us.

When it was clear Nibbles wasn't going to feed this year's babies either, the store manager wasn't altogether surprised when it was me running into the local TSC screaming that I had "a nipple crisis" and needed quick attention. He kindly directed me to a shockingly big display case of about 47 different kinds of nipples. Most of them were extremely expensive.

Puppy bottles - works like a charm. And look! Its me!

"Six Dollars? Is that American or Canadian, friend?" I asked. For one nipple? I was bewildered. I turned to my able retail king and asked what else he had.  After a while I found myself standing in the dog accoutrement aisle looking at puppy bottles - the whole enchilada, nipple and bottle was about $3. I grabbed a handful of them and raced back home. (You can also order them online I found the PetAg Complete Nursing Kit 4oz here.)

We knew that all the babies had some sips off Nibbles the first day so we did not need to give them colostrum or replacer. We just needed to get the bellies full of good ol' goat milk. While it seems like a lot of work to voluntarily milk your doe, put the milk in bottles, then feed it to babies who'd rather get their meals from that tap - thats exactly what was about to happen.

The steps are pretty basic:
1. Milk your doe until she is empty
2. Take the milk into the house and strain it
3. Pour milk into bottles and immediately go out to battle.. I mean bottle feed.
4. March boldly out to where the babies are (cuz they are not in the house, right?)
5. Insert Tab A into Slot B and away you go.

We kept the extra milk in the fridge in wide mouthed jars. For the next feeding we just microwaved the milk in the bottles until it was warm and then repeated steps #4 and #5.

How often to feed?
Well that depends. Do you work or are you home during the day? We believe, for all of the masses, that little creatures should be fed a little but more often. So for the first several days I bottle fed the baby goats about 5 times. I also gave "half feeds" or snacks if I thought they needed it. After about a week we settled into a pattern of 7am, 10am, sometime in the afternoon - usually about 2, and then 7:30pm.

How do you get them to take the bottle?
Now, from the perspective of a baby goat...if some huge, two legged creature is trying to shove some kind of weird, odd smelling, contraption in your mouth - you can imagine that it might freak them out. So my #1 Rule for Bottle Feed Baby Goats is.... Be The Udder.

Hunker down so they can find the bottle

That's right - Be The Udder. Hunker down, friend, get low, don't pick that baby up - get down on her level. She's looking for legs because that's where the udder usually is. Next, you might have to squeeze out some milk and put it on the nipple so it doesn't smell so weird. And when we get started I make sure that the milk can easily get out of the bottle - the babies may give up trying to drink if it doesn't work right away.

You might have to pry open that little goat's mouth to shove the nipple in - just be sure that you get it on top of her tongue. For whatever reason - I don't know since the only thing I've ever nursed is a hangover - if you point the nipple back and to the top if her mouth, she'll be stimulated to start drinking. Be careful now, you don't want her to aspirate ("get down the wrong pipe") the milk. You want her to actively drink from the bottle and suck it down.

See how she wraps her tongue around the bottle? How cute is that?

Once she gets the hang of it she'll start dancing around and start "bumping" you - this is how babies get the momma goats to "let down their milk." At this point you can start singing "Who wants some bumps?" which is guaranteed to add in your bottle feeding success. Just sing it along, roughly to the tune of "Who let the dogs out."  They love it.

There is a lot of goofing around that happens

You can adjust the angle of the bottle to help the baby drink - but remember that the momma's teat hang straight down. The babies will naturally want to get under the bottle and even kneel down. So don't over adjust - part of her wiggling around is just that she's happy.

How much should you feed?
Well, that depends on the size of your goat. One of the funniest things that happens is their little bellies visibly get full and swell. You sure don't want them to get sick or over feed! There are charts and graphs available online for your breed of goat. We feed them until they stand there a little dazed with a milk mustache and a funny look in their eye - that's what we call being milk drunk. Its adorable.

They'll shake off their milk drunk and start pippin' and poppin' around in a couple minutes. The puppy bottles held about 8 ounces - which was perfect for our mini's - I think we started out with 4 to 6 ounces and worked our way up to 8 or more.

What if they are still hungry?
Then feed them more the next time. You really don't want to over feed the babies - but they should not stand there screaming as you walk away.

