Goat Care And How To Tend Orphaned Kids
Goats are wonderful animals to raise as pets or for organic meat. I live in Jamaica and goats are somewhat valuable because goat meat is consumed on a large scale.
For my fiance, it's a business but for me they are my children. We used butt heads about the animals but now we have struck a balance. I pet them and name them and he makes sure they are well fed and taken care of. Why do men pretend to be tough when it comes to animals and when one dies they go all soft? My fiance is one such toughie..lol
Here are some tips on goat farming in general and how to care for goats especially when they are sick or orphaned.
On December 24, 2013 or prized mother goat gave birth to three robust rams. Well, she wasn’t really prized in terms of winning any contests; she was more like our beloved mother goat who was more like a part of the family.
After giving birth in the afternoon of Christmas Eve, she seemed fine, except that while she tended her kids she seemed tired and every now and then she would lie down. We saw that as normal because she’d just given birth and must have used a lot of energy, plus this was the first time she was having triplets.
She’d had three sets of babies before. The first were boy and girl; the second time was just a girl and the third were another boy and girl. This was her first triplets and first time having all boys. We were proud and felt really blessed.
On Christmas day morning we noticed our new mother wasn’t eating much, which was a bit strange because she is “an eater”. What we’d expect as with all her other births was she would go eat and leave us to babysit. Yes, so long as it was either Steve or me with the kids, the mother goats would go forage in the wild nearby and return when they felt the young needed feeding.
On this particular morning she was lying around and not touching even her favorite food from the farm store. It was then we noticed she was squirting blood which was dark and thick. Every few minutes she would push the blood out and some even came in clots. We called the vet and described what was happening and he told us she may have an undeveloped fetus inside or the placenta was still inside. Either way she needed an injection to clean her out.
Being anxious, and the fact that he was the most respected veterinarian in our parish we did as we were told, which was to administer the injection which he gave to us. This did no good the goat got worse. She was weak from not eating all day and her bleeding got worse. We were told by the vet to have the goat brought to him. He then proceeded to examine her and found that she had neither the placenta nor fetus lodged inside. Without knowing the problem he gave her more drugs and drench then sent her home.
We awoke to find her dead on Boxing day.
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Lessons learned from this experience
- Never give medications to your animals without a proper diagnosis
- Better yet, never have an animal diagnosed without a proper examination
- If your vet is too busy or sick chances are he will not do a good job as with our case
- You must take first responsibility for your animals and never let the vet force his opinion on you
- Go with your instincts
Had we gone with our instincts, maybe our mother goat would still be alive. We think she had torn her uterus or some other organ while giving birth. What she needed was something to stop the bleeding so she could heal. Had the vet not used his forearm to exam her tubes she probably would not have bled to death during the night.
How and when to feed
We started feeding them the replacement milk immediately.
Because kids feed quite often we had to find a balance between our human way of doing things and the way they would have been feeding had their mother still been alive.
We started them on six feedings every twenty four hours:
2 days to 1 month schedule (not eating on their own)
- 6:00 am
- 9:00 am
- 12:00 pm
- 3:00 pm
- 6:00 pm
1 month to 6 weeks (start eating lightly)
- 6:00 am
- 6:00 pm
6 weeks to 2 months (eating rapidly)
We cut out the midnight feed first because they will start to eat enough so that they can regurgitate and masticate the food during the night. We call this "chewing the cud". After a week we stopped the midday feed.
The kids are now 10 weeks old and only getting a bottle in the mornings just for the added nutrients. They have eaten all my flowers and all my plants from my garden...lol
They will get the bottle for another two weeks and then we wean them.
Caring For Orphaned Kids
We were left to tend three kids that were two days old. We had learned before that goats need proper nutrition in order to develop into healthy adults.
My first experience with under nutrition in goats was when my first personal goat had a kid but was not producing enough milk. It was too late for the kid when we realized what was happening. The next goat in the flock to have milk issues, we gave the kid skimmed milk. He survived but we later found out that was not enough. It took him a while to mature the way he should so we decided to find out what was the best solution for these goats. It was simple, replacement milk.
Replacement milk contains all the nutrients which can be found in the mother’s milk. It can be given to any animal who is not getting enough from their mother or whose mother has died. This includes dogs, cats, goats, pigs, horses, cattle and any gestating mammals.
