Artificial methods of rearing goats
Series: Agfact A7.5.4 Edition: Third edition Last updated: 16 Jun 2004
Kids can be reared economically using milk replacers, and weaned at an early age, 6 weeks or less, if adequately grown. Alternative rearing systems are a high priority to producers of goat milk. The advantages include reduced costs, increased production, and breaking disease cycles. The success of rearing kids using milk replacers requires strict adherence to correct management practices, particularly in ensuring good hygiene in rearing facilities, and cleanliness of feed and feeding equipment.
Artificial methods of rearing goat kids are widely used overseas, and are gaining acceptance in Australia. They have a number of advantages over natural methods, particularly in more intensive commercial goat-breeding operations. This Agfact sets out how to use these methods.
When to use artificial rearing
You can use artificial methods of rearing goats:
- to allow does to be re-mated more quickly if your aim is to increase herd size and maximise genetic progress;
- to rear replacement breeding and meat kids in the goat dairy when you cannot afford to feed them marketable milk—you can then use this milk more profitably for product and market development;
- to prepare uniform batches of suckling kids for premium goat meat markets;
- to break disease cycles—certain diseases, such as caprine arthritis encephalitis virus (CAEV) and Johne’s disease, are spread by infected goat colostrum (the doe’s first milk), by milk, and by faecal contamination of sucked teats;
- to rear orphans;
- to ensure the survival of multiple-birth kids.
Housing, shelter, yards and paddocks
Successful hand rearing requires that you stick to a few fundamental rules. A dry, clean, well-drained area with shelter is essential. As with all intensively reared animals, good ventilation is important, and any draughts should be eliminated. Clean bedding, feeders and waterers help to ensure that the kids remain healthy.
If kids are housed together in a suitable shed, additional heat may not be necessary. However, in cold conditions, piglet heaters or infra-red heating lamps are suitable. Do not let the temperature in goat housing fall below 5°C.
Kids can be reared on an elevated platform of, for example, woven mesh, expanded metal or wooden slats, or on the ground on earth or concrete, in which case clean straw freshened up each day should be provided. Draughts are more likely with open floors.
If you are housing goats until weaning, allow at least 0.6 m2 of solid floor or 0.2 m2 of open floor per kid. The ideal size of kid groups is about 15, with no more than 25 in a pen.
If there is a large variation in the size and weight of goats of similar ages, group goats of similar size together, especially if you have limited amounts of feed, to make sure they can all get to the feed.
Housing layout varies according to needs, with larger numbers needing more sophisticated arrangements. For example, if you want to maximise the numbers you feed at one time, you can locate automatic feeders within a circle of pens—in Europe, 100 to 200 per unit may be fed in this way.
Figure 2 shows the layout of a large-scale rearing facility.
After their first week of life, kids can be artificially reared outside if the climate is not too severe. Make sure there is shade during summer, and shelter for when it is cold and wet.
Feeding equipment and shelter located in the paddock or yard should be moved around to prevent damage to the pasture and fouling of the adjacent area. A mesh feeding platform can be useful in such cases.
Care of the doe at kidding
A successful birth and a good start to the future productive life of a kid depend upon how well you care for the doe during the pre-kidding period, and on the kid’s weight at birth. The kid should weigh 3.5 to 4 kg at birth, although lighter and heavier kids (2 to 5 kg) are not uncommon. Kids weighing less than 3 kg have a reduced chance of survival.
A few days before kidding, move your does into a kidding paddock where you can observe them easily. A well-sheltered paddock that is safe from predators, or goat housing near the house or dairy, is ideal. Keep in mind that for a doe to produce well during lactation, she needs to be fed adequately before kidding so that she is in good body condition when she kids.
Care of the newborn kid
It is most important for kids to receive colostrum (the doe’s first milk) during the first 24 hours of its life. A healthy newborn kid rarely needs help to suck from its dam (refer to the section Colostrum).
Kids can become infected with diseases via the navel. You can reduce the risk of this by dipping the navel cord in a solution of iodine and water (0.5 per cent iodine) as soon as possible after birth (see Health, and disease prevention).
Feeding methods and feeding equipment
There are three main ways of offering milk feed to kids artificially:
- a bottle
- an open vessel such as a bucket or trough
- a manually filled or automatic self-feed teat.