What else do the babies need to eat or drink?
Nothing. Their rumens (goat digestive system) won't be developed enough to handle bagged food or hay for a while. And they don't need water either - for heavens sakes don't leave them with a bucket of water that they can drown in.

But what if you are the person getting the baby goat? And you don't have a momma goat from them to nurse off?  Easy peasy.  My pal K. gave me an incredible "how to" for new baby goat owners. This is her information on how to bottle feed baby goats. See that she says to use regular milk from the store if you don't have goat milk. Thanks K!

Feeding Schedule  *this is meant as a general guide, some babies will need more*

1st week~ 4 feedings per day, 2-4 oz. per feeding for small goats and 4-6 oz for large goats, colostrum for the first 24 hours!

2nd week to 8 weeks ~ 3 feedings per day, 5-12 oz. per feeding for small goats and 6-20 oz for large goats, you will be gradually building up to the larger amount of milk

8+ weeks ~ 1 or 2 feedings per day, 10-12 oz. per feeding for small goats and 15-20 oz for larger goats, gradually reducing the amount in the bottle until weaning is complete

*we aim for about 1 oz. per lb body weight for the 1st 3 weeks*

We recommend using Whole Vitamin D Cow’s Milk from the grocery to bottle feed your baby. At 4 weeks of age, we add .5 cc’s of Poly-Vi-Sol to a bottle every day for additional vitamins and minerals.

Always warm the milk to about 102* (a little warmer than you would for a human baby) – a baby goat cannot digest cold milk. The microwave is fine for this, but make sure to shake the bottle before feeding it to eliminate hot spots in the milk. You should start introducing water, hay and goat feed around 4 weeks of age. They probably will do little more than play with it at first, but they will eventually get the idea about solid foods.

Kids usually will drink only until they are full. If they are usually drinking a 12 oz bottle and for one feeding they only drink 6 oz, that is ok. Be careful not to overfeed them. Don't give them more than 12 oz per bottle for the small goats and 20 oz per bottle for the large goats.

So what do you think, folks? Are you ready to run right out there and feed some baby goats?

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Are you looking for a great reference for how to raise dairy goats? Check out Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats: Breeds, Care, Dairying!

If you can't find the puppy bottles locally you can find there here online:

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Rae said...

That video is too damn cute! Reminds me of a dog we had that would whimper with joy while he ate his kibble. Lol.

Great post! While I will likely never (ever) have goats again, I love learning new things :)

freemotion said...

So cute! Er....Too Cute! I can't wait to be bottle feeding The Blondes' babies. Remind me that I said this, will ya, when I open my fridge and all I see is white, white, and more white?!?

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Aren't they just adorable, Rae? I have to admit its pretty fun to bottle feed them.

Bring on the milk, Free! Whoot!

David said...

Udderly adorable, and I'm not kidding, OK sorry... couldn't resist.

Damummis said...

Got the gaotlings coming soon. Great info, thanks!!

groovyoldlady said...

Thanks for the great advice! We have two adult does and we've had buck kids that we let nurse on their dam. But in the next week or so we are getting a baby Munchie (LaMancha) that we'll need to bottle feed. Your tips (and your hard-heartedness ;-) ) are most helpful!!!

Unknown said...

I have searched the internet for help and found none for my situation but you sound well versed in bottle feeding so thoght you might be able to give some advice. WE acquired two- month old kids that were from a nanny that delivered four and the owner thougth she could raise them with no extra help. One of the two we got is very small and under nourished and I have been spending hours each day trickling milk down her because sheabsolutely refuses to suck. She fights every nipple I have tried and grits her teeth and fights me. We tried putting it in a cup since she is already a month old and she won't drink it either. She picks at feed and hay but previous owner who is experienced said she cannot digest those things and has to have milk. I have considered a feeding tube but no one in our small town had one I have been at it almost two weeks now and am getting really frustrated. Any suggestions I haven't tried??????

Ohiofarmgirl said...

groovy - thanks for stopping by! our Nibbles is a mini-munchie - i just love saying that. you are going to do GREAT with your little one.

Kathryn - wow! have you tried making the hole in the nipple bigger so basically the milk runs out? and if you can angle it back toward the top of her mouth it might stimulate her. if that doesnt work - sounds like there could be something up with that little one, hunger is usually a pretty good motivator.

also have you tried giving her a little warm water and molasses? sounds like she could use the calories. is the other one doing well??

