Keeping livestock on the homestead can be a rewarding and satisfying experience and, in some cases, become a means to develop an income from your animals. But what do you do when things don’t go according to plan? What if you have a baby goat that the mother rejected, and the baby goat is refusing to take the bottle?
Simulate the natural feeding position, feeling, and stimuli that the baby goat would have nursing from the mother.
- Hold the kid in your lap.
- Cradle its head in an upward position.
- Gently open the baby goat’s mouth and insert the teat.
- Cover the goat’s eyes.
- Wipe the kid’s bum with a paper towel.
Livestock problems can be some of the most difficult ones to solve because these animals sometimes have a stubborn streak of their own and defy logic and prescribed actions to remedy a problem. Goats can be particularly hard-headed and stubborn animals, which sometimes requires you to be inventive when problem-solving with goats!
Why Do Baby Goats Refuse The Bottle?
Sometimes the mother goat will reject a baby goat; this often happens with first-time mother goats, or if the mother has multiple kids and the weaker one is then rejected or outcompeted at the udder by the siblings.
In these instances, you will need to bottle feed the baby goat if it is to survive. But this is sometimes the implementation of this is not so easy. The kid will sometimes not take to being bottle-fed right away.
The main reason that the baby goat will not take the bottle is that it is unfamiliar. It does not feel like the mother, the flow is different, and the stimuli to get the baby to drink are not there as they would be if it was suckling from the mother.
These factors all contribute to the baby rejecting the bottle, even if they are hungry. This rejection can be a frustrating and somewhat stressful problem to solve.
But let’s take a look at some tactics and strategies that you can use to get the baby goat to accept the bottle and get the little thing eating and on the road to being a healthy goat!
How To Get A Baby Goat To Feed From A Bottle
Often, the best way to get a baby goat to take to eating from a bottle is a process of trial and error. You can attempt some of the following tactics on your own, add your own ideas, or try various combinations of these tips.
The idea around all of them is to try to make the bottle feeding process feel as natural as possible to the baby goat as if it were drinking from its mother.
Encouraging An Eager Kid Goat To Take The Bottle
If the baby goat is fairly strong and is showing an eagerness to feed, sometimes they need the most basic of encouragements to take the bottle.
The way to do this is to simulate the natural drinking position of the goat. To do this, you can try the following positions and strategies to encourage the baby goat to drink.
- Sit in the right position. Sit down on a low chair so that your thigh is horizontal to the ground and your knee makes a 90-degree angle.
- Don’t hold the baby goat. Let the baby goat stand next to your leg on the outside of your leg.
- What to do when the baby nudges. If the baby is ready to feed, it will nudge your thigh with its nose. This is a natural action that tells the mother the baby wants to feed, and it stimulates milk flow in the mother’s udder. When the baby nudges your leg, present the teat of the bottle from behind your knee. Keep the teat a little behind your knee so that the baby goat’s face and eyes will be covered by your leg.
- If the baby does not nudge, then simply direct the baby’s mouth toward the teat sticking out from under your leg. Hopefully, once the baby goat smells or tastes the milk, it will be encouraged to start nursing.
This method of feeding a baby goat simulates the natural position and feeding of the mother. This would be the preferable method to use, but sometimes your baby goat won’t play along or will be too weak to feed with this method.
Getting A Weak Or Reluctant Kid Goat To Take The Bottle
If the baby goat is weak or is a reluctant feeder, the first method that we described may not work, and you may have to take matters into your own hands, so to speak.
This approach will be more hands-on and will require you to hold the baby goat to feed them. This method is the best method to try if the baby is particularly weak and struggles to stand on its own, or if it is a reluctant feeder.
- Hold the baby goat in your lap. Holding the baby goat in your lap will give you more control over the goat, and you can hold them under your arm while leaving both hands free for the rest of the feeding process.
- Cradle its head in an upward position. Hold the baby goat’s head slightly elevated to mimic the angle it would receive milk from its mother. Don’t try to feed them with the bottle in a horizontal position, or only slightly raised. This is not a natural feeding position for the goats.