Concentrate feeders, hay racks and a clean water supply are also required for successful rearing.
Bottles with teats are useful for small numbers of kids, but are too labour-intensive for large-scale rearing.
Make sure your bottles, open vessels and feed-mixing equipment are thoroughly washed and sterilised after feeding.
Scrub your equipment thoroughly with detergent, sanitise it with a household or dairy bleach, then store it in a way that prevents recontamination.
As an extra precaution, sanitise equipment before use.
Open vessel feeding
Open vessel feeding can be quite satisfactory for kids, but only if you are offering fresh milk feeds frequently.
It is important to supervise feeding to make sure that smaller kids drink enough and that goats do not overfeed. Overfeeding can cause swelling of the abomasum (fourth stomach)—see Figure 11.
If you leave milk in open troughs or buckets it can quickly become fouled, so make sure you wash any troughs or buckets properly and sanitise them after use. If milk is allowed to remain on kids’ mouths after drinking, milk sores can develop. You can prevent this by wiping their mouths with clean absorbent paper towels.
Self-feed teat feeders
Self-feed teat feeders are used for rearing groups of kids. Teats can be located either at the top of the container or at the base of the container.
Teats located at the top of the milk container are fitted to tubes that end at the bottom of the container. With this arrangement, one-way valves can be fitted to help small kids to feed.
Teats set at the base of a milk container are filled by gravity. Blind teats, with a self-sealing vertical slit in the end, can be located at the base of the milk container or in a teat bar. (See figures 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10).
Blind teats with a slit are particularly good for training kids because they release milk as soon as the kid starts sucking; however, they can result in milk loss if they are damaged. Tearing of teats occurs most often in feeding systems that allow continuous access (ad libitum systems). Tearing can be minimised by placing a baffle around or between the teats (Figure 5) to prevent kids chewing with their back teeth.
Milk containers for small-scale teat feeders range from simple bucket feeders (Figure 4) to insulated cold-milk units (Figure 7).
Electronic automatic continuous feeders (Figure 10), which mix and dispense in response to sucking, have been used for large-scale kid rearing, with good results when management has been adequate. Cold-milk recirculating systems (Figure 9) can also be used for rearing large numbers.
You need to take extra care in cleaning large-scale teat feeding systems to make sure any bacterial residues are removed from milk lines. You can use techniques developed for cleaning dairy equipment for this purpose.
Make sure there is always plenty of clean water available. To avoid contamination you can place water troughs outside the pens in a position where kids can reach through to drink (see Figure 3 above), or you might consider installing nipple drinkers, such as those used in piggeries. Goats can damage trough float mechanisms, so make sure these are adequately protected.
Concentrate feeds are usually offered in open troughs, but these quickly become fouled, causing health problems and waste of expensive feed.
It is better to use a design that locates the feeder outside the pen or incorporates a hood to prevent kids clambering into the food.
To minimise waste and prevent health problems caused by soiled feed, you can provide hay in racks with a tray to catch spillage. ‘Keyhole’ type racks are particularly good for reducing waste. Hay nets are not suitable because kids tend to jump onto them when playing, and can become caught, sometimes with serious consequences.
Make sure that the feeders are properly constructed, as hay spillage can clutter up mesh floors and choke drainage systems.
Small-scale equipment for milk replacer rearing
You can make a bucket feeder (Figure 4) or garbage bin feeder (Figure 5) by drilling 12 mm holes at about 15 cm intervals around the base of the bucket or bin and pushing teats through from the inside. These feeders need a stand that is well anchored to stop them tipping over. For example, three steel posts can be used with a garbage bin feeder.
Some producers use a series of small buckets with single teats, and provide a set amount of feed two to three times a day. Problems with this system are the amount of washing-up required and the need to be present at each feeding. If you use a bucket or garbage bin in such a system, the advantages are quicker throughput and less washing-up. Take care to move each kid away from the feeder when it has had its share. A general rule is to gradually increase the allowance for each kid until the kid is consuming a maximum of 1.5 L per day.
The feeding equipment shown in figures 4, 5 and 7 needs to be firmly held on stands that are anchored to prevent them being knocked over. The stands can incorporate baffles around the teats to prevent chewing and leakage.