Unknown said...

i just got a baby goat and he wont let me hold him. he keeps butting my hand when i try and give him feed. he doesnt cry a lot but he just looks miserable. i dont have any other goats but i cant afford one so i need tips on how to feed him out of a human baby bottle and how to get him to follow me and love me.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Destany, I couldnt find another way to contact you but I think you need more help than I can give by blog comment. You might want to do more research on raising goats by getting some books or reading this site:

You might also try one of the goat forums - people like The Goat Spot:

Good luck!

Unknown said...

I just got my first Nubian kid. I spent all night and day trying new npples and at first tried milk replacer. Lets just say I should have saved my money and just bought cows milk from the store at the beginning because she fought me big time. I tried whole milk and she did at least try it. After trying to force, beg, cry, I guess I finally got it right for her and she took it a lot better. It took a long time because she would play around about it so tomorrow I will try some of what young said. My other problem was I am still not real sure how many weeks she is because they did not put it down on sale papers. Her horns are about one inch and although I did not give her hay etc she was eating on the grass that was in pin. Any info would help us all. Thanks

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hi Shauna, sometimes they will nibble at grass and bagged food even when they still need milk. her little rumen probably isnt developed enough for grass/hay-only tho. you might be able to get a guess at how old she is by weighing her and comparing it to other Nubian doelings?

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Glenette Brodzinski:

I was given a baby goat 4 weeks ago from a breeder who could not bottle feed him. His mother had 4 babies and could not handle that many. I have horses, but never a goat!I really did not want a goat but the breeder was going to put him down so I took him. He was born blind in one eye and was slower to do most "goat" things. Anyway! I have been reading about what he needs and was concerned to read that many people recommend not using goat replacement milk. That is what the breeder gave me and what he had been feeding him. He has grown nicely and has learned to play and jump around. (normal goat things!) But he does have frequent diarrhea. Should I switch him to cows milk? if so, is it save to do it at once or how do I do so over a period of time. The breeder also told me to give him sweet feed, which he only today started nibbling. Should I take it away!? So much I did not know!

Glenette! I'm such a goose I deleted your comment and am trying to repost like this. I also tried to find you on 'the facebook.' the short answers are:

1. YES move him to whole/full fat cows milk. you can do it gradually over a couple days. i have heard from many people that the milk replacer isnt that great. however, as with everything with goats - do what works. but if he is having the poops then the replacer is not working.

2. i would not feed any bagged food. sweet feed is ok as a supplement for milking ladies... but its not balanced for goats in general. also some bagged food can cause urinary problems in males. i do not have any info on this - we dont keep males - so i cant provide any guidance. but check out this article: http://www.tennesseemeatgoats.com/articles2/urinarycalculi06.html

goats (not in milk or pregnant) only really just need good browse or good quality grass hay. we dont feed our young goats any bagged food and only limited feed in the "off milk" season.

i hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

momma goat just gave birth last night and isnt doing to well. wehn we found the babies ,one was going downhill very fast and the other one is ok. we have never fed our babies before and am having trouble getting the stronger baby to eat. We got the colostrum mix and gave to bothbabies ,bur am afraid she isnt going to make it. does it take a while for the babies to take to the bottle? your info is so helpful and greatfully appreciated. !!!q

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hi Anon - sorry about your situation. there is a way to tube feed a baby goat, you can find into here:

but no they should take the bottle right away. it should not take time. be sure that the milk flows easily out of the bottle - you might have to make the hole bigger. also make sure you are getting the nipple over the baby's tongue and point it into the back of his mouth. you might have to pry his mouth open but that is ok. good luck!

Unknown said...

Are those bottles supposed to leak I hage 2 and I put them gogether put the milk in and they both leak from where the nipple and cap meet?? Or did I get duds

Unknown said...

Are those bottles supposed to leak I hage 2 and I put them gogether put the milk in and they both leak from where the nipple and cap meet?? Or did I get duds

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hi Stephanie, i think maybe they arent put together right? they should not leak where the bottle and nipple screw together. maybe take the whole thing apart, wash them, and try again? did they come as a package or did you buy them separately? some of the nipples (sold separately) need specific bottle. there is one called a Prichard nipple that works best on a 20 oz mountain dew plastic bottle. hope this helps!

