Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

Micah and Robin Kralik                                                        Hanceville, Alabama                                                                    256-736-6064
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Raising Kids the Natural Way

by Tim Pruit of Pruitville Nubians. Reprinted with Permission

Owning dairy goats can be time consuming and labor intensive.  However, if we the breeders will deal with diseases, we can raise kids to become healthy adults without spending the hours of pasteurizing and hand-feeding requires.  Kids can be kept with their dams and raised in family groups eliminating needs for multiple pens to keep different age groups separate.  The doe kids bond with their dam and the pecking order is less of a problem as no yearling is a stranger.  Having grown up with the herd each will know its place in the herd.

Dealing with disease:  Although there are other contagious diseases than Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) that can be passed from dam to kids Ė it is one that is most often passed through the milk.   Annual testing of your herd will help ensure that you maintain a CAE negative herd.  This is very important since you will be dam-raising your kids and the colostrum and milk is the major way of spreading this disease.  One reason I believe that this disease ran rampant in dairy herds in years past is because of pooling raw milk to feed kids.  By pooling the milk from the whole herd, if one doe was infected then the whole kid crop became infected.  Thus the spread was rampant.  One of the main reasons for doing this of course was so that the kids would bond to their human handlers rather than their dams and thus would be gentle and easy to handle.  However, this desired bonding can be done even with dam raised kids if done properly.   Does who test positive should be removed and completely separated from the herd and their kids raised on pasteurized milk.   This is extremely important since nursing kids will often steal milk from another dam while her kid is nursing.  Even a sip of the milk from the infected doe could mean infection to your otherwise clean herd.  Please do not consider dam raising until you are sure of the health status of your herd.  Also if you think you can have tame kids without putting some time into them, then dam raising will result in disappointment.  Goats like horses or any other type of livestock will be wild unless some time and effort is given to keep them tame.   

In my opinion, goat kids are not born wild, it is a learned behavior. The secret of dam-raising will be bonding with the kids from birth.   If their mother, sibling or herd mate runs from you, they will follow their example.  However, if they are accustomed to you and your touch from birth then they will be gentle and tame throughout life.  It is important to be at every birth to give assistance or assurance to the doe and kids.   Since goats often have multiple kids, mom can be distracted by the labor while having another kid while the new born is still in its sack.  Being there to clean the kidís mouth and nose and placing it away from the dam that is pawing (nesting) can save a kidís life. Do all the normal things, such as using iodine on the navel and giving the kid a quick health check.   Leaving the kids alone with the doe and walking away at this time is the wrong thing to do.  Instead milk the doe and feed the kid a bottle within an hour of birth. If it wonít eat, then wait another hour and try again but make sure the kid consumes at least 5 to 8 ounces or more of colostrum.  You can then leave the kid with the mother  letting the kid nurse from the dam at will.  Helping the kid find the teat is sometime necessary to ensure it gets a good start.  It is beneficial if the new mother and the kids have a few days to stay together alone in a pen of their own for bonding before returning to the herd.  After about three days, let the new mama and her kids out into the main herd, usually you will find that after a sniff or two the herd will accept them.   Kids raised on their mothers will mimic what she does and will learn to eat feed, alfalfa pellets and hay quicker than bottle raised kids. If parasites are kept under control, the kids will grow off more quickly than bottle raised kids because they can eat when they are hungry all throughout the day and it is always at the right temperature.

By the time the kids are 10 days to 2 weeks of age, they should be penned away from their mothers at night.  This is important, as this will be part of their bonding to you.  Each morning, for the first month, it is helpful to give a bottle of the motherís milk to each kid before returning them to their dams.  The kids will be hungry and will more readily take a bottle.   You can drop this to a bottle every other morning or even 3 times a week after the first week or so.  Although this might be unnecessary for the kids you are planning to retain in the herd, teaching them to take a bottle will allow you to sell a kid before weaning because it will readily take a bottle.  This also helps if you are going to show the dam as you can feed the kid while the mother is bagged up for the show.   Also if for some reason you decide to sell the dam or the kid, it is easily transferred to bottle feeding.  This is also helpful if the doe should die or become ill and cannot nurse her kids because of treatment etc.  For the first month, I pick each kid up and pet it as I return it to its mother.  After the kid is a month old, I put a collar on it and lead it to its mom, that way, it learns to lead and does not have to be dragged around the show ring.   The kid soon learns that not only does it get food from me, I am also the one who helps it find its mother (its source of food).  While away from mom, you can feed it pellets or feed with a coccidiastat.   Because it will be hungry every morning, it will even more readily eat its feed.   

