Bottle Feeding 101

dazzle-bottleWhen at all possible it’s better for the kids to be left nursing from their mom.  Sometimes however this isn’t an option.  I usually try to work with a doe and newborn for at least 24hrs before giving up and bottle feeding the kid(s) completely.  With a newborn it’s best if you can allow the kid to nurse some colostrum from it’s mom for the first 24-48 hours.  If this isn’t an option, then a powdered or gel form of colostrum is available at most farm co-op stores or you can order some from Jeffers Livestock or one of the other supply companies online.  Obviously it would be best to have some of this on hand before the kids arrive.

What to Feed

There are two main options, either a commercial powdered goat milk replacer or make your own using a cow’s milk based recipe that you mix up yourself (recipe below).

I recommend that all people new to bottle feeding use the powdered milk replacer.  I personally find that it’s easier to use, there are less steps (and thus less chance of making a mistake), plus it’s quite a bit cheaper in the long run.  There are many brands to choose from online, but be sure you purchase one labeled for “goats” if at all possible.  Some companies make a multi-species milk replacer for horses, cattle, goats, & sheep, but these are all different species with quite a variety of needs nutritionally.  If a goat specific milk replacer isn’t available in your area then you may want to try the goat milk replacer recipe below.

1 gallon whole milk (homogenized)
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup buttermilk
Take the gallon of milk, and pour out about 1/3 and set it aside
Pour in the 1 can of evaporated milk and the 1 cup of buttermilk into the gallon then pour to the remaining milk that you set aside until you reach the top.  Mix gently each time before making up a bottle.

I’m not sure who originally created this bottle feeding recipe, but it has been used by many goat breeders for way longer than I have been around.  The kids seem to grow well on it, though I still prefer to use the powdered formula due to cost.

What Type of Bottle to Use

It really isn’t a big deal what type of bottle or nipple is used as long as the kid is able to nurse from it.  Many breeders swear by using the Pritchard Teat nipple, while others prefer the thicker lamb nipples.  Both of these can be used on a 16oz or 20oz soda or water bottle.  Over the years I’ve found that regular baby bottles work just as well and the kids seem to be more willing to take these nipples than the larger varieties.  I typically buy the cheap ones from the dollar store.

How Much to Feed

HOW MUCH TO BOTTLE FEED BABY GOATS

WEIGHT (in lbs)

4 x DAY

3 x DAY

2 x DAY

GRAIN (per day)

5

3 oz

not recommended

not recommended

less than ¼ cup

7

4 oz

6 oz

not recommended

¼ cup

10

5 oz

7 oz

10 oz

¼ cup

15

7 oz

9 oz

14 oz

½ cup

20

8 oz

11 oz

16 oz

¾ cup

25

10 oz

13 oz

20 oz

¾ cup

This chart is a basic guideline to follow.  It’s best to start using the chart above when a kid is at least a week old because kids less than 1 week old will need to eat much more frequently than 4 times a day.  Typically newborn kids need to be fed every 2-4 hours the first 3 days and then you can gradually start spacing out the feedings.
It’s very important to weigh bottle fed kids weekly to assure that they are gaining weight, especially for the first couple of weeks.  When in doubt about how much to feed always give less and leave the kid wanting more.  You don’t want your bottle baby to have a belly that looks like it swallowed a basketball.

How Often to Feed

Baby goats will always act hungry when they see you because you are acting as their mom.  It’s very important to not give them too much milk at one feeding because over feeding causes diarrhea which can quickly lead to dehydration.  As the acting “parent” of a baby goat it is your responsibility to stop feeding them before they get full.  A bottle-fed baby that stops sucking from the bottle and isn’t interested anymore has been fed too much and the amount should be reduced by 1-2 ounces at the next feeding.  A general rule of thumb is if a kid lets go of the nipple offer the bottle one more time.  The second time they let go of the nipple do not continue to offer the bottle.  If diarrhea occurs you can use Pedialyte instead of water to mix up the next bottle. If loose stool continues this is typically caused by either over feeding or mixing the formula up too strong. Try diluting the bottles with more water (or Pedialyte) for the next 48 hours. As always, call your veterinarian if you are concerned.

The frequency chart below has been compiled from several different sources, but is mostly from my own experience in raising goats over the past 10 years.  This is what we follow and it works well for us.

FREQUENCY OF BOTTLE FEEDING BABY GOATS

AGE

NUMBER of FEEDINGS

GRAIN/HAY

> 1 week

Feed every 2-4 hours as needed

——–

1-2 weeks

Feed every 4 hours
(can go 6 hours without feeding during the night)

Hay &/or grass should be available at all times from here on

2-3 weeks

Feed every 5 hours
(can go 8 hours without feeding during the night)

Start offering grain twice a day from here on along with hay or grass

4-5 weeks

Feed 4 times a day
(breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime)

same as above

5-6 weeks

Feed 3 times a day
(breakfast, lunch & dinner)

same as above

7-9 weeks

Feed 2 times a day

same as above

10 weeks until weaned

Feed 1 bottle a day, gradually cutting back the amount of milk given each day. Should only take 1 week to be completely weaned. Note: Kids will still want a bottle, but they don’t need a bottle.

Should be eating plenty of grass and hay by now. Continue offering grain each day.

jazz-bottle

We recommend feeding a 16% protein goat feed with Decox (Decoquinate) in it.  This can be found at most feed stores and may be listed as a Medicated Goat Feed or may have DQ at the end of the name.  The Decoquinate helps to prevent coccidia in young kids.  Once they reach 4 months old they can be switched to a non-medicated feed.

When changing grain or milk type/brand, change gradually over 5 days adding more of the new type & less of the old type at each feeding but keeping the total volume the same.

Things to Remember

  • Do NOT give too much milk at one feeding.
  • Diarrhea (aka scours) is a symptom of a problem and should not be ignored
    • typically it is caused by over feeding though it may also be caused by switching type or consistency (not enough water) in milk replacer
    • prevent dehydration by using pedialyte instead of water in the next bottle and resolve diarrhea by reducing the # of ounces you are giving at each feeding
    • don’t forget to deworm your kids at 4-5 weeks old and to treat for coccidia around 6-8 weeks old (coccidia needs a repeat treatment 14 days after intial treatment).  See our page on deworming for more info.

***Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. The information on this page is based on information gathered from long time goat breeders, veterinarians and our past experiences. This is not intended to replace professional veterinary and/or medical advice. We disclaim all liability in connection with the use of these products and/or information.

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