Unknown said...

Ohiofarmgirl, you were very helpful in a previous post, so am coming back for more advice! We had gotten a baby goat that I wrote about in May, I thought the doe had 4 babies, but it turns out she had 5. The man that has the goats is a neighbor and my girls go over frequently and play with the goats. Well long story short, the man has had health issues and was selling all the goats. He offered two little does to my girls, who begged and begged and I finally relented. The little things were in terrible shape. Turns out the mother had died when they were 2 weeks old and they were surviving barely. They were skinny and malnourished. I got them on cows milk immediately and they are looking much healthier. They are very small for their age (about 3 months old) and I know normally I would wean them at this age. They are still eating 3 times a day, about 10 ounces each feeding. Should I go ahead and wean them or give them some more time to compensate for the lost time. They do graze and eat hay, but they REALLY want their milk and cry none stop when it is feeding time!Also, what vaccines and worming do they need?

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hi Glennette! great work on those little goaties! this is a great resource for goat stuff and sounds like its about time to get those little girls weaned:

what i would do is immediately start stepping them down from 3 feedings to just one - maybe over a week or so? then do a couple days with just one feeding then stop. but really some folks just stop cold turkey.

as far as vaccines.. wow that is a hotbed of controversy.. you can see the typically conversation here:

as with all things goat, there is no "right" answer there's what works for you. we vaccinate but do them on day 2 o 3. then we update the ladies when they kid. we dont have a problem with vaccines but some folks are dead against it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this.i found a week old in a box at my back door and i had no idea what i was really doing butthis has helped alot

The Stouts said...

Thanks for publishing your schedule. That helps bring order to my world!! 7 new kids, not much sleep. :)

Is it normal for a goats milk to come in slowly after kidding? My goat did about 6-7c per milking last yea . She's doing 2 now. Not sure it that's norma . She kidded 2 days ago.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hi The Stouts! Sometimes it does take your doe a while to ramp up to peak milking.. but 2 cups sounds a little low. Have you checked her udder for congestion? Are there any hot spots? or Hard spots? Making sure she has excellent hay? If she doesnt improve within a week I'd start to get nervous. Sometimes you need to worm your doe shortly after her babies come - be sure to check her eyelids/gums to make sure they are red. Seven babies is a lot to feed - have you seen those cute bucket feeders that have multiple nipples? :-)

Unknown said...

your gonna think im crazy but ours are in the house, only because of the weather and we feed them every 4 hours is it safe to hold them more then needed?

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hi Johnny! Nope we dont keep our goats in the house at all - one of our cats is bigger than a baby goat and that probably wouldnt work out. Sure you can snuggle them all you want. We just don't. Some people believe that snuggling them makes them more sociable and easier to handle but that is not our experience. :-)

Unknown said...

I love the video and all of the information! I just got a 2 week doe and 1 week buck. They are wonderful. They sit in my lap at feeding and chow away at the vitamin D whole milk mix that I give them! I have a single nipple that the previous owner gave me, soo they have to take turns feeding... But I'm going to try regular baby bottles because I hear they love them even better!! And then they can feed together! They love to run and play with my 4 kids!

Sandy Hellwig said...

I have a 12 day old kid who will not take a bottle. He was on nanny 5 days then she had mastitis and vet told me to take kids off her. Two kids took to bottle right away. The other one still refuses and just grinds teeth. I try to get him sucking my finger first but no luck. Been tube feeding to keep him alive.I use doe replacer.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Sandy, make sure the milk pretty much just runs out so he "gets it" that it is where the milk comes from. also you could try a different style of nipple. good luck!

Mama2G said...

We are getting two 4-week old wethers in a few days and will be transitioning them into bottle kids. Will those 4 oz Pet Ag bottles work or will they be too small for these growing kids? The feed store was out of the Pritchard nipples and the black stretchy nipples so I picked up a Pet Ag bottle but am thinking it may be too small. Thoughts?

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Amy - it's a easy place to start esp if they were out of the Pritchard ones. but you'll have to move up to bigger bottles later.

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