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Goats/Baby Goats Not Thriving


QUESTION: Hello.  I have a young pygmy doe who had her first two kids on Monday (2/22).  They nursed right away and seemed to be fine.  She has been a dedicated mama, but I've become increasingly concerned that the babies aren't getting enough to eat.  

First, about the mama:  her udder is small and hard.  I've tried milking her to see if anything comes out, and all I can get is a drop at the end of the teat.  I don't know if it's because I'm not doing it right (she's a pet and isn't normally milked so neither of us really know what we're doing) or because none is coming out.  Over the last few days, though, her teats have gone from white and stiff, to pink and more supple. She's eating well and is very patient with the babies, letting them eat as often as they want.

The babies: they nurse literally every five minutes or so, butting at the teats and bleating a little.  They go from teat to teat butting and suckling and bleating occasionally.  Sometimes, they latch and suck for maybe a full minute, but more often they bounce from teat to teat as previously described.  The doeling kid is the larger and seemed vigorous at first, but today she seems quiet and uninterested in moving around.  Mostly she either stands under the doe or lies down.  She will follow mom across the stable, but isn't leaping about by any stretch.  It's hard to tell if she's sleepy or weak.  The buckling was the smaller, skinnier of the two, but today he played around a bit in a more normal manner.  I haven't been able to catch either kid pooping, but have seen them pee.  They both feel thin and light, bellies not overly full but maybe not totally empty.

Concerned they're not getting enough, I tried bottle feeding them (Pritchard nipple on a glass bottle, warmed milk).  I used milk replacer since it's what I have handy, but neither seems interested.  I've put the nipple in their mouths and they turn away.  I've managed to get maybe a couple of sips in them, but certainly not anything on the order of ounces.  I don't know if it's because it's not what they're used to and I should persevere, or because they're full and I need to leave them be.  As soon as I give up on the bottle, they both go try to nurse mom with results as described above.  

I don't know if I'm interfering with something exactly normal, or if I'm teetering on the edge of disaster with them headed downward.  I've had livestock all my life, but this is my first experience with kids.  We had two others born two weeks ago and they are thriving, but their mom obviously has copious milk.  I even tried holding that doe and offering her udder to the new babies, but neither would have her.  Again, not sure if that's a sign they're full or just that they knew it wasn't mom, or that they don't know what to do.  I've considered warm compresses and trying to milk their mama, but it's a daunting task since we are both totally inexperienced.

Any advice would be so appreciated!  Thank you very much for your assistance in advance.


First of all good call on noticing this is wrong.. yes it is.. babies should  sleep wake pee/poop eat and play..  laying around is not normal - nursing every 5 minutes is also  not normal..  more like every half hour or so at a day or 2 old..  as they get older,, more time between feedings..

sounds like mama is a good mama.. she must be very young? she may or may not have much milk..  BUT this being said.. they  have a "let down" reflex that they can control..  and  she may not be letting down for you..  but  does for the babies - again she may not have enough milk ( going back and forth  teat to teat is normal..  getting frustrated about it is not - this says they are either not getting any or enough milk) they will also bump the udder.. to help stimulate the let down..  this is normal and while it may look frantic .. it is normal.. over doing it again however is not..  says 'no milk mama'..

First of all   none of my kids in 23+ years of  babies have ever really taken to a pritchard teat nipple. they all hate them.. (ALSO make sure  you have snipped off the end as there is NO hole in it - dp not snip off the entire end only a tiny tip of it..  ) - you are actually somewhat lucky they are not taking to the replacer- you can easily end up with very sick babies using any milk replacers - you are FAR better off using whole VtD milk from the grocery if you have no goat milk available.

I am adding the link to how to feed bottle babies article  here -

yes moms and babies are usually pretty picky about  the 'nursing stations'.. babies seem to know  this is not mama.. and  some does do allow others to nurse so kick them away..

I have successfully supplemented  babies  and left them to also nurse when they can from moms..  it works out beautifully  and makes sure babies Do get enough without  destroying the relationship with mama..
Pooping is as important as eating..  they MUST poop daily  multiple times - you must find out if they are pooping..   here is an article on poop - scouring actually but has a picture of normal poop for this age

THIS being said.. consider carefully giving an enema..  look at this article with pictures..  it explains how to give an enema to a baby goat and has a picture of the first poop after they are born to look for.. (a bit scary if you have never seen it)

What is their rectal temps? They need to be 101.5 to 103.5
Is it cold there?  not eating enough will make them  use energy they cannot spare at this young age
Massage and warm compresses are good for the new mama.. no real need to milk her .. after massage.. put the babies up to her.. let them stimulate her to  let down.. IF the udder gets hot , lumpy or hard consider  she may have mastitis -

Your very best bet is to find someone nearby who is an old timer with goats.. perhaps  getting a hold of the ag extension  for the pygmy association near  you.. or call a vet or feed store to see who around you  raises pygmies..  have them come and assess the  situation hands on..  but try these things I have suggested in the meantime..

