In a little over two weeks, I will be going through severe bottle baby withdrawal. I realized this the other day when Lee brought home ten chicks from the feed store. We like to keep a few laying hens for our own use and since our other girls were getting so old that they only laid once in a while, it was time to bring in a new group of girls.
We let our hens free range outside and then they go to the chicken house to lay eggs and to roost. The old girls could now just enjoy chasing bugs and not worry about the business of laying because eventually these new chicks would take over.
How did bringing chicks home remind me I would soon be going through bottle baby withdrawal? After putting the day old chicks in a large Rubber Maid tub in the living room that evening, the next morning I got up, and without thinking, started to fix them a bottle!
I have been bottle feeding some kid or the other since last October. Each kidding session has brought on at least one or more bottle kids, nine in January, and soon it will be over. They will all have been weaned. Kidding wonít start again until this October.
One thing all goat farmers/ranchers have to face is if you raise goats, you will have bottle babies. Now, maybe you can give them to someone to raise or sell them cheap at a sale so someone else gets to bottle feed, but you might as well accept the fact, you will at some time or another have bottle kids. I have had some farmers that sell commercial goats tell me they just kill unwanted kids or just leave them in a corner to eventually die because it is too costly to raise a bottle kid, never able to get your money out of them because of the cost of the milk replacer and the time involved.
They thought they were being true professionals in doing this. To tell the truth, I listened in horror. The thought of killing any innocent newborn sickened me. I have always found that if I have to bottle feed and buy milk replacer, I also realize that I might go in the hole selling that kid or just break even. But, every time thereís always another goat or goats in the herd that does so well that they make up this deficit, easily. Killing newborn kids because they might be a nuisance, money or time wise, would take the heart right out of me.
Some breeders keep CAE free dairy does on hand to provide wonderful milk for bottle kids, otherís have a cow they milk, and otherís are like myself, would prefer to find a good cost effective milk replacer to feed. I use to feed a Premium All Milk put out by Quality Farm & Fleet at $40 a fifty pound sack. It was 20% protein, 20% fat with all milk byproducts. It did great on the kids. They got fat and sleek with no problems. When Farm & Fleet went out of business, I tried the new store that had bought them out. The calf replacer looked like it had the same ingredients as my favorite Premium All Milk, but to my surprise I had continuing problems with bloat, diarrhea, lack of weight gain and even the legs of the kids started growing crooked with that milk replacer. Anxiously, I tried Purina Kid Milk Replacer at $70/fifty pound bag. The price was steep compared to the others, but the kids cleared up from all problems.
I have had breeders tell me they have tried other calf replacers with the 20% protein, 20% fat, all milk byproducts, with great success and at a price of $45/fifty pound bag. Some buy whole milk from the grocery store to feed and others use fifty pound bags of lamb replacer. Now, why do I keep mentioning 50 pound bags? Because, it just might take a 50 pound bag to get one kid through weaning. I try to encourage a kid to eat some grain and good hay by the time he is two weeks old, plus give him his bottles. The sooner he is eating grain and hay really well, the sooner he can be weaned from his bottle. We usually wean at 8-10 weeks of age, if they are eating grain and hay well. I give a total of 48 ounces of milk to each kid a day, that is after the first week, through four feedings. One friend has an off the farm job and after the first week, she feeds a 24 ounce bottle once in the morning and once in the evening, using a good calf milk replacer that works well on her kids.
The first weekís feeding of newborn bottle kids needs to be small amounts fed frequently, probably no more then 4 ounces at a time every few hours. If itís a kid milk replacer, the bag will give directions on how to feed the replacer. If itís a bad replacer or you have really over fed the kid, the kid will get bloat or diarrhea. So, keep the baking soda and pepto on hand and cut back on the amount milk, or feed an electrolyte, such as Resorb, for a feeding or two or find a different replacer.
Now me, I love bottle babies. I donít go looking to make kids bottle babies, because Iím not stupid, but if it happens, it happens and I really enjoy them. Once again, if you raise goats, part of the job description includes bottle kids, so have a plan ready when it happens. I keep powdered colostrums in the freezer at all times. Itís either powdered cowís colostrums like Colostrx or the powdered goat colostrums that Hoeggerís or Caprine carries. I also keep on hand Pritchard teats and empty pop bottles. I prefer Pritchard teat nipples over lambís nipples. I keep 4-5 Rubber Maid tubs in storage for keeping the newborn kids in that first week in the living room, to keep them close at hand for those frequent feedings. I also keep 50 pound bags of milk replacer on hand, usually stored in a cool part of the house. We do a lot of kidding and the girls like to give me surprises like triplets and quads quite frequently. Itís better to stay prepared.
These bottle kids make wonderful friendly goats, great replacer does for your herd that you can catch at any time. And, when they start turning into friendly Piranha at around 4- 6 wks., where they are trying to eat you up or use their baby bottom teeth to rake up your arm or nip you for a bottle or attention. Surprise! You can train them! Lightly smack their little mouths when they get rude and try to bite you or rake your skin with their sharp little teeth. Feel guilty about smacking a kid? We have does who will knock their own kid end over end if they are being rude. You will not be as rough as that! They learn quickly and you never have trouble with them again. Mainly then, they just like being with you and getting hugs. And, I love hugging my babies.
How do I socialize them to the herd? At the end of the week, I move them to the barn where they are penned in combo panels that they canít get out and I pen another doe and her kids beside them, not in with them. I keep them side by side that way for a couple of weeks. The doe doesnít particularly like the bottle kids, but she recognizes them and she eventually realizes they arenít a threat to her kids. After a couple of weeks, I turn then all loose. The bottle kids will follow the doe and her kids and they learn from her how to mix in the herd. Plus, I go out regularly to still bottle feed and I can keep an eye on how they are doing.
If you donít have a doe with kids to put beside your bottle kids, fix it so the herd can look over and see the kids or see them inside their combo panel stall. They will get use to each other this way and itís much easier on the bottle kids when they are turned out. There are all sorts of ways to get your bottle kids use to the herd they will be in. Just make sure your babies donít get hurt.
At one month of age, I give my bottle kids their first CD/T shots (Entertoxemia and Tetanus) and worm them. Eighteen to twenty-two days later, I give the follow up booster and another worming. If they get diarrhea and I know itís not the milk replacer, or too much milk, I will worm and then start them on treatments of Albon for coccidiosis by putting it in their milk once a day for five days. If the diarrhea does not go away after the first or second day, I assume itís E-coli and use Biosol (neomycin sulfate), mixing it in their milk for the amount of time it says on the bottle.
So, if you are going to be a goat breeder, realize that bottle babies are part of the territory and make your plans now. Me, Iíve decided to enjoy them and try to be as efficient as possible while caring for them, while giving them a bunch of hugs in the process. Yep, Iím definitely going to have bottle baby withdrawal this time.