One of the cutest things is a tiny goat kid. They’re so tiny, lovable and adorable.
When they get sick or don’t seem quite right, it can really be scary. Usually, the cure is easy and something that you can do yourself. Learn how to take care of a weak goat kid in this article.
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Signs of a healthy goat kid
Before we get into how to care for a weak goat kid, let’s talk about what a healthy goat kid should look like…
You’ll soon lean that goat kids are pretty vocal.
We have three small bottle goats that fuss when they want to eat, when they want to be held (spoiled them the first day) and sometimes just to hear themselves. Goat kids that don’t feel well aren’t always vocal. With that being said, they can still fuss even if they don’t feel 100%.
Goat kids are usually up and moving around.
This is especially true if there is something to explore or climb on. They will put your clothes in their mouth. They will climb on everything and they will attempt to climb up you.
These are all totally normal and signs of a happy, healthy, confident goat kid.
Goat kid poop shouldn’t be watery or runny.
It should be semi-hard and pelleted, like adult goat poop. It should also be a dark green color. Just in case anyone was wondering what goat kid poop should look like!
They should eat frequently.
If they are nursing from mom, you may not notice how frequently they nurse. As long as they don’t look thin, they’re probably nursing enough from her.
They’ll start trying feed and things that she’s eating not long after they’re born. This doesn’t mean that they are necessarily ready for weaning and adult food though.
Their little ruminant stomachs take time to develop the bacteria necessary to digest their food.
Identifying a weak goat kid
This sounds silly, but how do you know if you’ve goat a weak goat kid?
There are a few things that could be wrong with goat kids. Sometimes you’ll hear people talk about ‘floppy’ goat kids. Sometimes you’ll hear the term ‘weak’ goat kids, or even ‘dummy’ goat kids. These can mean different things, so let’s determine what exactly is going on with your goat kid.
Floppy Goat Kids
Floppy goat kid syndrome is a diagnosis that is used to describe goat kids that have overeaten. This is more common in Boer goats and Boer goat crosses. It’s also seen frequently in goat kids that are in confined spaces with their mother and nurse more frequently than necessary.
Floppy goat kid syndrome is usually diagnosed in goat kids that are less than 10 days old. Floppy kids appear weak almost like they have no energy.
Don’t try to force feed a goat kid if you think it is a floppy goat as this will worsen the problem. To treat a floppy goat kid, give them baking soda.
Sodium bicarbonate, baking soda, neutralizes the pH of the goat’s stomach. Floppy kids have very acidic stomachs and the baking soda has a very basic pH.
After treating a floppy goat kid, it’s important to keep them off of milk while they recover. 24-36 hours without milk is usually sufficient.
Antibiotics can also be given to treat any infections of the stomach that may also occur.
Weak Goat Kids
Where floppy kids have overeaten, weak kids are starving.
A weak kid can be a goat kid that was born too early, got too cold or has stronger siblings that don’t allow it to nurse properly.
Weak goat kids may not be able to stand due to the lack of energy that they have.
Their back legs may splay out and their head may curl back over their back. They might push themselves around with their back legs while their front legs are buckled.
Check their rectal temperature.
If you take their temperature, it won’t be elevated.
Most likely it will be low.
A weak goat kid is unable to maintain their body temperature properly.
If the temperature is low (<100 degrees F), then you need to get them warmed up. A heating pad is the best option and a heating lamp can work in a pinch.
I’ve even brought them into my house and put them over the warm air vents to get their bodies warm.
You can put them into a bathtub filled with warm water, just make sure that you stand there and keep their head out of the water.
Massaging the extremities will help get the blood flowing again. When the goat kid gets too cold, the blood flows mainly around the ‘important’ areas- the heart, lungs, intestines, brain, etc.
Blood flow to the legs is restricted. Massage the legs as the goat warms up to help redistribute the blood flow.
Getting them re-hydrated
Lactated Ringer’s Solution can be given to weak goat kids to help rehydrate them.
This is a prescription medication however, and has to come from a veterinary clinic. Lactated Ringer’s Solution is a good product to have on hand as it can be used to quickly rehydrate goats that have become dehydrated for any reason.
The stomach of a really weak goat kid may not be able to handle milk yet.
You can mix up a simple sugar solution using molasses, sugar or even Karo syrup mixed into water. This sugar solution contains really simple sugars that can be easily digested, even by a weak stomach.
If the goat kid will drink, bottle feed this solution. When bottle feeding goat kids, make sure to use lamb and goat kid bottles with lamb and goat kid nipples.
You can give it to them with a syringe if they cannot nurse. If feeding with a syringe, give the weak goat kid time to swallow and make sure that you’re giving it slow enough that it doesn’t leak out of the mouth.
Make sure that they got colostrum
Goat kids that are weak from birth may not nurse in time to get colostrum from their mother. Colostrum is extremely important. It contains proteins, probiotics and antibodies from the dam’s body that will kick-start the immune system and the digestive system.
If the kid did not nurse, you can hand milk some of the colostrum from the mother and give it to the kid. Colostrum is thick and yellowy, while milk is off-white and thinner.
If the goat has siblings and the mother doesn’t have colostrum, you can purchase colostrum from many feed supply stores. I was able to easily purchase goat colostrum from my local Tractor Supply store.
Using thiamine to ‘wake them up’
It may also help to give weak goat kids an injection of thiamine, AKA vitamin B1. This is also a prescription item that is helpful to have on hand.
The B1 works to feed the brain and ‘wake it up’ so that the kid will show interest in eating. You can purchase B-vitamin complexes and probiotic pastes from your local feed supply store.
These are also good to have on hand. However, these pastes don’t have the concentrated amounts of vitamin B1 that the injection has, so it’s a good idea to have both available. Better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it!
If you notice a weak goat kid, the sooner that you can intervene, the better. Goat kids should be up and nursing within an hour of birth. A weak goat kid that isn’t nursing or hasn’t gotten up needs help.
If they are given help soon, they should make a full recovery.
A weak goat kid that has stronger siblings may need extra nutrition. You can supplement the mother’s milk with milk replacer if the kid can’t get enough from the mother.
Preventing Weak Goat Kids
One of the easiest ways to prevent weak goat kids is to take care of the mother during pregnancy and lactation.
Make sure that your pregnant does have adequate feed and access to ample roughage. They also need free access to loose goat minerals (NOT sheep and goat minerals).
A healthy momma usually means healthy goat kids that require little or no intervention. This also means making sure that she isn’t dealing with unnecessary parasite loads. Learn how to prevent that with FAMACHA scoring.
For more information on taking good care of your goats, read my Beginner’s Guide to Raising Goats.
Don’t stop taking extra care of the dam as soon as she gives birth. She has additional nutrition needs so that she can produce enough milk to feed her kids. This is especially true if she has multiple kids.
It’s common for does to have twins and triplets.
If your doe has more than one kid at a time, make sure that the kids are eating frequently and enough. Goat kids should look full and fat all of the time. A goat kid that doesn’t look like it’s about to pop after eating may not be getting enough to eat.
Pregnant does that are close to giving birth need to be brought into an area that is warm and secluded, especially if it is cold outside. This will help prevent the birth of weak goat kids due to cold temperatures.
Proper nutrition and care will help prevent weak goat kids. But, if they do happen, you’ll be prepared to take care of them.
Have you had weak goat kids? How do you prevent weak goat kids and promote healthy goat kids in your herd? Hit reply and let me know below!