Care of the doe: You will milk out the doe completely every night, removing all of the milk from her udder.  In the mornings, for the first month, you can leave a little milk in the udder for the kids but this is unnecessary if you have given the kid a bottle before releasing it to the herd.

After the first month, I milk the doe completely every morning, taking all of the milk.  This will encourage the hungry kid to eat feed or hay with its dam.  Within 2 hours after milking, the mother will have adequate milk to feed its babies and she will continually make milk throughout the day.  Sometimes kids will favor one teat more than another and especially a single kid.  If at night, you find the doe with more milk in one side than the other, tape the favored teat the next morning for a day or two forcing the kids to nurse both sides of the udder.  This will keep her mammary from becoming uneven. 

One of the advantages of dam raising is that the doe is never overfull during the day and can better fit to your schedule.  You donít have to worry about being late for the evening chores because the kids are relieving her all day long.  The kids too are being fed as they need it eliminating the need for you to feed multiple feedings during the day.  Allowing her to make 12 hours of milk during the night gets her used to carrying milk and keeps her from arching her back during the show. It also keeps her from walking around all evening with a full udder putting strain on udder attachments.  Does who are allowed to raise their kids seldom blow teats like often happens with does that are bagged up morning and evening and you will find that evening chores take less time because there are usually just a few squirts of milk to be removed from the udder.   

Multiple kids:  Having triplets and especially quads can be a challenge to dam raising.  Sometimes, you can graft at least one of the quads onto another doe who has a single kid or you may have bottle it a couple morning and evening to make sure they are all getting the proper amount.  Keeping a watchful eye on their progress will result in more proper developed kids. 

You will find with penning the kids each night, the kids will quickly learn the routine and will come when called into their pen for their evening feed.  Because our Sundays are rather busy, we leave the kids out on Saturday night to minimize the chores on Sunday, cutting down on our milking time. 

Although each goat breeder must find what works for them, we find that dam raising produces happier does and healthier and happier kids if managed properly.


To sum up this thread, let me emphathize again the importance of having a clean herd and being a responsible breeder by being responsible not spreading disease. This is important whether you have $50 goats or $1000 goats.   Here at Pruittville, we will pull a pre-ordered kid at birth and feed it pasteurized milk and heat-treated colostrum.  It is not being a responsible breeder to spread disease by pretending or hoping that one's herd is clean. 

While testing may not be 100% accurate, it is still an excellent tool at your disposal.  Use it!  Cull all disease from your herd by isolating or butchering.  This is a price I was willing to pay years ago to have a clean herd and have maintained that status for many years now.   However I personally know of goat breeders that have not done this and continue to spread disease even after years of knowledge of knowing how to prevent it because they will not cull or isolate diseased animals from the herd.

Although heat treating the colostrum or pastuerizing the milk is not 100% foolproof, it is a great tool.  There are a number of reasons why it is not failproof.  You can fail to reach and hold the proper temperature on the colostrum or have equipment failure and the temperature not reach the desired temps or simply have human error.  Chances of human error can increase when you have others (children, hired help, or spouses) do your pastuerizing. 

By testing, you can separate the affected animals and not use their milk for animal consumption.   

Let's face it, dam raising increases the risk of spreading disease because of feeding raw milk to your kids just as drinking raw milk does when feeding for human consumption.  Pastuerizing minimizes those risk.  Testing (isolating and culling) further minimizes those risks. By all means, do your part in preventing the spread of disease by first making certain your herd is clean and then supplying only disease free animals for the enjoyment of others. 

 Tim Pruit


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