March 2020 Issue



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Getting a kid to nurse a bottle takes time and patience. Here is how to do it.

Convincing a newborn to accept a bottle is much easier than an older kid. The older kid, even if only a few days old, will fight acceptance of the nipple because it does not feel like its dam's teat. You may have to let the kid get hungry by waiting six or eight hours before offering it a bottle. Do not let the kid have access to milk or water during this initial bottle training or it won't be hungry enough to nurse. A kid who has never received enough milk since birth will manage to live off this inadequate supply until its growth rate finally demands more milk. That kid will drink water to fill its stomach and one day you will find it dead from starvation.

I use Prichard teats because they are longer than human baby bottle nipples and fit the shape of the kid's mouth. Sometimes wetting and sprinkling the Prichard teat with granulated sugar will whet the kid's interest. Sit or kneel on an over-turned five-gallon bucket or seat of similar height and place the kid between your legs, facing away from your body. Place your thumb across the bridge of the kid's nose and your fingers under its chin, then insert the nipple of the bottle into the kid's mouth using your other hand. Put your fingers over its eyes to simulate the darkness of being under its mother's legs. Hold the nipple in the kid's mouth, slowly moving it in and out of the mouth and squeezing gently. Take care not to flood the kid's mouth with milk that could be aspirated into its lungs.

Once the kid learns that the nipple delivers milk, it should begin to suck, but do not expect this to happen on the first few tries. When the kid figures out how to nurse the bottle, you can sit on the bottom of a five-gallon bucket, place the bottle under your knee, and the kid will feel like it is nursing under its dam's legs.

Premature and slow-to-learn kids can benefit from a 1/2 cc injection of prescription Vitamin B1 (thiamine) to help "wake up the brain."

Caution: Most people feed too much milk too often to newborn and young bottle babies. The greatest risk of overfeeding milk is from birth to three or four weeks of age. Once a kid is mature enough to eat solid food, the risk of feeding too much milk is somewhat reduced. See my article on Overfeeding Bottle Babies on the Articles page at for the formula for determining how much milk to feed based upon the kid's weight in ounces.

If at all possible, graft an orphaned or rejected kid onto another dam. Bottle babies are not desirable. They are expensive to raise, almost never fit in with the herd because they view themselves as people, may wind up on the bottom of the pecking order, usually don't stay with the herd well, and are dangerous when grown because they still perceive themselves as that little kid that used to climb into your lap.

The most dangerous goat on your ranch is a grown male who still thinks of himself as a human because he imprinted on humans as a bottle baby. Someday he will hurt someone unintentionally -- probably you.

Goats are livestock with instincts and behaviors that make them need to be part of their herd. They are healthier, happier, and safer when they are allowed to be goats.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 3.2.20

Subscribe FREE now! Monthly issues with new articles and other educational information on meat goat health, nutrition, and management written by Suzanne W. Gasparotto of Onion Creek Ranch and Pat Cotten of Bending Tree Ranch. In all cases, it is your responsibility to obtain veterinary services and advice before using any of the information provided in these articles. Neither Suzanne Gasparotto nor Pat Cotten are veterinarians. None of the contributors to this website will be held responsible for the use of any information contained herein.


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If your goat is limping, how do you figure out what is wrong and what do you do about it? .

Ask yourself these questions: What was happening in the goat's life when the lameness appeared? What was the goat doing? Who was it with? Was it recently put into a new herd or with members of the opposite sex? Don't make this situation complicated. It is usually the simplest thing that caused the problem. THINK LIKE A GOAT.

If the limping goat is a newborn or very young kid, there are several possibilities:

(1) Crowding in utero may have caused stretching or contraction of leg muscles and the kid cannot stand properly when born. The kid may need assistance standing to nurse for several days until it gains strength in its legs;

(2) Joint Ill, which is an infection in the (usually) front knee joints from bacteria wicking up a wet umbilical cord;

(3) Hooked by horns and thrown by another kid's dam if it got too close to her;

(4) White muscle disease (selenium deficiency AKA nutritional muscular dystrophy);

(5) Floppy Kid Syndrome, although this is more staggering than limping;

(6) Injection site reactions;

(7) Weak Kid Syndrome, although this is more tripping and staggering than limping;

(8) Injury from predators, playful dogs, or unthinking/careless people;

(9) Goat polio, although this is more staggering than limping.

See my articles on these topics on the Articles page of

If the limping goat is a young kid or an adult, several possibilities exist that could cause it to limp:

(1) Hoof rot or hoof scald;

(2) Laminitis-Founder;

(3) Injured by an animal, person, or another goat;

(4) Injured from getting caught in a fixed object, like fencing or other materials that should not have been left out for goats to access;

(5) Hypocalcemia ("milk fever") in a pregnant doe;

(6) Meningeal deerworm infection;

(7) Listeriosis , although this is more staggering than limping;

(8) White Muscle Disease (selenium deficiency);

(9) Hypocalcemia, although this is more the dragging of hind legs than limping;

(10)Injection site reactions;

(11)Stroke or seizure.

This is not a comprehensive list but rather an overview from which to begin. When diagnosing the problem, you must start by eliminating what it is not and work toward what it might be. You must also have on hand appropriate medications and supplies to correct the problem once you diagnose it.

Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch. 3.2.20



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