You can use the esky feeder (Figure 6) to rear 20 kids. In this system, milk is placed in two 5 L plastic buckets in a foam esky. A tube runs from the buckets to a short teat bar. Milk is mixed daily and half of it is put in the deep freeze. The next day, half the fresh milk is put into the buckets along with the frozen milk from the day before. However, this system has some disadvantages:
- the tubing must be washed at least every 2 days;
- the balance of the ration needs refrigeration before the second feed of the day;
- on hot days, milk may curdle in the lines if it is not cool enough;
- the capacity of the esky is limited.
An improvement on the esky-type feeder is an insulated cold-milk feeder (Figure 7). These types of feeders reduce the labour involved. In this system, the milk is mixed once daily, and the kids are left to feed at will. The milk is placed directly into an insulated container. The container is lined to stop milk being absorbed into the foam, as this can cause bacterial problems. Self-sealing teats are recessed in funnels in the side of the feeder to protect them from being chewed, which can become a problem when the kids reach about 2 weeks of age. An insulated cold-milk feeder, with a daily filling, will handle 20 kids and will allow cold-milk feeding while kids are running at pasture.
Large-scale rearing systems
Large numbers of kids can be reared on a cold-milk recirculating system or with an electronic automatic feeder.
A cold-milk recirculating system (Figure 8) has been used to rear 2000 lambs in trials by NSW Agriculture at Leeton during recent years. This system consists of a refrigerator with a milk container (plastic garbage bin), a delivery line, a teat bar, a return line and a small, low-speed pump to lift milk back to the refrigerator without excessive foaming. Milk is mixed in an agitator washing machine, chilled, and added to the milk in the refrigerator. Bins and lines are washed at least twice weekly.
In the NSW Agriculture trials, the original teat bar was 19 mm PVC pipe with T-pieces every 10 cm to hold the teats (Figure 9(a)), with 21 teats on each line. This arrangement reared 30–50 lambs at a time, and had one to two lambs per teat, which is consistent with some overseas kid-rearing systems. The line was altered to provide a three-teat bar (with the same milk line dimensions as Figure 9(b) for each pen of 18 lambs (six lambs per teat).
In Europe, three teats per 25 lambs are used with ad libitum feeding. The teat bar is placed outside the pen and protrudes through 10 cm2 mesh which acts as a baffle (Figure 9(c)). Funnel-type teat bars (Figure 9(d)) give better teat protection.
Electronic automatic feeder
Electronic automatic feeder machines (Figure 10) are available in Australia. They are produced both locally and in Europe and New Zealand. It is claimed that these machines can be used to rear 200 young at a time on a single machine located inside a circle of eight pens containing 25 kids each.
In trials by NSW Agriculture at Leeton, 70 lambs have been reared simultaneously using one machine; rearing higher numbers has not been attempted. These machines dispense warm milk; consequently, milk lines, teat bars and mixing bowls must be washed daily. Otherwise, the labour input is minimal, and comparable with that for the cold-milk system—about 1 hour per day for 70 young.
A newborn kid’s digestion is different from that of an adult goat. Although a kid has four stomachs (Figure 11), it does not use them all early in life because the digestive system is not fully developed at birth.
Whereas in the adult goat the rumen and the reticulum (first and second stomachs) make up about 70 per cent of stomach capacity (Figure 12), in early life the position is reversed and the omasum and abomasum (third and fourth stomachs) account for 70 per cent.
The liquid diet of the young kid goes straight to the abomasum for digestion. Kids cannot digest solid feed, particularly starch, until the rumen develops.
Poor-quality milk replacers with high starch levels will restrict kid growth.
Poor kid performance may also result if a milk replacer with a plant protein source, such as soybean, is used during the first 2–4 weeks, or if fats in the replacer are not properly homogenised into the liquid feed.
During the first 2 weeks or so, the kid starts picking at dry matter, such as hay or straw, but at first rejects it. Gradually it will swallow some of the material, with the result that:
- the roughage present stimulates the physical development of the rumen;
- bacteria and other micro-organisms that are present on the dry feed become established as part of the normal rumen environment.
From about the third week, the kid starts to nibble at grass, hay or concentrates if they are available, and these pass to the rumen. Rumination, or chewing the cud, follows shortly afterwards.
