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Even if you dam raise your kids, it’s inevitable that you’ll wind up with a bottle baby at some point. Our does have large litters, as many as five at a time, and it isn’t uncommon that we end up with one or two (or three) per year that are put on the bottle. This is the feeding schedule we use for our Nigerian Dwarf bottle babies; you can approximately double the amounts and use this for standard sized goats as well. Minis would be somewhere in between.
So much of feeding bottle babies is intuition and individual decisions. I’ve tried to pinpoint specific weights to give you an idea of how much to feed, but the best advice I have is to watch your babies and their activity level/overall behavior. Well fed kids are bright, alert, active and constantly exploring the world. Kids who aren’t feeling well will be just the opposite, standing around, lethargic, crying out or frantically seeking milk. Always go by what your kids tell you over what an article online does.
What Type of Bottle to Use?
We use pull on lamb/kid nipples like the photo; the Pritchard style has never worked well for us. Though advertised as designed for soda bottles, we find that they work best with a glass bottle, so once a year, my husband takes one for the team and buys a 6-pack of beer, the empty bottles of which become my prized possessions for bottle feeding. 😀 Be sure to cut a larger “x” with scissors before use. I have never once been unable to get a kid started on a bottle with these nipples, even older kids who have never had a bottle.
*If you have access to a farm supply store, these are often found there for just a few dollars.
How Many Ounces Per Feeding?
I don’t stick to a particular amount of ounces, but rather go with the way the kid feels. In general, a newborn kid will eat about 1-2 ounces, moving up quickly to a maximum of about 6-12 ounces. At that point, the number of feedings determine the total amount, not the size of the bottle.
Bottle Feeding a Newborn Kid through Week Two
With few exceptions, such as very weak kids or those who survived a traumatic birth and need extra support, kids go 8 hours overnight without a bottle from day 1. If I’m bottle feeding because the kid was weak, I keep it in the house. Healthy but rejected kids stay out with the herd in the hopes mom will rethink her position. They are started on a schedule of four bottles per day at 8a, 12p, 4p, 8p. In the first couple of days, I monitor closely to be sure they’re getting enough.
I always determine this on an individual basis by gently squeezing a kid’s belly after feeding. It should be fairly firm but never tight; too much feed can be just as bad as not enough. Sometimes you can tell a kid is satisfied because it pulls off the nipple, but some will continue going after food even when they are beyond full. Note: With such variation in size of young Nigerian Dwarf kids, it is important to go by how the kid responds, not just the number of ounces. I’ve had some eating 6 ounces and being satisfied while others eat twice that and could still use more. Know your kids!
Feed four times a day, increasing to 4-6 ounces by week two. Begin offering free choice minerals, water and hay by day three. We do this in a kid creep for all kids, because dam raised kids figure out how to eat from their moms and teach the bottle raised kids what to do. For kids that start in the house, I try to have them moved out within 2-3 days. It is critical to a goat’s future social health to learn from the beginning how to be a goat, so I do whatever I can to integrate them in the herd right away.
Bottle Feeding from Week Three to Week Four
Increase to 6-8 ounces per feeding, continuing 4 times per day until the end of week 3. If kids are eating hay well and seeming to grow well, this is when I reduce to 3 feedings a day: 8a, 2p, 8p. If the weather is particularly rough or I have any other reason to be concerned, I will extend the 4 bottle routine another week. Otherwise, by this time I’m ready to slow down on the bottles so we can use the milk for other things.
Bottle Feeding Weeks Five and Six
Continue feeding the 3 times a day schedule of 8a, 2p and 8p. Kids should be eating with the herd; on pasture in summer and on hay in winter. They are energetic and into everything at this point. If I’m feeling good about my bottle babies’ growth, I’ll go down to 2 bottles a day in early week 6, at 8a and 8p. This is preferable, but again, it’s important to go by individual kids, the weather, any health issues, and any other factors that can affect their growth.
Bottle Feeding Weeks Seven through Weaning
Bottle babies wean at 8 weeks here. You can go longer, but we generally need the milk for other things and 8 weeks is when they’re on their way to new homes. By the beginning of week 7, kids should be down to 1 bottle a day. They’ll stay there until weaning, when you simply stop feeding bottles. It won’t hurt to continue bottle feeding until they’re several months old if you have the milk and inclination, but they need to be having milk until 8 weeks. The best indicator that they’re ready to wean is eating solid foods well and growing at the same rate as their dam raised fellows.
Nigerian Dwarf Bottle Feeding Chart
How to Decrease Bottles
I typically just stop giving a bottle altogether, but a more gradual approach would be to give half bottles for a few days before removing a certain time of day from the schedule. As long as they’re healthy, there’s no reason not to do it whatever way you prefer. For a goat I’m concerned about, I’d be more inclined to gradually decrease. Just be sure there is free choice solid food available for them to make up the loss of milk nutrients.
Continue the discussion in the Kidding forum.