If you haven't experienced the "joy" of raising a bottle baby, it will happen sooner or later. Every kidding season, we cross our fingers and hope that all of the babies are born strong, healthy and able to nurse on their own. Most of the time we get lucky and all goes well with mother and babies. However, there is usually a case or two where the doe has triplets or quads and just can't produce enough milk to support them all, a first time mother rejects a kid, or maybe the kid is having a hard time getting started because of the freezing weather and the kid is cold and weak.
When the decision is made to pull the kid away from the mother, it's usually done within an hour or two after birth, this makes it easier to get the kid started on a bottle right away. A few times, when we have had triplets, we watch the mother to be sure that she wants to raise all three kids and that her milk production can support them. We keep an eye on the kids everyday for a week to make sure that they are growing. When we notice that one may not be keeping up with the siblings, we then decide to supplement a bottle or two into the feeding schedule for that baby, while leaving them with the mother and siblings. Sometimes, when they realize that you are giving them warm, yummy milk they take to the bottle like they have been doing it since day one. Other times, they fight the weird, rubber nipple being put in their mouths and after a little patience, they will accept the bottle as long as they can remain with their mother and siblings.
We try to keep the bottle babies with their mother if possible, although to be honest, this is rarely the case. Because bottle babies require such constant care in the first week of life, we usually bring them into the house and they live with us until they are strong enough to go out with the other babies. Some breeders are set up so that are able to leave the babies in the barn, but we tend to have babies when the weather is still freezing, snowing and miserable. Plus, I will be honest, I have a hard time dragging myself out of bed at 2:00 am, heating up a bottle, putting on five layers of clothes and tromping out to the barn in snow and ice to feed the baby. If I have to get up every few hours to feed to the little bundle of joy, I would much rather be warm and dry.
Through the years of bottle feeding and talking with fellow breeders, I came up with a bottle feeding schedule and I try to stick close to it, the following schedule (courtesy of Louise Goudge from TLC Boer Goats) is how we feed when we have bottle babies:
DAY ONE Preferably feed goat colostrum only for the first 24 hours. A newborn kid should consume 4 to 6 oz 4 times over the first 24 hours. Every time a doe kids on our farm we milk out at least a feeding or two to store in the freezer for 'emergencies'. When using frozen colostrum thaw it out at room temperature or in warm water. DO NOT microwave or overheat it. Antibodies in the colostrum can be destroyed and the baby can be burned. Each kid should get about 24 ounces the first day no matter how you divide the feedings Days 2 & 3 Goat colostrum is the ideal feed for the first 3 days of life. If you have it available this is the best choice. However, not everyone has this quantity available to them so they must then choose one of the commercial milk replacer formulas or make their own formula from home recipes. Which ever method you choose - follow directions exactly, especially for commercial formulas. Using too much or too little water completely changes the chemistry and can cause life threatening problems for the baby. I choose to use the MILK REPLACER FORMULA listed below because it's easy to make, always available and most importantly - I've never had a problem with it. I do not know the originator but this formula has been passed from breeder to breeder and recommended by many. I feed 6 to 8 oz 4 times daily to achieve an intake of 24 to 32 oz per day. Days 4-7 Feed 8 to 10 oz of formula 4 times a day. You want to remember to increase the volume of formula gradually. Be careful not to over feed. Their little tummies should be smoothly rounded and filled out but should not look like 'beer bellies'. You can cause more problems over feeding than underfeeding. They should consume between 32 and 40 ounces. Week 1 through Week 2 Feed 12 to 16 oz formula 3 times per day. Or you can feed between 9 to 12 oz 4 times per day. At one week of age I offer small amounts of creep feed and good quality hay or alfalfa for babies to nibble on. I leave bottle babies in the paddock with the rest of the mom's and babies. I believe this is how they learn to be goats. I know they run and play much more since I quit keeping them separate. If babies did not get an adequate amount of colostrum they should receive 2 cc of CD&T Antitoxin before introducing solid feeds. If they did get plenty of colostrum you can defer this injection until they are 2 wks old. Babies must also have access to fresh clean water, salt & minerals. Weeks 3-8 By 3 weeks of age babies are eating grain and hay free choice. Be careful that all food and hay are kept clean and mold free. By now babies are drinking around 48 ozs a day. I gradually increase this to a total of 64 oz by the time they are 8 wks old. Once I see that babies are eating grain and hay I cut the number of feedings to twice a day but stay with the total quantity fed. So by 8 wks they are drinking two 32 oz bottles a day and have free choice grain and hay. I give 2 cc CD&T antitoxin every two weeks until 8 weeks old to all bottle babies to prevent over eating disease. At 8 weeks I give regular vaccines to all babies. 2-4 Months At two months of age all babies should receive their regular vaccinations and worming. They are now eating 64 oz per day given in 2 or 3 feedings a day. They may be weaned any time after 8 weeks. I usually begin weaning at 8 weeks by cutting out the morning feeding for 1 to 2 weeks depending on how baby is doing. My goal is to have them weaned by 10 to 12 weeks old. Many people choose to wean much later than that. It is simply a matter of finance and preference.
**Babies should consume 10%-15% of their body weight in formula every day**
We try to feed fresh goat milk whenever possible, lucky for us our dear friend from Son*Sational Farms lives just down the road from us and raises an awesome herd of dairy does. We are lucky enough to have some does that produce a large amount of milk and we can milk out colostrum when they kid and freeze it. When these does kid and have twins, they usually produce more than enough milk to feed their babies and have some left over for us to milk out and feed to the bottle babies or store in the freezer. However, the bottle babies tend to eat more than we can milk so, when we don't have access to fresh goat milk we do use formula. I personally do not like powdered formulas at all. I know a few breeders use them and have had no problems with using them and it is more cost effective for them. I have seen several different formula recipes out there, but two of them are the ones that keep coming up most often. Listed below are the two recipes I see most often, we use the Milk Replacer recipe.
Milk Replacer 1 gallon of whole milk (I actually try to find milk that is RBsT and hormone free, I'm weird that way) 1 can of evaporated milk 1 cup of whole buttermilk
Take the gallon of milk and remove 2 cups (I usually just pour that 2 cups of milk into our "human use" milk jug) Add the can of evaporated milk and 1 cup of whole buttermilk, put the lid back on and shake to stir! Very simple and easy recipe. I take it a step further! I researched and researched exactly what it is that the evaporated milk does for the recipe and I didn't really find any nutritional benefit for it to be in there. I actually found that the buttermilk is better nutrionally than the evaporated milk because it has more fat and much needed, natural probiotics in it. So, rather than wasting that $1.29 on evaporated milk, I removed it from the recipe and use 2 cups of buttermilk instead of 1 cup. Depending on where you live, finding whole buttermilk can be a chore. I am able to find it at a store in the next town over it's called Belgian Style Buttermilk, so I call the order clerk there and have him order me a case when I need it. When I get it, the expiration date is usually quite a ways out so I have never had it expire on me. If you can't find whole buttermilk, the reduced fat buttermilk will work, I just prefer the whole buttermilk if possible.
Ross Milk Replacer 1/4C whipping cream 1 large egg 1 cup non fat dry milk 3 cups of water
this makes about 30 oz of formula - for larger batches double everything except only use 1/3 cup of whipping cream
To triple the recipe: 3 eggs 3 cups powdered milk 1/3 cup whipping cream 2 cups water Mix in blender Add to 7 cups of water (9 cups water total) This makes about 3/4 of a gallon
**I personally have never tried this recipe, but is has been around for a very long time and it is recommended by many experienced breeders**