Colostrum, which is produced by the doe during the first 4 or so days after kidding, is thicker and darker than ordinary milk. It contains essential antibodies (immunoglobulins) that protect kids from disease, and is a concentrated source of nutrients. The newborn kid can absorb the essential antibodies in colostrum only during its first 24 hours or so of life. These antibodies protect the kid for the first 8–10 weeks against many diseases.
It may be difficult to rear healthy, well-growing kids if they do not receive colostrum. Kids that do not receive colostrum will be less resistant to scours (diarrhoea) and other ailments later in life.
If a kid is separated from the doe at birth, make sure it is fed colostrum as soon as possible, and for at least 1 day. If colostrum is not available from the kid’s mother, feed it goat, ewe or cow colostrum that has been stored. The most suitable colostrum is from animals which are starting their second or later lactations, as this colostrum contains higher levels of antibodies than does that from young females.
CAEV eradication programs need a source of colostrum that is not infected, such as cow colostrum. An alternative source of colostrum is also needed if the doe cannot produce suitable colostrum because she has mastitis. Similarly, if you buy some day-old kids and you do not know if they have had colostrum or not, you can feed them stored colostrum, if only for its nutritional value.
If it is necessary to feed colostrum by hand, do so in two to three feeds of 100 to 150 mL each. If no colostrum is available, whole milk is the best alternative.
Storage of colostrum
Excess colostrum can be stored for future use in either fermented form or frozen form.
Put surplus colostrum in a clean container such as a plastic garbage bin and store it in a cool place. The container should have an open top to allow the colostrum to ‘breathe’. To prevent contamination from flies, cover the container with gauze or muslin.
Stir the colostrum daily. It will ferment, but you can keep using it for about 3 months. Add fresh colostrum to the container as it becomes available.
Mix one part hot water to three parts colostrum, and feed it at the recommended rate.
Excess colostrum can be stored in a freezer for up to 12 months. For convenience, freeze it in 200 mL to 1 L portions in plastic bags. Collect colostrum for freezing from mature females on the first or second day after kidding, lambing or calving. When thawing colostrum, do not apply direct heat, as this can destroy the antibodies.
Kids that have been left on their mothers may need to be trained to use trough or teat feeders.
Take the kids away from their dams, and wait for 3–4 hours before you attempt to train them. This will ensure that the kids are hungry, and they will therefore train easily. If a kid is reluctant to suck, push the back of its head down until it is in a normal sucking stance. You can assist training by placing your finger in the kid’s mouth before replacing it with the teat, stroking the kid’s muzzle and head, and positioning the kid alongside a trained kid to allow contact of muzzles of both kids.
It is important for a kid to get an immediate response to its efforts when it is being trained. This can be achieved by bottle feeding, or by using self-sealing teats on the base of a milk container. Teats attached to tubes entering the top of a milk container increase the difficulty of training kids, as milk takes too long to reach the teat.
The temperature of the milk fed during training should be the same as for the next milk-rearing period (see Milk feeding temperature and feeding frequency). During training, and at least for the first week, kids must be kept warm. In cold weather or if kids are weak, it may be preferable to feed kids warm milk during training.
Kids will readily accept a variety of milk replacers. Performance of kids will vary with different replacers due to the poor digestibility of feed components in some formulations. As a guide, those formulations that give good results for calves are likely to be the most suitable for kids. You can get further details on the quality of calf formulations by contacting NSW Agriculture Livestock Officers (Dairy).
Milk substitutes prepared for calves and lambs normally contain 24–26 per cent protein and 14–24 per cent fat. Milk substitutes for lambs contain more fat to bring them up to the higher fat level of ewe milk. Overseas research into kid rearing suggests that it is advisable not to exceed 30 per cent fat in the milk replacer, and, in the first few weeks of feeding, for the fat not to exceed 22 per cent.
Problems may also be experienced if replacers contain too much starch, or, for the first 2–4 weeks, too much plant protein from sources such as soybean.
Some feeds may also contain growth promotants, which usually increase weight gain and improve feed conversion efficiency. Also, some replacers are formulated to be offered warm; others cold. Always read the nutritional information on the label to ensure the suitability of a milk replacer formula.
Differences in price between milk replacers that contain skim milk as the protein source in the replacer and those that do not may make the cheap non-skim-milk products quite attractive. Non-skim-milk-based replacers are, however, usually less digestible.
