Nowadays goat milk is considered to be a healthy specialty food, goat milk products can be found on the menus of restaurants as exquisite courses. The main goal of dairy goat farming is to increase the amount of milk sold, which led to an increased interest in hand-rearing systems that offer a quicker “return to work” for the doe, leading to an increase of the daily and the lactation milk yields, with the added benefit of better teat health. Some research even shows that the hand rearing of twin kids is more successful than conventional rearing, but in general a 20% increase in weight gain can be achieved with the appropriate technology by hand rearing, when compared to the conventional method. Nevertheless, not respecting the technology and the basic principles of goat kid rearing can result in severe economic losses.
First of all it is very important to provide the appropriate conditions for the kids. Goat kids should be taken away from the doe in the first 48 hours of life, making sure that they have ingested the proper amount of colostrum. If they are separated right after birth, they should be fed colostrum within the first 2 hours and then again within 6 hours, this is the minimum required to achieve proper immunity. If the colostrum of their own mother is not available, the kids can be fed fresh colostrum from other does or colostrum preserved by freezing or acidifying. The best colostrum is collected from older does in the first 48 hours after parturition, and frozen colostrum should be thawed slowly, without direct heat to avoid the degradation of the antibodies it contains.
Milk replacer should be introduced gradually into the kid’s diet following the period of colostrum feeding. A milk replacer from the CREMO product range of Bonafarm-Bábolna Takarmány is a good choice, but generally speaking, higher weight gains can be achieved if the milk protein or whey protein ratio is higher in the milk replacer. Digestibility is an important characteristic of milk replacers, young animals tolerate high plant protein contents less. The Crémo Gold milk replacer has a high milk protein content, contains high quality whey proteins and an optimal balance of amino acids, making it a good basis for proper growth. The milk replacer developed by Bábolna Takarmány contains a source of fats that meets the essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid requirements of the kids, while the antimicrobial effect of the medium chain fatty acids and three probiotics (Bacillus subtilis, Bacillus licheniformis, Enterococcus faecium) prevent the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut and the appearance of diarrhoea caused by the imbalance of the gut microbiota.
Milk replacers should be fed from day 4 according to international recommendations. Ad libitum feeding is more characteristic for Europe, while in the USA and Australia a method of phase feeding with predetermined amounts of milk replacer is recommended. Growth is better with the first method, but the second method is more cost effective. So it is advised to choose the method based on what your aim is with the goat kids. From the end of the first week the kids should have access to fine hay and pelleted lamb or kid feed (LAMBEX lamb feed) or possibly compound feed with an appropriate nutrient content. Special attention should be paid to the protein content of the compound feed at weaning, because this will be the only source of protein for the goat kid, now that it does not have access to the milk replacer anymore. The feed should have a crude protein content of at least 18-21% and a digestible energy content of 11 MJ. Providing proper amounts of good quality hay is also important, as this will provide structure needed for healthy rumination and digestion. Providing easily digestible, good quality feed is of utmost importance, because the development of the gut flora will have a long-term impact on the feed conversion capacity of the young goat. It is equally important to allow for a healthy development of the rumen. Rumen morphology starts developing dynamically after the kid starts eating solid feed and Crémo Müzli Starter contributes to an optimal development by providing the appropriate physical structure and wheat grains that ferment into esterified fatty acids (mainly propionic acid and butyric acid), which stimulate the development of the papillae in the rumen to allow for the largest possible surface for absorption. Crémo Müzli Starter contains flakes (corn, barley, full-fat soy) and conventional pellets of feed, its nutritional content fits optimally to the nutrient composition of the Crémo Gold milk replacer, providing a complex, complete nutritional system to support the growth of young animals. It contains a high amount of molasses which makes it very palatable for the young goats.
Special attention must be paid to keeping goat kids in a dry place free from drafts, with good quality litter free from mould (straw or wood shavings) and at a temperature of at least 7-8 °C. When using heating, especially heating lamps, care must be taken to provide enough space for every animal under the heater, to avoid them piling up on each other, which might lead to suffocation of the kids at the bottom. It is advisable to group the kids according to age to avoid competition over the access for feed, so bigger kids will not keep the smaller ones away from feed. If the weather is not extremely harsh, the kids can be kept in outside runs, providing them shelter from the elements.
In summary, we can conclude that it’s worth weaning the kids from the does as soon as possible, but rearing goat kids requires careful planning, proper care and strict adherence to management practices. In return, the does can be milked immediately after the colostrum phase to increase daily and lactation milk yields, while hand rearing the kids with the appropriate technology.
Kovács L., Pajor F., Tızsér J., Póti P.: A mesterséges gidanevelés tartási és takarmányozási gyakorlata és kutatási eredményei. Irodalmi összefoglaló. AWETH Vol 8. 2. (2012) és AWETH Vol 9.1. (2013)
Cannas, A., Pulina, G.: Dairy goats feeding and nutrition. (2008)
Poultry nutritionist consultant
Bonafarm-Bábolna Takarmány Ltd.