- Gently open the baby goat’s mouth. Hold the bottle in your free hand, and with the hand that is holding the goat, gently force the mouth open to get the teat inside the mouth. They will often not open their mouth of their own accord to take the teat.
- Cover the goat’s eyes. Once the baby has latched onto the teat, use the same hand that you used to open the mouth to gently cover the baby goat’s eyes and rest on its face. This mimics their face being covered as they drink from the mother.
- Wipe the kid’s bum with a paper towel. If the baby goat is not wanting to latch onto the teat, you can try to wipe their bum with a paper towel, which simulates their mother licking them in this position when they are feeding. This trick will often get a reluctant feeder to start sucking on the bottle. You’ll want to experiment with dry and damp paper towels.
- Wiggle the teat in their mouth. Every now and then, wiggle the teat in the baby goat’s mouth when you feel them starting to slacken off on their sucking. This will often stimulate them to suck again.
- Let the baby goat take a break. If the baby goat needs to take a break, then let them. After a minute or two, try to get them to take the bottle again, particularly if they have not eaten the right amount in the feeding session.
These tips should get your baby goat drinking from the bottle, but there are a few things you could also consider if you are still having trouble with your goat.
Be careful not to get milk up their nose. Baby goats do not like this, and they may associate a bottle feed with this unpleasant outcome and thus refuse to take the bottle.
Try using different teats on the bottle if you are struggling to get the goat to latch onto the teat. Some people have success with teats intended for use on human babies, especially if the baby goat is a small breed. Others find that the teats sold at their local farm supply shop work well, and the goat will take this over a teat designed for humans.
Desperation Goat Feeding Measures for Kids
Sometimes the baby just won’t take the bottle, and you have to resort to other methods of feeding to ensure their survival.
Try the following measures as last resort tactics to get your baby goat to feed.
- Try pouring the milk into a bowl and let them drink it as if they are drinking water. This has been known to work as an alternative strategy.
- Let them suck your finger and use a syringe to squirt the milk down the side of your finger as they suck it. Sometimes the teats do simply not feel natural enough to the baby, but your finger does.
If none of these bottle-feeding methods work, you may need to consider tube feeding the baby goat, but that is another topic all on its own since it is fraught with hazards for the baby goat. You may need to get your vet to advise you on this method before you attempt it on your own. The risk is that you feed the milk into their lungs as opposed to the stomach, and effectively you will drown the baby goat.
Final Thoughts on Getting a Baby Goat to Take the Bottle
When bottle-feeding a baby goat, you need to have patience and don’t try to rush the process. The kid goat will need to eat 4 to 5 times a day, and it could easily take 30 to 45 minutes at each feeding session to get them to feed correctly and to get the right amount of food.
Perseverance will pay off, however. Plus, the more frequently you feed them, the faster and easier they’ll grow. Over time, they will get stronger and also learn how to take the bottle and feed much easier.
Your little goat should be drinking up to 8 oz of milk per feeding session, but some problem feeders may only drink half this amount in a session. In that case, you may need to feed them more frequently.
Feeding baby animals that have been rejected by the mother can be a difficult and troublesome task. Try to enlist the help of friends and family to ease the burden and don’t give up. But if all your efforts fail or the kid ever takes a turn for the worse, please consult a vet about the problem immediately.
It’s important to learn from your own experience, but it’s also smart to learn from others. These are the sources used in this article and in our personal research to be more informed as homesteaders.
- Baby Goat Won’t Take Bottle, Help! 24 June 2007, www.homesteadingtoday.com/threads/baby-goat-wont-take-bottle-help.191991/.
- “Baby Goat, Bottle Refusal, Frustrating!” BackYard Chickens – Learn How to Raise Chickens, BackYard Chickens – Learn How to Raise Chickens, 11 Jan. 2011, www.backyardchickens.com/threads/baby-goat-bottle-refusal-frusterating.438114/.
- “Help! My Goat won’t drink the bottle!” Houzz Forums. https://www.houzz.com/discussions/1430007/help-my-goat-won-t-drink-the-bottle
- This video on YouTube is worth watching, too.