Mixing milk feeds
Milk replacer powder should be thoroughly mixed with warm water to ensure proper mixing of fats. For large volumes this can be achieved using a homogeniser, although automatic feeders mix the solution themselves. For small volumes, a bucket that has a sealable lid so that it can be shaken vigorously, or a whisk, is suitable. Systems incorporating old washing machines to mix the feed have also been devised. The replacer can be chilled after mixing if desired.
The mixture should contain 12–16 per cent solids (dry matter) mixed in the proportions set out in Table 1.
Table 1. Proportions for milk feed mixture
|Per cent solids||Parts powder by weight||Parts water by weight|
Good results have been obtained using 15 per cent powder in the mixture. Don’t vary the feed concentration during rearing. If scouring occurs it is recommended that you give kids a glucose and electrolyte solution. These mixtures are commercially available.
Milk feeding temperature and feeding frequency
Milk can be fed cold (refrigerated), hot (34–40°C), or at ambient temperature. Warm or ambient temperature milk is commonly used with bottle feeding or with simple group-feeding units where the quantity fed is restricted to set amounts at set times of the day. In larger group-feeding schemes where milk is made available at all times (ad libitum systems), cold-milk feeding is preferable.
You can start cold-milk feeding from about the eighth day, or possibly earlier. Cold feeding is less labour-intensive than are other methods, but kids may reduce their milk intake initially. You can overcome this reduction in intake by feeding as much cold milk as hot milk in the first week of cold feeding. If kids are receiving only cold replacer at an early age, their intake should increase to normal levels after a short period.
With cold feeding, kids drink frequently but little. This prevents overfeeding and its associated problems of bloat, digestive upsets and scouring. Cold feeding makes it easier to maintain hygiene because it retards bacterial growth and requires less frequent washing of equipment.
In warm-milk systems where kids have warm milk available all the time and hence never become hungry, overfeeding may not occur. If, however, at any stage they are without milk, overfeeding can occur when the warm milk becomes available again.
Liquid feed intake and growth
Kids drink about 0.5–0.7 L per day for the first week, then 1.0–1.5 L per day after that, although greater levels of intake and increases in growth rate are possible. Kids’ weight gains on different rearing systems can range between 140 and 250 g per day until weaning, so growth in excess of 1.5 kg per week can be obtained in a well-managed system.
Kids can be weaned once they have reached about 10 kg. However, the earlier the weaning age, the greater the weaning shock. The weaning shock at earlier ages requires a higher standard of husbandry. If convenience is important, wean kids at between 8 and 10 weeks of age, or a little older. The weaning weight you choose will usually depend on economic and management considerations.
Weaning can be abrupt, or it can be gradual with milk being withdrawn by restricting the amount fed and the number of feeds per day.
Whichever weaning method you use, kids must be consuming, and have ready access to, high-quality solid food if they are to be weaned young. As a guide, the ration should contain a minimum of 11 MJ (megajoules) of metabolic energy and about 180 g of crude protein (18 per cent) per kilogram of dry matter, plus a mineral and vitamin mix (see Table 2). The ration may include some high-quality roughages, such as chaff, to assist rumen development. It is important for clean water to be available at all times.
Table 2. Recommended level of minerals and vitamins
for goat feeds per kilogram of dry matter
(from Morand-Fehr 1981)
|Vitamin A||5000 IU|
|Vitamin D||1400 IU|
|Vitamin E||100 IU|
(a) Levels in dry matter above 20 mg/kg may be toxic.
Table 3 shows two feeding regimes used for rearing and weaning kids. In both cases the milk feed is gradually reduced in quantity and in the number of times the feeders are replenished.
Table 3. Feed schedules used for kid rearing
(from Mowlem 1984)
|Age (weeks)||Daily milk feeds|
|1–6||3 × 750 mL(b)|
|7–8||2 × 850 mL|
|9||2 × 570 mL|
|10||1 × 570 mL|
|Age (weeks)||Daily milk feeds|
|5||Half the amount consumed on the last day of week 4|
|6||Half the amount consumed on the last day of week 5|
Hobby goat keepers tend to feed milk to kids for long periods, sometimes until the kids are 6–9 months old. This is an enormous and unnecessary expense for a species that starts ruminating at 2–3 weeks. Most other ruminants are weaned at 5–6 weeks when being reared on milk replacer diets.
