Guide to Bottle Feeding Nigerian Dwarf Goat Kids
The Milk: I recommend raw goat milk if you can get it, especially if it is mom's own milk. If you can't get raw goat milk, use pasteurized cow's milk from the store. DO NOT use powdered milk replacer. Although there are a few good replacers produced, the one at your local store probably isn't one. Because of so many low quality replacers and confusion on mixing instructions for replacers: just avoid them. Use whole milk.
The Bottle: Mini-size kids can be fed using regular 9 oz baby bottles from the dollar store. You can use different nipples: I like the lamb nipples from Tractor Supply Company. Some people have good luck with the human baby nipples that come with the bottles. Others prefer nipples from online suppliers like the Pritchard nipple. (If you see a nipple at TSC that looks like the pritchard nipple - do not buy it. It is a cheap, disappointing knock-off.)
How Often Do I Feed? This is the question everyone wants to know and the answer is complex. There are about a thousand charts out there, but here's mine:
Day 1 - 3: 5 times a day, up to 2 oz per feeding
Day 4-7: 4 times a day, up to 4 oz per feeding
Day 8-42: 3 times a day, up to 8 oz per feeding
Day 43-56: Twice a day, up to 8 oz per feeding
Day 56+ Once or twice a day, up to 8 oz per feeding
You will notice that I say "up to # of oz per feeding". This is because some kids will adjust quickly to the bottle while others wont. I have 5 day old kids who drink a whole 4 oz, I have some who struggle to finish 2.5 oz. That upper limit is the cap on how much milk a kid of that age should have a day: 10 oz the first 3 days of life, 16 oz the first 4-7 days of life, and 24 oz until six weeks of age. DO NOT over-feed kids.
You will notice that around 6 weeks I start scaling back the amount of milk. This mimics natural weaning. I usually start by reducing the midday bottle by half at week 6, then taking it away entirely at week 7. I continue reducing bottles and then gradually removing them until the kids are getting no milk at 12 weeks of age. You can choose to continue bottle feeding even longer if you like, it won't harm the kid to get milk a little longer than 12 weeks but it is not necessary.
What if I'm feeding a full size kid? Keep the same schedule but double the amounts given in the feeding chart.
How do I know I'm feeding enough? Kids will always act hungry. Adult goats also always act hungry - offer an adult goat a treat after she's just finished eating, and she will act like she is starving. Because of this, the best way to make sure kids are getting enough milk is to weigh them. In the first week I weigh kids daily - they should always be increasing in weight or at least staying the same weight. A kid that is losing weight is in trouble! Weigh kids before feeding for the most accurate results. A kid that isn't getting enough to eat will be hunched, keeping their tail down, and will appear sad or fatigued.
When do I introduce hay and grain? What about minerals? Hay and minerals should be available to kids from day 3 on. They will experiment with nibbling on the hay, though mostly they will play in it until they are about 4 weeks old. They will usually ignore the minerals until then, too. I start giving kids grain at 6 weeks. A caution with grain: don't give kids a large container of grain. I give kids 1/4 to 1/2 cup of grain - that's 2 to 4 oz of grain - daily. I continue giving kids grain until they are 6 months old, to ensure good growth.
Don't forget your coccidia prevention!
Why should I bottle feed my kids? Won't mom raise them?