Our Programs Over the Years (and still evolving!)
2007- Nursery Pen Raising: We have tried many methods over the years; from dam raising to total bottle raising and are now trying a hybrid system in which the dams (our herd has always been CAE free) are allowed to lick the babies clean and bond with them, but do not nurse them. Once they are on their feet, the kids are placed in a nursery pen. The mom can put her head through the wire to lick and nurture the kids, but they cannot nurse her. After a few days in this pen (the mom has access to the herd if she wants it) and when the babies prove that they are bonded to the bottle and not the udder, then they can go out with their mom for play time. At two weeks they are moved to another pen. We bottle feed them colostrum from their dam. When they are ready for the bucket feeder (and we try to get them onto that right away), then they receive pasteurized goat milk and later raw milk from our Jersey cow (who is Johnes, TB, and Brucellosis free). We are happy to raise your reserved kid on only pasteurized milk.
Spring 2008, modified 2012- Hybrid Method # 2: This has been our biggest kidding season yet – 58 kids. We were pushed to our limits of sanity and ability in taking care of that many kids in the fashion we prefer. So we are trying yet another system of raising them, thanks to some advice from the commercial dairy goat list members combined with our own goals. I think this is the one for us (for now!). Here is how it goes:
Birth: Doe whose labor is imminent is moved to a kidding pen with that is attached to the main doe pen, so she can still see her friends and be less stressed. The doe (provided she was not from the group that received mixed-raw milk in 2004-2005) is allowed to clean and nurse her kids. We have a camera monitor in the ceiling above this kidding pen so that we can watch and make sure that we are there for every delivery to assist if needed and dip cords as well as give the mom a bucket of hot molasses water and a calcium drench.
0- 24 Hours: Doe and kids stay in kidding pen, doe is taken to milk stand with others to be milked out thoroughly and have her grain. This also begins accustoming kids to having mom leave.
Days 2-5: Doe is returned to main pen (she can lay by her kids in the kidding pen and see them). Three times a day, she is brought out into the main breezeway and the kids are brought to her for nursing. This accustoms the kids to associating you with feeding time. Doe starts accepting being away from her kids.
Day 5: Kid is moved to communal kid pen. Mom can see through adjoining fence line (if kid comes out to see her). Mom is taken to breezeway to feed kid.
Day 7: No feeding kid (sounds harsh, but unless they are frail, they do just fine). Then a bottle is offered. So far, they all take it without a problem. If the kid seems eager to feed before that, you can try a bottle sooner.
Day 7-?: Kid is fed on a bottle until ready for the bucket feeder. For some this is only 12 hours, for others it takes a couple of days. If they are in pens with other bucket fed kids, they learn much quicker, that great competitive nature of goats.
Spring 2009- Update: This year was even bigger- 84 kids. We did some reorganization of the pens and the system worked well. It seemed no crazier than 2008! We followed the same routine as above, but used tubs for hours 24-96. (see photo above) During the “tub” phase, the mom’s could see and lick their kids. Then we moved them to subdivided pens (the first of which shared a fence line with the mom’s pen). These pens have dividers that can be rearranged to make the pens smaller or larger depending upon how many were in the group. The interior portion has rubber floor mats that are cleaned daily, the outside area is of decomposed granite cleaned daily. (See photo left). We try to keep the kids in groups that are of similar age and feeding requirements. At 4 weeks of age, we begin clip tying them while they wait their turn to feed on the bucket feeder, this helps them learn to lead and helps us keep some of the more aggressive kids from overeating. We used Deccox-M in the milk and lost no kids to cocci- nice change for us and for the kids! We switch to Deccox crumbles after weaning and do routine fecal float examinations to make sure it is working.