Solid feed and supplementation
Kids eat solid food from about 1 week of age and are often seen ruminating at about 2 weeks, so it is important to give them good-quality hay or chaff and suitable concentrate from 1–2 weeks of age. You can also rear kids on calf or lamb pellets, which range from 18–25 per cent protein.
Usually both hay and concentrates are provided ad libitum, although, particularly with concentrates, you should try to match the allowance with the kids’ appetites to reduce waste.
As mentioned earlier, make sure that the feeders are properly constructed, as hay spillage can clutter up mesh floors and choke drainage systems.
Milk replacers may have low levels of fat-soluble vitamins, so an injection of vitamins A, D and E at birth, and administration of vitamin drops (according to label directions), will enhance performance. Vaccinate kids against clostridial diseases such as enterotoxaemia and tetanus, and you can include a coccidiostat in the solid feed ration.
It is important to make sure that energy and protein supplements are kept fresh, so it is recommended that you feed new material daily. You can prevent fouling by putting the supplement and water trough outside the pens, which will force the kids to reach through to feed and drink.
For early weaning to be successful, give kids a supplement of high-energy dry feed from age 1 week onwards. Continue with about 18 per cent protein (calf starter pellets containing 18–25 per cent protein are suitable) for the first 2 weeks after weaning, and progress to 16 per cent protein at 8 weeks of age.
If you have larger numbers, you may prefer to mix your own supplement. An example of a suitable ration to use is cracked grain (55 per cent), soybean meal (25 per cent), wheat bran or hammermilled hay (18.5 per cent), salt (0.5 per cent) and a mineral and vitamin mix (see Table 2). This should provide 18–20 per cent protein. Two weeks after weaning, reduce the soybean meal to 20 per cent, increase the hay to 25 per cent, and add 0.5 per cent limestone.
Good results have been obtained using a variety of concentrate feeds to rear kids after weaning. A 16 per cent protein ration is satisfactory. You can reduce the quality of the diet gradually until kids are 6–7 months old, when it should contain 12 per cent protein if kids are consuming poor-quality forage, or 10 per cent protein if they are consuming good-quality forage. From about 12–14 weeks of age you can rear kids solely on good-quality pasture, as long as it has been spelled to minimise parasites.
You can mate replacement does as early as 7 months if they are big enough (35–40 kg). Slower growth until the first mating is not likely to adversely affect their performance, and therefore you can use less expensive feeding regimes to rear replacements that are mated later. Whichever rearing regime you use, make sure you avoid overfatness at kidding, as this can cause kidding problems and may have an adverse effect on milk production.
The growth rates of replacement does can be altered after weaning by adjusting the quality and availability of the concentrate and forage components of their diet.
An increase in hay consumption does not compensate for the reduction in energy intake if the concentrate allowance decreases; therefore, daily weight gains are reduced.
It is recognised that kids which continue to be housed after weaning grow faster than those reared on pasture. This lower growth rate of animals on pasture is attributed to the relatively low energy intake of goats at pasture and to problems caused by internal parasites. Management of young goats at pasture, while more viable economically, should take these factors into account.
Kids reared with access to high-quality ‘clean’ pasture (that is, pasture with no parasitic larvae) can be weaned successfully at an early age. When weaned onto ordinary pasture, they will consume more pasture than will sucking kids, and consequently they will also consume more parasitic larvae.
Finishing kids for meat
In a feedlot situation, kids that are to be finished for meat, without going onto pasture, can be weaned onto a ration of 70:30 of concentrate to roughage. The diet can be based on, for example, cracked grain (57 per cent), high-protein meal such as soybean meal (10 per cent), lucerne hay or chaff (30 per cent), salt (1.5 per cent), lime (1.5 per cent) and a mineral and vitamin mix.
Health, and disease prevention
The normal kid
It is necessary to know the temperature, the respiration and pulse rates, and the general appearance and behaviour of a healthy kid:
Temperature normally ranges from 38.8°C to 39.8°C. Body temperature is highest late in the afternoon. It can be raised by vigorous exercise or when kids lie in hot sun. Body temperature can be measured by inserting an ordinary clinical thermometer into the rectum, with the bulb touching the lining membrane.
