Originally brought to New England by English immigrants, goats were among the first domesticated animals. Loving, affectionate, innately curious and generally full of mischief, some goats can jump as high as 5 feet. On average, these entertaining creatures live between 10 and 12 years and can survive in nearly any climate, provided they have adequate shelter.
All joking aside, when a mother goat gives birth, the proper term is kidding. While most kid births go smoothly, it's always a good idea to have your large animal veterinarian on alert, if not actually on hand, for the birth. The newly born kid needs to receive colostrum, the nutritious first milk from his mother within his first 24 hours. If bottle feeding, provide 8 ounces of replacement colostrum within the first 12 hours, broken into multiple feedings. Colostrum provides important antibodies and nutrients essential for the baby goat's health and immunity.
The First Two Weeks
Upon your veterinarian's recommendation, administer a probiotic rumen inoculate, which contains specific bacteria designed to stimulate the rumen. Begin socializing your kids, allowing them to sniff, nibble and climb on you. Allow the kids some field time with the rest of the herd, under close supervision. By the end of the second week, you can allow your kids to run with the herd all day. Offer small amounts of cattle quality alfalfa hay for grazing.
Weaning and Feeding
Offer condensed grain, such as pelleted food, by the end of the first month. Continue feeding hay as well. To reduce waste, feed grain twice per day and offer only what your kid will eat in a few minutes. Goats wean quite easily, and can leave their mother by 8 to 12 weeks of age. Discuss feed and supplement requirements with your veterinarian, since these can vary depending on your location, how much pasture your goat has access to and specific environmental conditions particular to your area.
Provide your kids with a pen large enough to accommodate everyone and include an enclosed, weatherproof shelter. If overcrowded, kids will fight for territory and often can crush smaller goats. If you don't have a permanent shelter, such as a barn with a stall, doghouses or travel kennels work well. Bed them down with straw or wood shavings to provide a soft, warm place for snuggling. Put down footing of gravel or concrete in your goat pen. Dirty pens lead to bacteria, which in turn can cause scours or pinkeye, and breed flies and parasites.
Handling Health Concerns
Horses carry tetanus and shed the virus, so it's important to vaccinate your goat against tetanus if horses have lived on your property at any time during the past 20 years. Discuss other vaccinations recommended for your area and ask your vet about caprine arthritis and encephalitis, an incurable virus that causes neurological disorders. Your best measure against caprine arthritis and encephalitis is to ensure your goat comes from a herd free of the disease. Ask about an appropriate deworming regimen specific to your area, including coccidia. The coccidia parasite lives in nearly every goat's environment; serious infestation results in a dangerous condition called coccidiosis. Discuss debudding and neutering your goat with your veterinarian as well.
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