By September, most of you are evaluating your spring kids
for their growth and breeding potential. When evaluating your kids, it’s
important to be able to determine if their growth is on track with where they
should be. Most full-sized dairy breed kids (Saanen, Lamancha, Nubian,
Oberhasli, Toggenburg, and Alpine) should put on about 10 lbs of body weight
per month in their first 8 months. If not gaining 10 lbs per month, they should
at least be consistently gaining weight each month. Watch out if they stop
gaining weight or if they lose weight.
If your kids are not hitting their growth curve, then it’s time to look
at them closely and determine why they are stunted.
Is it their genetics? I hesitate to blame
genetics for poor growth unless the kid comes from a miniature breed or
combination of full-sized and mini-breeds. It is true that some breeds grow
slower and are generally smaller than others but blaming genetics can cause you
to overlook obvious management and health issues. Be very cautious of buying "mini" goats from people if they can not directly point to the goat's ancestor who came from an actual miniature breed (Nigerian Dwarf or African Pygmy). These goats are probably just stunted and won't ever live up to their full production potential.
Do they have parasites? This is the number one
reason why kids can be stunted. The digestive system of the kid goat is not
mature enough to handle repeated onslaughts of damage done by internal
parasites. The two main culprits of kid stunting are coccidiosis and tapeworms.
Coccidia are a single-celled parasite that
naturally occurs in the soil. Most species have their own type of coccidia and
it can’t spread between species. Most adult goats are immune to coccidia
infestations and do not suffer from coccidiosis unless stressed or ill for
other reasons. Kid goats, however, are EXTREMELY prone to damage by coccidia.
The coccidia parasite has a three-week life cycle (21 days). It usually infects
the kids at birth when they are exposed to the soil and bedding in the barn. It
travels into their intestines and begins its reproduction and feeding cycle.
Three weeks later the kid may have smelly, brown diarrhea due to the coccidia
bursting from the cells of the intestinal lining in order to spread to other
goats. This bursting and subsequent diarrhea is called “coccidiosis” because
the kid is sick from coccidia infestation. Once the kid has diarrhea, the
damage to the intestinal lining is already done and it is too late. The kid
will always be prone to malnutrition and will be stunted. The symptoms of
coccidiosis are brown, smelly diarrhea between 22 and 28 days old, followed by
lethargy, anorexia and death. Coccidia show up very easily on a fecal sample so
it is highly recommended to have a fecal sample done if you suspect
It is very important to prevent coccidiosis
by putting your kids on a preventative treatment plan. The best way to do this
is to treat all of your kids at exactly 21 days old with a 5-day round of
either Di-Methox, Sulmet, or Corid. All three of these broad-spectrum
antibiotics will kill the adult forms of coccidia and stop the reproduction
cycle. Repeat this treatment every 21 days until the kids are 4 months old or
more in order to keep coccidiosis from stunting your kids. Be sure to start on
exactly day 21 because the coccidia will be in the adult phase and waiting even
until day 22 can cause intestinal damage.
Be very wary of relying on grain blends
that contain Rumensin or Decoquinate for coccidiosis prevention. Most kids are
not eating enough grain at 21 days old for this to have a preventative effect.
Once the kids are older and consuming grain at a steady pace, then these
preventative treatments are helpful.
The second parasite that causes stunting in
kids is the tapeworm. Like coccidia, most adult goats are somewhat immune to
tapeworm damage. Kids rarely die from tapeworm infection but they can be
stunted by the worms robbing nutrients from them. Tapeworms not only cause
damage to the goat’s growth, but they cause damage to your pocket-book. Why
would you spend so much money on goat feed just to feed the worms and not the
goats? The symptoms of tapeworm infection are slow growth, pot-bellies (not
caused by bloat or fatness), rough hair, tapeworm segments found in feces, and
tapeworm eggs found in fecal samples under a microscope.
Tapeworms should also be preventatively
treated for in you kid goats. Starting at 28 days old, give each kid a dose of
Valbazen dewormer or Safeguard dewormer. Both of these medicines are effective
against tapeworms. Repeat the deworming every 28 days until the kids are 4
months old or older.
Do baby goats need minerals? YES! Baby goats
should be put on the same mineral supplementation schedule as your adult goats.
This should mean that they have loose minerals available at all times, and that
they are supplemented with copper boluses and extra selenium at regular
intervals. Weaned kids need a supplemental calcium source so they should be fed
alfalfa hay, silage, or pellets with their grain ration. Alfalfa is high in
calcium and essential for keeping goats healthy.
Are they getting enough milk? Kid goats are fast
growing and need to have enough nutrients and calories in their daily diets to accommodate
this. Kids are born on a pure milk diet. Their stomachs are designed to digest
only milk for the first few weeks. Slowly, they change and are able to digest
grain and hay. How do you know your kids are getting enough? If your kids are
dam-raised, you should weigh them every week to make sure they are gaining
weight consistently. Check mom’s udder daily to make sure that it is producing
milk, that the teats are not blocked and the milk is coming out, and that the
kids are evenly consuming milk from BOTH sides of the udder. A kid who is
getting enough to drink will be energetic, bright-eyed, and gaining weight.
If you are bottle feeding, then you
will know how much milk your kids are getting. Here is a feeding schedule for
your full-sized dairy kids:
Day one- 6 oz. (per feeding) colostrum, every 4 hours.
Day two- 8 oz. (per feeding) colostrum/whole milk, 4 times a day
Day three- 10 oz. (per feeding) colostrum/whole milk, 4 times a day
Day four- 10-12 oz. (per feeding) colostrum/whole milk, 4 times a day.
For the next week- 12-16 oz. (per feeding) 4 times a day.
For the next 2 months- 20-32 oz. (per feeding) 3 times a day.
For the next 1 month- 24-32 oz. (per feeding) 2 times a day.
10-12 oz. (per feeding) once a day for two weeks.
Be extremely careful when
increasing amounts of milk per feeding because baby goats can’t spit up, like
human babies, when they drink too much so they will get screaming yellow
diarrhea or bloat. It can be fatal to suddenly overfeed a baby goat too much
When do I wean them? Most people recommend
weaning between 8-12 weeks of age. Feeding a kid milk after 12 weeks will not
generally increase their weight gain. Most people coincide weaning time with
the time that their buck kids need to be separated from their doe kids. It is
recommended that bucks and does be separated at 10 weeks old and definitely by
12 weeks old. Some bucks are precocious and can be fertile at a very young age.
Doe kids can be fertile very young but they are not mature enough to be bred at
Dam-raised kids will not normally self-wean
so you should separate mom from kids for at least one month to get the kids to
How much grain do I feed them? Like I said, kids are fast growing and have
high nutrient and calorie demands. Grain helps to give them a boost in both of
those categories. Grain and hay should be introduced at 3 days old. Kids won’t
be able to digest much of it at this age, but the exposure to it will help them
“prime” their digestive tracts for future digestion. The amount of grain
offered should be slowly increased to a maximum amount at weaning time. The
maximum amount can vary, depending on the type and mix of grain, but most
full-sized dairy kids should be eating about 4-8 cups of grain a day. Watch
their consumption and lower the amount of grain offered if they are not eating
it within 1 hour of feeding time. Be careful not to increase grain too much at
once because this can cause sudden bloat and death.