Bucket Feeding Options: We have spent a lot of money trying out just about every nipple on the market that will work with some kind of bucket feeder. Here are our conclusions thus far:
Caprine Nipples with straw type lamb bar: If you only have a few kids to feed, these work well, but you cannot start Nigerian kids on them right away, as the nipples are too big. So you have to transition to them after a week or two. This is easiest done by first feeding the kid with the new nipple on a bottle and not on the lamb bar (bucket). Since they are accustomed to drinking from a bottle, you can get them used to the new nipple pretty quickly by feeding them this way first. After they have the nipple down, then try them on the bucket.
If you use a bucket with a lid that has a gasket seal, then clean up is very easy. Since the bucket can seal tightly, you can fill it with hot water and then shake it a bit; pressure will build up and then the hot water will come up and out through the straws and nipples, basically self cleaning. Do this with a pre-rinse, wash, and sanitizer cylce. Every few days you should take it apart for a more thorough cleaning. (Note: use this same pressure method to get the kids onto the bucket. Snap the lid on with the warm milk in it and gently swirl it. Milk will start dripping out of the nipples which really helps the kids start sucking.)
Drawbacks to the straw type feeder: You cannot just sit it on the ground, they will knock it over. It has to be held down with either your foot or with a special holder. Transition to the caprine nipples is difficult for younger Nigerian kids.
Bucket feeder with red lamb nipples at bottom of square pail: You can buy softer latex nipples for this type system. They are soft enough for most Nigerian kids to drink from very early. The latex (tan) nipples wear out faster than the red rubber ones, so after they get good at drinking from the bucket with the latex nipples, we swap them out for the red ones. You can also buy extra gaskets and convert Pritchard teats to this bucket HOWEVER, despite following all instructions and talking to the manufacturer, we could not get the Pritchards to stop leaking if the bucket was filled with enough milk to cover the nipple assembly. We still use them on a bucket to start really small kids with (and then transition to the latex and then rubber nipples), but then we don’t fill it as high with milk.
Major disadvantage: You can make a hanger just like the ones they sell for these square pails (out of a section of cattle or hog panel) but if you hang the bucket from the handle like this, then the kids on the side nipples will push and shove and tip the bucket. We built a bracket that goes around the middle of the bucket and holds it very snug. It is a bit awkward to use, but works great. I will post a photo of it at some point.
You do have to disassemble the nipple assemblies for cleaning each time.
Biggest advantage: We fill one bucket with enough milk for all of the kids. We have collars on most of the babies. We clip tie them all to the fence at feeding time. This not only lets us feed a few babies at a time, but it teaches them how to stand tied and helps with leading later on. As each batch finishes, they are lifted into a holding (pen) and another batch is fed. This way we know when they are all done and no one sneaks in for seconds. When they are all done, we open the gate of the holding pen and they all exit to have their pellets. Any older kids are unclipped and feeding is done.
Cool Milk Free Choice Method: We tried that this spring (using the Pritchard teats on the square pail first) and it was working quite well. The kids were not at all pushy. But they were getting super fat! Even being fed our cow milk (which isn’t as high in fat). I really liked it though, and will try it again, perhaps diluting the milk a bit.
Free-choice update Fall 2007: We tried this method again this Fall. Through diluting the milk with an electrolyte solution, we were able to keep their weight down. We calculated the total amount of milk each pen should have each day and then if they were finishing it too fast, we added the electrolyte solution to a volume that would keep some in the bucket. We also added frozen gallon jugs of water to slow their consumption. It worked, but the downfall was LOTS OF URINE output! We had a very wet pen, which is not that healthy for them (it was a good sized pen too). So we are still not sure if this is the best method for us. Also, at about 7 weeks we had to switch to twice a day anyway to start tapering them off for weaning.
Spring 2008 update: We went back to feeding two to three times in measured amounts. It was just too wet in the pen the other way. I still think it is the better choice, if you can get them to do it properly. In talking to other dairy owners with Nigerians, none have found the free-choice method to work well with them. They seem to be little piglets in disguise!
