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Weaning a pygmy goat properly requires patience and attention to detail. Like standard-sized goats, pygmy goats are born without functioning rumens, which simply means that you need to give that part of their stomachs time to mature and operate properly before attempting to wean the kids. Trying to wean pygmy goat kids without allowing them enough time to adapt to eating a forage-based diet could lead to dietary issues, including poor weight gain, diarrhea, starvation and parasite problems. As a rule, allow your pygmy goat kids to nurse or bottle feed for approximately eight to 12 weeks before weaning them.
Give 24-hour access to hay and grass starting sometime during the first week following the birth of your pygmy goat kids. Opt for high-quality alfalfa hay, if possible, which helps ensure that the pygmy kids get plenty of protein, especially as they get closer to weaning age. If the kids nurse, release them out into your goat pasture alongside their mothers. If you bottle feed and raise the kids separately from their mothers, make sure they have a secure fenced-in area that contains plenty of mixed forage, including grass and weeds.
Keep a water-filled bucket within easy reach of the pygmy kids at all times. Position the bucket on the outside edge of the pen to minimize the chances of accidental drowning and soiled water.
Feed each female pygmy goat kid a small amount of goat grain once daily when they reach three to four weeks of age. Sprinkle a small handful of the grain into a small feed bucket or bowl. Separate the female pygmy goat kids one at a time from the rest of the goat herd and give each one access to the goat grain for a few minutes. Although the kids will only sniff the grain at first, they should start nibbling on it within a few days.
Decrease milk availability when the pygmy kids reach eight to 12 weeks of age, at which point they should be drinking water and consuming plenty of grass and hay on a daily basis. Separate nursing kids from their mothers for 12 hours of each 24-hour period for one week, then separate them completely. If you bottle feed, substitute water for 1/2 cup of milk each feeding for several days; gradually increase the amount of water (and decrease the amount of milk) each feeding until the pygmy kids are consuming nothing but water.
Monitor the pygmy kids closely during the first two weeks following the weaning process. Keep the water bucket filled with clean water and make sure the hay rack contains plenty of unsoiled hay at all times. If your pygmy kids nursed, be prepared for loud bleating from both the mother and the kids during this post-weaning time period; in most cases, they should calm down within two or three weeks. If any of the pygmy kids experience drastic weight loss or diarrhea, contact your veterinarian immediately.
- “Goat Medicine”; Dr. Mary Smith, et al.; 2009
- “Your Goats”; Gail Damerow; 1993
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