WEAK AND ABANDONED NEWBORNS
There is a wide spectrum of events that can result in weak or abandoned newborns and young kids. You must learn to identify and correct these conditions quickly.
Dam Uninterested in Kid: Many things can cause a dam to be uninterested in her kid, some of which relate to her health and others to the kid's condition. If the problem is not over-crowding which has interfered with bonding (very common), her own health issues (pain from giving birth, mastitis, congested udder, poor nutrition, worm load, etc), or just being a stupid first-time mother (especially if she was bottle raised), then I start checking the kid for problems that its dam senses and therefore has decided that he is a waste of her effort and milk because he is not likely to survive -- weak kid syndrome, floppy kid syndrome, cleft palate, atresi ani, fever, or a host of other things that she cannot fix. Nature takes out the weak fast. Survival of the Fittest rules.
Weak Kid Syndrome: Newborns and very young kids who cannot stand and nurse, regardless of cause, have Weak Kid Syndrome. Hypothermia (sub-normal body temperature) kills.
Floppy Kid Syndrome: Young kids who have overeaten on milk (usually bottle babies) have Floppy Kid Syndrome. Enteroxtoxemia -- overeating on milk. Life threatening.
Read my article entitled Weak Kids or Floppy Kids? on www.tennesseemeatgoats.com's Articles page. These are two very different problems that require completely different treatments about which goat raisers seem to be perpetually confused.
Kid Uninterested in Nursing: Kids must be proactive in nursing. Some dams urge kids to nurse as their udders fill, while other dams wait for kids to get hungry. Learn to "think like a goat" and identify the mothering techniques of each of your does so you don't lose kids to starvation. If over-crowding exists, a kid can become separated from its dam. If it steals milk off multiple dams to survive, its own dam will not claim it because it no longer smells like her kid. If there are multiple kids and they are all nursing off the same teat, soon the weaker one will be dead soon unless you correct this problem. These problems are all connected to and often the result of over-crowding that prevents proper bonding. Goats cannot be "feed-lotted." Over-crowding is the same thing as feed-lotting.
Cleft Palate: Cleft Palate is a lengthwise split in the roof of the kid's mouth. In most cases, it is a developmental problem rather than hereditary; regardless of cause, it cannot be fixed. Although the kid can live with a cleft palate for a short time, as it grows, the split will widen and the kid won't be able to chew or swallow its food well. The kid's growth will be stunted, it will have trouble breathing as fluid comes out its nose via the split in the roof of the mouth, and pneumonia will develop. A kid with a cleft palate should be euthanized. Check each kid at birth for a cleft palate. Knowledgeable dams will abandon these kids and let them die. You should euthanize them.
Atresia Ani: This lack of a rectal opening prevents solid waste from being expelled from the kid's body. Like cleft palate, atresia ani in goats is usually a developmental problem rather than hereditary, but it is also not fixable. The kid should be euthanized immediately to avoid a painful death. Check each kid at birth for atresia ani.
Fever: Fever occasionally occurs in newborns. Kids with fever seem perfectly normal but *stupid* about nursing. A kid with fever won't nurse. Take the rectal temperature of any newborn that seems healthy but won't nurse. If fever is present, I give the kid 1/2 cc to 1 cc of Excenel RTU (prescription antibiotic) into the muscle (IM) for five consecutive days after I give it 1/10th to 2/10th of a cc of Banamine IM (prescription fever reducer), then I rehydrate the kid with Lactated Ringers Solution as described in my Weak Kid Syndrome article.
If the kid won't nurse and doesn't have fever, he likely hasn't made the mental connection between milk and nursing, I stomach tube him until he figures out how to nurse, unless I can hold him to her teat and he starts nursing. Giving the kid a bottle makes it more difficult to get him onto his dam's teats because they won't feel like the bottle's nipple. I give 1/2 cc to 1 cc of thiamine (Vitamin B1) to "wake up" the brain. Premature kids of both sexes have problems nursing because they are developmentally not ready and because their teeth with which they hold the teat are still in their gums. Preemies usually require stomach-tube feeding until their teeth erupt through the gums.
Dam Dies or is Too Sick, Leaving Orphans: I stomach tube these kids with the milk of the dam onto which I want to foster them. I hate having bottle babies. A bottle baby loses all its adaptability and its identity as a goat. This is not good for the animal and is both time consuming and expensive. It can take several days or up to a week getting a kid fostered onto another doe, but it beats 90 days of bottle feeding. See my article on this topic on the Articles page at www.tennesseemeatgoats.com.
If you must bottle feed (because you have no dam onto which to foster the kid), here is how I do it:
Getting a kid to nurse a bottle takes time and patience. Sit or kneel and place the kid between your legs. Placing your thumb across the bridge of the kid's nose and your fingers under its chin, insert the Prichard teat on the bottle into the kid's mouth, using your other hand. Put your thumb across its eyes to simulate the darkness of being under its dam's legs. Hold the Prichard teat in the kid's mouth, gently moving it in and out of the mouth to simulate nursing and squeezing gently to stimulate the kid's interest in the taste of the milk. Once the kid learns that the teat delivers milk, it should begin to suck if it is physically strong enough. Nursing takes a lot of energy.
Getting a newborn to accept a bottle is much easier than an older kid. By then the bottle's nipple does not feel like mom's teat and the older kid will fight acceptance of it. Sometimes it is necessary 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 dam's milk or water during this waiting time. When the kid gets stronger, I sit on an overturned five-gallon bucket, placing the bottle under my knee, and the kid will feel like it is under its dam's legs nursing her teats.
If at all possible, I 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 are bonded to humans, and are dangerous when grown because they still perceive themselves as that small kid who used to climb into your lap. The most dangerous goat on your ranch is a grown male who still thinks of himself as a bottle baby. Someday he will hurt someone unintentionally -- probably you.
Suzanne W. Gasparotto, Onion Creek Ranch, Texas 4/1/18
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All information provided in these articles is based either on personal experience or information provided by others whose treatments and practices have been discussed fully with a vet for accuracy and effectiveness before passing them on to readers.
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