Bottle Feeding Goats - Myles and Maizey / Sundaze Farm

Goat owners can be very passionate when it comes to opinions on bottle-raising versus dam-raising kids. We have done both on our farm and I’ve been happy with the results either way.

Bottle feeding goat kids is a lot of work, but if you have the time in your schedule, it can also be a lot of fun! It’s also a great experience for 4-H kids with their first project animal. Bottle-raised kids tend to be tamer simply because they are handled so much. The downside to this is that you build a strong association in their minds that people = food. Bottle-fed kids tend to grow into “obnoxious” adult goats that are very attention-seeking and have a tendency to jump all over you begging for treats. Some people find these qualities endearing while others find them annoying.

Dam-raising is certainly easier for someone with a busy schedule (so long as you have a cooperative doe). Just because you dam-raise kids doesn’t mean they won’t be tame; it just means you may need to put extra effort into spending 1-on-1 time with the kids daily to get them used to human interaction.

Even if you never plan to bottle raise any of your baby goats, it’s best to be prepared just in case. Sometimes dams reject their kids, or (heaven forbid) sometimes they die and leave behind orphans that must be bottle-fed. Having some basic supplies and know-how to use in these situations can save kids in these situations.

What to Bottle Feed Baby Goats

During the first 24 hours after birth, its essential that a newborn kid is fed colostrum. You can feed this in one of the following ways:

  • Allow the kid the nurse colostrum from its mother (then separate after 1-2 days and begin bottle feeding)
  • Bottle feed goat colostrum (either milked from the dam or if you have frozen excess colostrum on hand, you can heat that and use it)
  • Bottle feed a goat colostrum replacer such as this one from Manna Pro

Note, if you don’t have extra goat colostrum on hand in your freezer, I highly recommend keeping a package of colostrum replacer in your kidding kit. It’s terrible to think about a doe dying, but if this should occur, you don’t want to be stuck without a source of colostrum replacer when all the farm stores are closed or sold out.

Bottle Feeding Goats - Mike and Maizey / Sundaze Farm

Once you are beyond the first 24 hours, you can switch over to bottle feeding milk. With this, you also have a few options:

  • Milk the dam and bottle feed her milk
  • Bottle feed pasteurized whole cow’s milk
  • Bottle feed a milk/evaporated milk/buttermilk recipe (see below)
  • Commercial powdered milk replacer made specifically for goats

I have used all the methods above with the exception of commercial milk replacer. I’ve anecdotally heard mixed reviews on powdered milk replacers so I find it easier to just use milk or the homemade recipe below, which have all worked quite well for me.

Note that you should never abruptly change which type of milk you are giving or it can lead to scours and illness. If you have to change over to a different source (for instance, if you started a kid on goat milk, but no longer have a source), you will need to gradually transition them to the new milk over the course of several days.

Homemade Goat Milk Replacer Recipe

1 gallon whole cow’s milk (pasturized)
1 can evaporated milk
1 cup buttermilk

Directions: Pour out about 1/3 of the whole milk into a separate container. Pour buttermilk and evaporated milk into the gallon jug with the remaining whole milk. Pour the remaining whole milk back into the jug to fill it to the top. Make sure to shake the jug to mix everything each time before you use it.
(Note that this is a replacement for milk, not colostrum. This should not be fed till after the baby has had colostrum for at least the first 24 hours of life.)

Bottle Feeding Goats - Ben and Britches / Sundaze Farm

Bottles and Nipples for Baby Goats

For bottle feeding, we have had the most success using Pritchard teats screwed onto the tops of 20 ounce soda bottles.

Another option that many people like are lamb nipples. These also pop over the top of a 20 ounce soda bottle. I have purchased these in the past, but have always found our kids do better on Pritchard teats.

Finally, many people use regular, inexpensive baby bottles and nipples from the dollar store. I haven’t had any luck with this at all (particularly when initially trying to get a kid started on a bottle), but it is a very inexpensive option if it works for you!

Bottle Feeding Goats - Mandi and Daisy / Sundaze Farm

How Often and How Much to Bottle Feed Baby Goats

The first thing to understand is that baby goats have tummies that are basically bottomless pits. They will happily eat and eat until they make themselves sick, so you can’t judge their “hunger” by their desire to drink another bottle. Overfeeding can make goats ill, so it is always better to leave them wanting a bit more than to give them so much milk that they get full and stop eating.

I like to go by the general guidelines from this site as well as my own personal experience. This is an approximation of what we do:

Age# of FeedingsOunces Per FeedingGrain/Hay
Less than 1 WeekFeed every 2-4 hours4 oz.None
1-2 WeeksFeed every 4 hours
(can go up to 6 hours without feeding overnight)
4-5 oz.Hay should be available at all times from this point on
2-3 WeeksFeed every 5 hours
(can go up to 8 hours without feeding overnight)
5-6 oz.Begin offering grain 2x a day (¼ cup)
Continue to offer hay at all times
4-5 WeeksFeed 4 times per day
(breakfast, lunch, dinner, bedtime)
8 oz.Offer grain 2x a day
(¼ cup)
Offer hay at all times
5-6 WeeksFeed 3 times per day
(breakfast, lunch, dinner)
8-10 oz.Offer grain 2x a day (½ cup)
Offer hay at all times
7-9 WeeksFeed 2 times per day10-15 oz.Offer grain 2x a day (¾ cup)
Offer hay at all times
10 Weeks till WeaningFeed 1 bottle per day, gradually cutting back the amount of milk in the bottle ) Continue to offer grain 2x a day (¾ cup)
Should be eating lots of hay by now

Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian. This article is based upon our research and our experience bottle feeding our own goats. Please do your own research and consult with your veterinarian.