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Tomorrow I pick up my new goats. This is my first experience. Its a mother with two one month old bucks. They have been feeding from her and nibbling grass here and there. My plan is to raise the two youngsters into pack goats. I need advice on what I should do. Do I keep them with mom? For how long? Or should I seperate them and bottle feed? I do not plan to keep the doe any longer than what is necessary. Any help out there would be appreciated.
 

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Hi Slim Pickins,
Sorry nobody had replied to your questions yet!

There are a variety of ways to raise goat kids to be friendly, trainable and obedient - the traits you are looking for in a pack goat. The other traits, such as well behaved, good work ethic, staying behind you on the trail if you want them to and other personal preferances can then be built on top of that foundation.

The best milk for a baby goat is it's mothers milk. If you are not able to milk her twice a day and then bottle feed the kids, which I find is far and away the best method for us but does have the (for some people) major down side of using quite a bit of time, then you can either leave them on her until weaned and handle them extensively to make them friendly, or bottle raise them with formula and sell her. For the kids best interest, mum's milk whether straight from her or from you via a bottle if the best. For your interest (having them tame whether or not you are able to spend large amounts of time handling them) bottle feeding, whether the mum's milk or formula, is the best.

If you are able to seperate and bottle feed, there are also lots of methods, but two main ones. If you have two paddocks that they can be kept away from each other in and have time to milk twice a day, then milking her and feeding them morning and evening with them seperate all the time would work fine. If you have only one paddock (with at least one pen), you can seperate them overnight, milk in the morning and bottle feed them, and then let them run together during the day. This will normally make them friendly, but nowhere near as friendly as bottle raising completely if the mum has anything to do with it - we tried this method quite a few times, and always the mum would try to take the first and foremost loyalty of the kids, and even make them wild from us despite the fact that she herself was very tame and milked regularly - the does were all smart enough to realize that the more the kids came over to us, the less they would adore their mother, and most of them tried very hard to make the kids love them more. :roll: ;)

Some people say to wean at three months, but I prefer to do things as naturally as possible. I look at how things are without human intervention, and see what I can do to raise the best, healthiest, happiest and friendliest kids possible with minimal stress and as naturally as I can.
Naturally, a goat kid drinks milk from it's mother for six months. That's a general fact - normally, an unstressed goat kidded at the natural time (late Winter/early Spring) will then feed her kids until late Summer/early Autumn, and then wean them around the same time (up to one-three months before) when the breeding season starts and she gets pregnant/in kid again. So, I feed all of our baby goats milk until six months old - although that is also because I have experimented with lots of different weaning ages and found that the later weaned, the better they grew, the less weight they dropped when weaned and the bigger they were, which contributes to my idea that natural is better. ;)
However, naturally the does (mothers) feed their babies up to a dozen times a day for the first few weeks. I am unable to feed them that many times, and, more importantly, from my experiments with many goat kids, it is unneccesary. Therefore, I feed on-demand (five-six times) for the first few days, and then as needed (three-four times) until they are ready for twice-daily feeding, which is normally from one-two weeks old. The kids get their own mother's milk (no replacement so that we can have all the best milk - we sell some kids and our dairy does make more than enough for any of their kids which we keep, so we get the extra) and are raised with their mothers, so they are well-adjusted, know how to act like a goat and know their herd and their place in it, but since I bottle feed from birth, they are extremely friendly, LOVE people and I am their second mother.

So, to get back on track and answer your questions... If possible, bottle feeding with their mother's milk is the best, and, if possible, bottle feeding until six months old is the natural age - which I consider is the best.

However, they can safely be raised on replacement formula, and can also normally safely be weaned from three months old, however more care is needed to see that they don't drop weight and continue to grow normally and well.

Feel free to ask with any questions. :D
Cheers,
Cazz
 

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Dave (TDG Farms) S.E. Washington State
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I am one of the people who doesnt agree with the 6 month weaning timeline. Goats started being domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Any natural thing about a domesticated goat was breed out long, long ago. You pretty much have to go to the mountain goat for a natural example and they only nurse for 1 month.

So, with the goats of today the reasoning behind 3 months is, this is roughly the time when the doe tends to step over a kid trying to nurse. The two main reasons for this is to being drying off. Todays dairy goats can take months to dry off. If they do so early enough, they can start to put on weight for the coming winter and breeding season. Secondly, even at 3 months old, a kid, be it buck or doe, have become large enough to start to do possible damage to the udder by either "punching it" this simulates the udder to let down the milk that is stored in the upper part of it AND their sucking on the teats has turned much more aggressive and can cut the skin around the teats.

It is also about this time MOST kids on lambars / bottles with start to become more interested in sold foods over milk. A bunch of my bottle babies are 3 months old. I am currently feeding 14 bottle babies on 2 lambars (5 gallon bucket with nipples sticking out the top with tubes down into the center). If I take the milk out first, they will be crying at the gate till I let them in. They rush in and about half will not even taste the milk but instead run over to me to be petted. Half again only eat a couple of minutes and are done. Only about 4 will continue to eat till full. Now, if I feed the hay first and then call for them to come eat milk in the barn, I might get the same 4 to come to me regardless how much I call or go out to them and try to make them follow me. This is pretty much the same thing that happens every year.