Baby goats  systems being disrupted require immediate help.. you are  correct in seeking help right away..  they can go downhill very fast. If nothing else.. call around for a vet who is  familiar with goats..have him either come to you  or take the whole crew (mama and kids) to him..  

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: First, thank you so much for your help.  It gave me a place to start and the confidence that I was moving in the right direction.  I went right out and started following your directions.  It has been cold here and was very cold the night you wrote back.  The kids were cold - temps hovering at 100, so we went into crisis mode and warmed them up, put sweaters on them, put heat lamps in the stable, and carried them around in our coats until their temps came up.  I continued to check over the next few days that they stayed up.

I went shopping for bottles.  Since you wrote, I've tried different Pritchard nipples with various sized holes poked or snipped in them, rubber lamb nipples, a rubber glove finger, and even a puppy bottle.  We've had zero luck with the kids taking any of them. I've checked milk temp, flow, and am holding the kids securely with heads up, putting the nipples in their mouths and holding there.  They simply won't have any of them.  The only way I have been able to get anything in them has been with an eye dropper.  They will sip a little as I squeeze it in their mouths.  It's a slow process.

I know they should be taking in 3-4 ounces a feeding under normal circumstances.  However, I've felt like a hero if I can get half an ounce to an ounce in them.  I have to assume they are at least getting *something* from mom.  I fed them this way about 4-5 times a day all through the end of last week and this weekend as that's all they would tolerate.  I think this is the first time I've sat down in 72 hours!  I've been searching for someone local with expertise or for some goat's milk to try with a bottle, but no luck so far.

Things seem to have turned a corner in the last 24 hours.  Yesterday, the kids started playing a little and I noticed their bellies felt a little fuller.  They stayed awake and hanging out with the others pretty much all afternoon while I was down at the barn cleaning and feeding up.  Then, this morning they refused the dropper and would only take half an ounce this afternoon.  Tonight they refused the dropper again (although the buckling wants to suck my nose).  Their bellies are definitely full-ish.  They turn to their mama less often for nursing, and most significantly (and amazingly!) her udder has at least doubled in size.  They are dancing around and acting much more normal.  Is it possible that suddenly her milk has arrived?  Does that happen?  I'm afraid to stop trying to supplement, but I hate feeling like I'm force feeding them if they're full and happy.  I'm relieved that they seem to have made it over the initial hump.  Still, they are teeny, wobbly little things and I want to see them continue to get stronger.

Thank you so much for your help.  I'm not sure they would have made it this far without your guidance.  Keep rooting for us!

baby goats in the house
baby goats in the hous  
Hi laura:
First let me say keep an eye on those rectal temps a couple times a day - 100 is dangerous..  very dangerous.

Second.. WOW heat lamps.. NOT A fan of them .. fire can happen SOOO  easy and I cannot tell you how many times I hear  from folks who lose their goats and kids to barn fires.  What I do in these cases.. I bring kids indoors overnight and take them to moms  when the  morning warms up some..  if they are very young I bring mom and kids in..  (your house will clean) make a spot for them  with puppy pads covered with hay.. I use a puppy pen in my kitchen.

THAT all being said..  good  deal that they are acting more peppy this is a good sign..  and yes I have seen udders fill out  a week after kidding..  supply and demand also is at play, the more they nurse the more she will make..  if they suck your finger, try  sneaking the nipple in next to the finger while they are sucking it..  I'd keep offering the bottle..  can you spend  some hours and observe to see if they are in fact nursing?

ALSO watch for poop.. they need to poop  a could few times a day..  pooping and eating are equally as important.

ALSO daily nutri-drench will help.. it comes in a squirt bottle  pump bottle actually.. a couple pumps directly into the mouth is  what I do for  weaker kids..  I do this a couple times a day..    

Keep an eye on those  rectal temps.. and please  maybe figure out an alternative to the heat lamps.. :( They scare me to death.  Keep me posted..  


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Specializing in New Goat Owner understanding of goat physiology, goat anatomy, goat care and herd management. *I am not a veterinarian, any advice and information should be verified by your veterinarian before administering to your goats. (! During times of severe weather in the Midwest, I may experience a delay in internet service due to the interference of the satellite reception - but will answer your questions as soon as service is restored. !) Note: Keep in mind, the goat expert is volunteering her time to help other goat owners, she also runs her farm with her own herd of 100 goats and may not be at her computer at all hours. Questions are answered as soon as she can possibly read and answer them, usually within 24 hours.


23 years experience of raising goats and herd management. Active hands on experience with goat herd and research with various Caprine University Research and Extension Centers nationwide. 15 years dedicated to helping other goat breeders/owners with goat anatomy, goat disease and goat health care issues via phone, published goat care articles and internet interaction. The information I have to offer is not only from personal experience and years of research updated often as new information is made available to me, but supported by many Veterinary Research colleges and all medications and information I have to offer on how the medications work and what dosages "I" use, is information I have acquired by discussing directly with the company's veterinarians and staff research experts.

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