Respiration rate is usually between 35 and 45 breaths per minute, but this increases in hot weather or after moderate exercise. Panting is normal in young kids only after very vigorous exercise or after moderate exercise in hot weather. The respiration rate can be counted by observing the number of movements of the chest wall or, if kids are lying down, counting the rising and falling movements of the abdominal region.
Pulse rate should be about 60–80 beats per minute. This is most easily counted by feeling the heartbeats through the chest wall close to the attachment of the shoulder behind the elbow.
Normal healthy kids have the following appearance and behaviour characteristics:
- soft, shiny and pliable coats
- sleep for several hours each day
- alert and bright-eyed when awake
- walk and run freely
- have a well-filled abdomen
- droppings are normally soft and pasty.
Marked change from the normal is an early sign of sickness. Disease usually causes increases in body temperature and in respiration and pulse rates, and changes in the appearance and behaviour of kids.
Special care and attention to kids pays off in prevention and control of disease.
Kids require warm, dry conditions in cold or wet weather, and adequate shade in hot weather. If kids are housed in sheds, these must be warm, dry and well ventilated. Raised slatted floors—either made of wood or of woven wire mesh—are recommended. Avoid overcrowding, as it increases the risk of infection and the spread of disease.
Small permanent kid pens accumulate a high concentration of infectious organisms, particularly when they are occupied for long periods, so rotation of kid pens is recommended. Good drainage and proper disinfection of pens between batches of kids are essential.
Poor nutrition, inadequate shelter, poor hygiene, and internal or external parasites all greatly increase susceptibility to disease.
Dirty feeding utensils and permanent feeding sites can spread infection. Make sure that feeding equipment and areas are thoroughly washed and disinfected after each use (for example, a 10 per cent watery solution of ammonia can be used to sanitise the housing facility). If you are feeding kids using buckets on the ground, use a different feeding area each day.
Remember, it is most important for kids to get colostrum for at least the first 24 hours and preferably the first 2 days of life, so that they can acquire the immunities it confers.
Many diseases can be controlled and treated if they are diagnosed early and proper treatment starts at once. A correct diagnosis is most important, so get veterinary advice as soon as you suspect any disease.
Isolate any sick kids from the main group. Nursing care, good shelter and dry bedding are essential.
Vaccinate against clostridial diseases at 4–10 weeks, and again 1 month later.
Disease can be introduced with stock brought in from outside. If other kids are brought onto the farm they should be segregated until you are sure they are healthy and unlikely to spread infection to other animals. (See Primefact: Goat health — keeping the herd disease-free).
Scours is probably the most common ailment affecting goat kids. The recommendations given for prevention of disease will help to control scours. However, if outbreaks do occur, get advice from a veterinarian, as correct diagnosis and treatment are essential.
The importance of correct diagnosis is emphasised by the fact that, although Escherichia coli is the most common cause, scouring can result from any one of the following, or a combination:
- dietary mismanagement
- Escherichia coli
- Clostridium perfringens (enterotoxaemia)
- Salmonella spp.
- toxins and poisons
- Coccidia and other parasites.
If scouring occurs and proper treatment is not given within 24 hours, losses are likely to occur. Kids that scour should be isolated in order to minimise the risk of spreading disease to other kids. Again, glucose and electrolytes should be used to prevent dehydration. Such mixtures are available commercially.
When feeding and management of kids is good, disease outbreaks do not usually cause problems. In fact, the presence of disease may indicate a fault in management. Drugs may cure disease, but they are a very poor substitute for proper care and management. Nevertheless, most diseases can be treated satisfactorily, so if disease is suspected, make sure you get veterinary advice as soon as possible.
Further information is available from your local Livestock Officer (Dairy, or Sheep and Wool) and from the goat health Agfact series available in print form from the NSW Agriculture Bookshop.
Morand-Fehr, P. (1981). Growth. In Goat Production (Editor C. Gall). Academic Press, London, UK.
Mowlem (1984). Artificial Rearing of Kids. Goat Veterinary Society Journal, 5:25–30.
The kind assistance of Stan Dawe (Salt Action Coordinator, formerly Senior Livestock Research Officer, NSW Agriculture,Yanco) and Robert North (formerly Veterinary Officer, Newcastle) in providing resource material for the development of this Agfact is gratefully acknowledged.
Author: Paul Greenwood