Now, that is not to say some kids wouldnt keep eating forever if allowed. I have seen 1 and 2 year old "kids" still on their dams, sharing with new siblings.

And as for feeding the bottle vs. dam raised kids, I dont see much of a difference as long as you have equal hands on time. I have had some of my most spoiled kids be dam raised. You just need to be out there with them everyday doing fun things they like. If done right, a nursing kid will stop and leave its mom and run to you because you are much funner then eating :)

So how ever you decided to do it, there is no wrong way as long as you dedicated the time to doing it, you will do just fine. Personally, if I was in your shoes, I would keep them on the dam for 3 months, maybe even up to 6 as it couldnt hurt. Id do this so they can get the best growth start possible. I would then set aside the time I would be saving from milking and feeding to spend with the kids. Pull them out away from their mom, to a place that is fun. I like my backyard first. I lay down on my stomach and let em jump and play on my back. Not conventional but the kids sure do love to "beat the daddy up". Then we move over to the hay stack. I dont carry them, I make them follow me. We play and jump on the stack upto 4 bales high. Again, letting animals play on the hay, not a good idea but its totally flat where I live and you have to make fun spots where you can. A old truck hood is a great toy to dance on :). Anyways, just my suggestion. Good luck and above all else, have fun!
 

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I definitely agree Dave with having fun and spending time with the kids - I love playing 'chasey' on piles of logs or just around a paddock or yard, and just sitting with them all pushing each other for the privilege of laying on my lap or beside me.

However, in regards to dam-raising, although we have had success with some (spending two-three hours with them a day) almost all the cases we've ever had with raising them on their mums, even extremely tame mums, the kids were at least partly wild, stand-offish instead of running up to us (they'd run up behind the bottle fed ones and then stop a few metres away, and had to be approached very quietly for them to allow us to catch them) and they'd run away if we tried to catch them quickly or ran in their direction. (rather than the others who would kick up their heels and race along with us, or just wait until we went past and then follow) For me, having a goat I have to approach carefully and quietly is not acceptable.
I want goats who are friendly to everyone, visitors and strangers included, who are trusting, all over us, and eager to please, not independent or aloof. For me, spending hours each day is not feasible now, and our goat kids go at least partially wild on their mums even with feeding them grain and handling them. We got a buck kid (now a wether) from a friend who had handled all of their dam-raised kids very extensively - her daughter had spent hours carrying them around every day and they set aside time to train them to come and walk on leads - and yet, even though he was the tamest of the kids, you most definitely can't run up to him, he won't come when called except to be fed, and he doesn't choose to come to people. For me, that's just proof of the difference, since my bottle fed babies (some young adults and being milked) will marr and come running when I call their names, and they call out to me when they even just see or hear me. That's what I want in a goat, so for me, I've found bottle feeding is the best option. :)
Dave said:
Pull them out away from their mom, to a place that is fun.
For almost all of our kids and lambs which are on their mums, even if we've spent ages with them, unless they are bottle fed if we take them away from their mum then they just run up and down a fence line calling to her, but, of course, if it works for you then it may well work for others. :p

With the amount of time for feeding, we have raised kids on their mums, and lots of lambs on their mums, and the does and ewes only starting kicking them off (the does are some dairy, some Boer, some crosses) at five-six months old and all of the does and ewes weaned their kids and lambs at around six months old. This was no matter what time of year (whether they were coming back in heat and getting in kid/in lamb, or at the normal kidding/lambing season) and the does and ewes were not the ultra-mother type who never wean their babies - they all weaned them at around six months old. So, if I don't take one of our kids off it's mum, (although in actual fact, they aren't 'taken', but are raised with their mums but only bottle fed since they are stopped from drinking off their mums for the fist few days and so don't know they could get milk from their mum) I know for a near certainty that this kid will be on milk for six months. For me, the logical thing is, if I am raising/feeding this kid instead of it's mother, I'll do what would happen without me intervening - six months of milk.

Also, with them wanting the milk, I've never had a kid or lamb not wanting milk at three months old - only one three-week-old dam-raised baby whose mum died and he didn't want to take the teat, and we did have one or two who got lazy at five-five and half months old and didn't want to do their tricks for the milk or drink it when another kid had slobbered on it.
All of our kids get grain/concentrate and are on hay and grass/trees all day long, yet even up until six months old, they will keep harassing me if I am late for their milk but had already given them grain, and if I give them a bucket with grain, they'll keep looking up with a mouthful and if they see a bottle they'll immediately leave the grain and race over for the milk. When I wean them on to one feed a day, and then as well when I totally wean them, I feed them grain and them put them out of he milking shed, and they don't wander off but poke their noses in the windows and marr at me and then when I go up to the house, they often continue to call out to me for a while, wondering why they haven't got their milk. The same goes for the lambs, who, naturally (without intervention from us) weaned at six months if on their mums, will continue to ask for milk even after weaning at six months.

Have fun Slim Pickins and hope you have a great time with your kids no matter what way you try!

Cheers,
Cazz
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks very much for the advice- to both of you. I did not end up with those goats but am still looking to get a couple. Your information will always be useful for me and for whoever else finds it. I appreciate your time.
 
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