Spring 2012 Update: Well, we finally got the free choice system to work. Instead of free choice cold milk, we make them drinkable yogurt. This slows them down and makes it more work, so no more fat babies, but lots of satisfied, quiet babies. At weaning time, I simply begin progressively diluting the yogurt with electrolyte solution. The kids think they are getting their nursing time, but are hungrier and begin eating more solids.
Disbudding: All kids are disbudded within the first week, approx., of life; just as soon as the horn bud pushes through the tiniest bit. For buck kids this is often within 3 days of life. The kids are anesthetized for this procedure. While their is a slight risk with using anesthesia, we feel that it is much more humane and we also are able to do a better job when there is no thrashing and screaming going on. We also give them an injection of tetanus antitoxin at this time.
Castrating: Buck kids that are destined for “wether-hood” are banded at 4-6 weeks. We know that banding somewhat controversial, some feel it is inhumane, but we have participated in both emasculator procedures as well as cutting, and find all of them to be unpleasant, to say the least. Poor little guys! We do anesthetize our boys for this procedure, give them some Banamine, prior to going under, give a tetanus toxoid booster, and also re-burn any horn growth that might have appeared (sometimes with the buck kids, you just can’t escape a scur or two.) So far, our boys wake up and seem uncomfortable for about 2 hours (but not overly distressed) and then are fine. We care very much about these goats, and would certainly change to any less traumatic method if available.
2008 has been our worst year for coccidiosis losses in kids. It came without ANY diarrhea. Kids would go off feed midday and be dead by the evening. We had a necropsy done at the university to verify that it was indeed coccidia that was the culprit. We had the kids on dimethox (albon) when the losses occured. We had also been following an herbal prevention protocol. Conditions in our kid areas are pretty darned sanitary (as much so as you can get, given that kids like to eat the bedding and test out anything on the ground). So after getting some advice from the commercial dairy goat list that I am on, we switched to a coccidiostat called lasalocid. It is an ionophore and I am not really thrilled with that, but they have stopped suffering and dying. So until we can figure out a better choice, we will use this and recommend it for sulfa resistant coccidia. We buy lamb creep feed which is medicated with lasalocid and add it in the form of Pro-bac C to their milk. Kids that are not eating enough of the creep feed will not get enough to matter, so it much be included in their milk until they are consuming enough of the creep feed. ( I had to do a lot of pharmacological math to figure it all out, thank goodness for my old nursing degree!) The Pro-Bac C product also contains vitamins and probiotics. Ionophores are antibacterial, so the probiotics are important for counteracting the loss of good bacteria.
Fall 2008 Update: Well so much for that sense of security. We had our fall kidding and got the kids on the Pro-Bac C right away. At about 4-6 weeks of age we lost 40% of them within one week to coccidiosis. Again no diarrhea to speak of. We treated the rest of the pen with a 10 day course of sulfadimethoxine in the highest dosage range we could find recommended. The fecal float after showed no more eggs. If only I had done the fecal floats earlier! A friend has recommended decoquinate in a powder form to add to the milk (we tried the crumbles, but the young kids don’t eat enough to prevent the outbreak). We will try that next spring and also do floats every week. No more lasolocid, it wasn’t working on the coccidia we have here.
Spring 2009: So far so good! The Deccox M is working great. Fecal floats on kids 6-8 weeks of age show just one or two coccidia eggs.
Spring 2010: I thought this year I would try sulfa-dimethoxine 5 days at 3,6, and 9 weeks of age. But by 6 weeks old, the first group had high fecal counts of coccidia eggs and several had diarrhea. So I put that group on treatment level doses for 10 days and switched all the subsequent kids back to Decoxx M. Don’t know why I couldn’t have just left well enough alone and stuck with the decoquinate!
Spring 2013: Given the low stress environment that our free choice yogurt system seems to be creating – and the healthiest looking kids I think we have yet had. I stopped giving any preventative, but did treat each animal at weaning. I did lose one (verified by field necropsy) to coccidiosis, after a horrible weather change and stress.