The milk must be prepared just like baby formula; one flat teaspoon to one ounce water. the water must be boiled first and the milk cooled to body temperature or comfortably warm. Do not give animals cold milk. The milk must mimic that of their mother. The hot water activates the enzymes in the powder replacement milk, allowing the animals to enjoy the full nutritious value.
Vitamins or Minerals
Because the goats are without the natural care of the mother there may be nutrients lacking in their diet. Remember that the mother would be eating certain foods like her favorite vegetation and the kids would be getting some of those nutrients.
These orphaned babies need some sort of supplement to help them develop into sturdy goats. It was recommended to give them fish oil which we have been doing every day for the last two months. Just follow the instruction on the bottle.
Usually the mother would be de-wormed a month after giving birth. This would allow the kids to get their dosage from their mother's milk. Now it was left to us to give the kids their wormer. Ask your vet before worming any animal. You may also ask at the farm store about which wormer is best. Always follow the instructions and read the label carefully as this can be very dangerous.
General Care of Goats
In general, goats need attention just like any other animal. If you keep them in an enclosed area all the time you must make sure they eat healthy and the area is clean.
We keep our goats enclosed at night or during bad weather. During the day we either tie them in rich vegetation (so they wont stray away) or we let them roam free in the yard and nearby fields. You must monitor them so they do not roam into your neighbors fields. Dogs may also be an issue. Stray or wild dogs love killing goats. We lost two that way.
Free range goats
Eat off the land
Eat more grains
Must have fresh supply of water
Will have less intestinal parasites
Will have more intestinal parasites due to eggs in store bought food
Must be wormed at least every three months
Needs to be roped lest they stray and get lost
No need to be roped
At risk of eating poisonous plants,especially the young ones
Feed is monitored so there is less risk of eating poisonous plants
All natural plants or grains is best
Very likely to have lice and ticks
More likely to spread lice and ticks
Must be bathed at least once per month with prescribed wash to control lice and tick
Illnesses Which Can Affect Baby Goats
Baby goats can die at the drop of a hat. You have to keep an eye on them at all times. Some illnesses that may affect your kids are:
This can be caused from undigested food in the stomach or blockage in the colon. The former is most common. Some herbs can also cause this bloating, especially toxic herbs. If the kids have started eating on their own be careful about where they feed because toxic herbs can cause death.
When you have ruled out poisoning or blockage you can start treating your animal. You must determine if there is gas in the stomach by touching it. One side will feel soft while the other is firm. Contact your vet or farm store animal specialist immediately for advice on how to treat.
Kids eat in tiny quantities very often. Humans tend to want to give them more in longer periods than they are used to. This will cause over feeding and can lead to death in your young goats.
There are different kinds of pneumonia which can affect these young ones. It is usually accompanied by high fever, running nose, coughing and labored breathing. This can be caused from wet climates or dust.
All animals are at risk of this especially when many animals live in close quarters. You must de-worm often, or contact your vet.
Sometimes goats have diarrhea which will last a day or two. If the diarrhea lasts for more than two days you need to treat it. This could be caused from intestinal parasites, eating certain herbs/weed, or bacteria.
This happens when bacteria gets into the joints of young goats. They become paralyzed and cannot walk. Usually they die within a few days. If for some reason you goats are not able to walk by themselves, call the vet.
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What Do Goats Eat?
Goats will eat just about anything. It will take a while before the goats develop a sense of what’s good or bad to eat. They learn by smell and taste. If something smells good they’ll eat it. They’ll first smell the plant and if it’s pleasing to the nostrils they taste it and decide whether or not it’s something they want.
Goats eat any vegetables humans eat with the exception of a few. They also love grains such as barley, corn, prepared grains specially made for them and oats.
Most of all, they love to eat directly from live plants so we let our goats out every morning for them to feed on the land. We also make sure there is fresh water for them to drink when they are thirsty.
- Goats will chew on plastic bags and this may cause obstruction on the digestive tract.
- They will also chew on your clothing. If they know you they may bite you because they like your scent.
- Don’t feed your goats on too much grain because this will cause bloating.
- Factory made food, though natural, may contain parasite eggs, so do not feed your goats too much of this.
- Do not let your goat stay outdoors during the night. Gather them in an enclosed area. They may eat plants containing insects which are toxic to them. Though they have a very keen sense of smell, insects sleep on plants which they may not see.