Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What we do with our kids {four footed}

I thought I'd share with you how we handle our kids on the farm.  For those of you considering keeping goats, it's always wise to know what is involved beforehand.  For those of you who already have goats, maybe there will be a little nugget of information here that you can use.  For those of you who have zero desire to ever have a goat....feel free to skip this post. :-)
The Kinder breed of goat (pronounced with a short i), which is what we have, is a very sweet natured and friendly goat.  Sure, they have their moments of being stubborn, but for the most part they are very agreeable.  The kids are curious and cuddly.  We handle them a lot. (That's easy with little children who want to go and see them every hour on the hour! :-) )
When they are three days old, we begin to separate the mom from her babes. That night when bedding them down in the barn, we move the mama in with the other adult goats, and put the kids in their own pen.  When we built our barn, we tried to plan for the different needs, so we created this "kid" pen.  It is the only pen that has plywood dividing it from the others.  The other three pens are divided by livestock panels.  It really helps lessen the stress of the mother/kid separation when she can not see her babies.
It's great when there are twins, triplets, or even quads because they snuggle together and keep each other warm and comforted.  This time around, our doe had triplets.
After being separated all night, the mother is quite full.  That morning is when we begin our twice/daily milking.  We put the milk into bottles to feed the babies.   
We use glass Perrier bottles - what else on a French farm ;-)
but, really, glass doesn't hold bacteria.  Rinse with cool water, then run them through the dishwasher.

We use this feeding schedule:
Birth through day 3 with mom
Day 4 - 4 bottles spaced throughout the day - with ONLY 1 oz of milk each feeding.

This is what 1 oz. looks like.  (just 2 Tablespoons!)  Doesn't look like much - and you might be tempted to give more, but don't...not yet.
   Day 5 - 4 bottles spaced throughout the day - increased to 2 oz of milk each feeding.
   Day 6 - 4 bottles spaced throughout the day - increased to 3 oz. of milk each feeding.
   Day 7 {1 week old} 3 bottles spaced througout the day - increased to 4 oz. of milk each feeding.
   Day 8 - 14 remain at 3 bottles - each day adding an ounce each day as we have been. 
By day 14 {2 weeks old}- the Perrier bottles we use are at capacity (11 oz.).  They suck down the full thing in short order! They are also now offered free choice water and hay.
It is ESSENTIAL, when bottle feeding kids to progress slowly with the quantity of milk.  If you observe a kid nurse, it will butt the udder, suckle a minute, and then bounce off to play.  It gets little bits frquently throughout the day.  By offering more bottles with small amounts, it mimicks that behavior and allows the little tummy time to adjust to increased volume.  If you feed larger amounts less often, you will run the risk of scours.  Scours in kids can be life threatening, so caution and careful feeding is advised.
From 4 - 8 weeks of age, they drop down to two full (11 oz) bottles of milk per day.  That usually coincides with our milking times.  Some children feed the kids while others are taking care of the adults and milking.  At this time, they are eating hay and foraging.  This is important for rumen development.
From 8-12 weeks they only receive 1 full bottle per day. 
At 12 weeks we stop the bottles.  They strictly forage or eat hay and drink water.  At this time, we also drop down to just 1 milking in the morning. 

The first month is the crazy-busy month.  It is a little challenging because you need to be home to tend to the middle of the day feedings.  Twice/day milking is challenging for the same reason.  The milkings ideally should be spaced 12 hours apart.  We try to work it to best fit with our family schedule.  This time around we decided on 6am and 6pm.
Once we hit the 12 week mark, it becomes so much easier.  The work can be daunting, but if you remember why you are doing it, you can enjoy and have joy in the process.  {Think self-sufficiency, think healthy, wholesome milk, think delicious goat milk lattes, fresh cheese, kiefer, etc.}

We have chosen to do it this way for a few reasons.
   1.  Handling and interacting with the kids frequently makes for friendly, docile adult goats.
   2.  Helps to keep the udder in uniform shape.  Kids often favor a side to nurse from.  Ideally, kidding with two offspring will keep her balanced, but our does often throw triplets and if not watched carefully can make for lopsidedness.
   3. The risk of CAE.  Even though our herd is tested annually and always negative.

And that's how we feed/handle the kids.

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