The title of this post is a bit misleading; because of course, I have made many mistakes in my life. But this post is about my first major mistake here on the farm. We purchased four bummer goats from a local goat producer. I knew next to nothing about goats and had never had one before. We got home and I realized, “oh man what do I feed these babies!?” I headed down to our local feed store, only to find they don’t carry a goat milk replacer. We live in a very rural area and do not always have easy access to supplies. After consultation with another local goat producer, I decided to use regular calf milk replacer. Determining how much milk to make, and the milk replacer to water ratio took a lot of calculating and a lot of sifting through google search results, but eventually, we were off and running. The girls each named two goats; Diamond and Pearl, and Rusty and Sparky.
I did a lot of reading, and learned is best to begin offering your kids a small amount of goat feed, and hay right off the bat. I also learned that you should watch your goats carefully. Scouring is a very serious symptom in a goat and should never be ignored. We were feeding our babes three times a day, roughly 15 ounces per feeding. I picked up a bucket for feeding with three nipples, and we separately bottled fed the smallest goat. Great. Until it wasn’t…
When the goats were about eight weeks, on a Saturday my husband came in from the morning feeding and let me know something was terribly wrong. I had fed the night before and everything seemed well. Just like the wise internet told me, I had carefully observed my goats and everyone seemed healthy. But on that morning poor ‘Rusty’ was laying on his side, bleating, refused to stand up, and his entire back end was wet with scours, I knew right away that the situation was bleak. My husband set off to town to attempt to locate some electrolytes, but unfortunately, his gut bacteria was too far off balance to be corrected. It was simply a case of overeating which is relatively common for goats. I learned… too little, too late. Rusty was the most aggressive of the four goats and was likely drinking the most milk. We had started feeding a few handfuls of grain and he was likely eating the bulk of it. Young goats are susceptible to these things. Normally, kids are exposed to a higher level of healthy gut bacteria from their mothers and their mother’s milk. These healthy bacteria get the goats’ rumen working properly.
I grew up around farm animals, and I am no stranger to the realities of farm life. But this was my first farm animal loss in a while.
#1: My kids are tough. “Oh Rusty died, that is too bad.” No problem.
#2: I should have had the electrolyte on hand.
#3: I should have been giving a probiotic along with the milk replacer. After this happened I started mixing a little yogurt in with the milk and we didn’t have another problem. There are commercially available, goat specific, probiotics. I was not able to quickly get a hold of any, so I went with yogurt. Had I had access to raw cow’s milk at that time, I would have given them some.
#4: The absence of Rusty from our little herd was profound. The other three goats were in obvious distress and for the first 24 hours or so. It was both sad and incredible to observe these silly little critters searching for their brother.
I am happy to report the remaining three goats are very healthy and happy.