For the first 3 months of a baby goat’s life, it should drink milk either from a bottle or off the mother. The nutrients in milk are crucial to the health of a baby. Goats are ruminants, but babies do not fully develop their rumen until they are several months old, about the time of weaning. The rumen is the organ in their digestive system that allows them to digest fibrous plant matter. There are many sources out there that will tell you to start the weaning process as early as 8 weeks; we do NOT recommend that. Sources may also tell you to use whole milk from a cow, which will do, but a goat’s milk should be used up until at least one month and continuing forward if possible.

If not, whole cow’s milk will work fine but you will need to slowly introduce it.  All goat milk from an untested source MUST be pasteurized as it is the way that CAE and CL and other issues are passed along to babies.

At 2 weeks of age, introduce grass hay at all times, fresh clean water and mineral for your area.  Orchard grass and Timothy hay provide a balanced Calcium:Phosphorus ratio of 1.5:1. You may choose to add a small amount of alfalfa mixed with grass hay for a higher amount of calcium.  However, it is important to test your water source for Calcium Carbonate or hard water.  If your water source is considered ‘hard” due to high levels of Calcium Carbonate, you will avoid feeding alfalfa.

We no longer recommend feeding grain to bucks.  Grain can be reserved for your does.  Some goat owners may still choose to do so.  IF choosing to feed grain to kids, it should be in a measured amount and fed only 1 time per day following grass hay, this assists digestion of the grain.  Kids should be fed no more than 8 oz (½ pound) of grain per day.  Be sure the grain includes 0.5% Ammonium Chloride.  You may also supply free choice Baking Soda when feeding grain and/or fresh pasture grass to decrease bloat.  Bloat can be life threatening to kids especially.


Goats may experience bloat for several reasons however, bloat is considered a rare occurrence.  It is important to treat bloat  immediately, as it can cause death.  Bloat occurs from the fermentation of moist grasses, large amounts of milk consumption during intermittent bottle feeding or the blockage of large amounts of grain.  Prevention is key to avoiding bloat.

Goat owners may have additional livestock on the property that consume grain, such as chickens or cattle.  Grain must be kept inaccessible to goats to avoid free gas bloat; when the goat stops burping to release gases.  The consumption of lush or moist legumes such as clover or alfalfa and wet green pastures can cause frothy bloat.  Release goats on to dry pastures or for short periods of time on moist pastures and monitor.

Signs of bloat include: restlessness, abdominal discomfort, loss of appetite, increased salivation, distended left side, respiratory distress and death.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you see signs of bloat in your goat.  The use of a stomach tube is the most effective in treating bloat.  Some home remedies mix baking soda with water in a drench.  It may also be beneficial to supply dry baking soda in a free choice manner to goats.  These are only suggestions.

Bottle Feeding

Bottle feeding ensures that the goat will bond to humans. Dam raised babies are far less attached to humans and therefore can be more difficult to train because there isn’t that intimate connection. We strongly recommend for the best pet and packer that you bottle feed.  For the purpose of this course, we will focus on bottle feeding baby goats because we want our goats to be bonded to humans.

The weaning process begins around 12 weeks of age. For the first year of a goat’s life, we recommend offering free choice Orchard or Timothy grass and mineral. Free choice of these things prevents a goat from overeating and getting bloat. It also aids in the process of growing strong healthy goats. As we no longer support the use of grain in your goats diet; if you choose to feed grain, we recommend removing the grain from your goats diet at 6 months of age in an effort to reduce urinary calculi stones from developing.  Stones can either be phosphorus based from grain or calcium based from hard water and potentially large amounts of alfalfa.  Monitor your ratio of Calcium to Phosphorus at 2:1. (The ratio must include both water & food sources)

A healthy diet is so crucial to the health and well-being of goats. Also, a good diet can prevent a lot of sicknesses such as urinary calculi, bloat, floppy kid syndrome, etc…

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Bottle-Feeding Supplies

Suggested List

  • Mother’s Milk – Milking a doe gives the best nutrition a goat can get. It’s important to be sure the doe is clean (free of CAE, CL, Chlamydia, and Johne’s Disease) as these diseases can be or are suspected of being passed through milk. When in doubt, pasteurize.
  • Whole Cows Milk – Whole cow’s milk is the easiest and best substitute to get your hands on. Be sure to warm bottles in warm water but do not get them hot.
  • Pritchard Nipples &/or Caprine Nipple
  • Plastic Water Bottle
  • Update: We suggest avoiding milk replacer – It is not recommended to feed goats milk replacer. Most replacers are not formulated specifically for goats and their needs. It can actually be harmful to them, you can’t trust the labels. Milk replacer also lends itself to frequent user error that also ends up being harmful or fatal to goats. The best milk for goats is fresh pasteurized goat milk, the second-best is pasteurized whole cows milk.

How to Bottle Feed a Baby Goat

In this video, Marc will speak to everything you need to know when it comes to bottle-feeding a baby goat. He then speaks about the timeline and schedule, technique, and proper amounts. It is imperative that you do not overfeed your goat because they are very susceptible to bloat and other digestive sicknesses. Overfeeding can kill baby goats.[video_embed url=”https://youtu.be/_LSy4uHSH3Q”][video_embed url=”https://youtu.be/PJ7MPei5Ta8″]

Feeding Timeline and Schedule

  • These are approximate amounts as each goat varies.
  1. Week 1  4-6oz 4xday 
  2. Week 2-4 (1 month) feed 10-14 oz. 3xday
  3. Week 5-8 (2 month)  up to 16oz/day 2xday
  4. Week 9-12 (3 month) 16oz 1xday

Weaning Process

[video_embed url=”https://youtu.be/Eb47YSCEUTM”]In weaning, both of these options are effective:   

  1. Feed milk one day, skip a day, feed again and skip 2 days, then done. 
  2. You can also consider decreasing the amount of milk offered over 5 or 6 days.  If weaning by decreasing amounts, starting with 16 oz before you plan to wean.  Decrease milk amount 4 oz per day.  16, 12, 8, 4, 2 oz then done.  Be sure to have ample amounts of grass hay and minerals for your area, available free choice.

Update: Offering free-choice feed is the best way to train goats to self regulate and avoid issues with bloat. If changing feeds, putting out a bloat block can be helpful prevention. If you do experience bloat, Therabloat drench works well for treatment.

Finally, be sure to check with a local vet to determine the best mineral to get for your specific location. Mineral deficiencies are a common cause of sickness and illness in goats. Mineral needs in goats vary greatly by geographic location. Be sure your mineral mix is appropriate for your herd’s location needs. Also, be extra aware when bringing in goats from other regions.

For more information on how the Goat digestive system works, check out this article on the Goat Digestive System.

What Not to Feed your Goat

[video_embed url=”https://youtu.be/_7rM4mC9jQU”]Here is a non-exhaustive list of what not to feed your goat:

  • Grass clippings
  • Decorative plants (boxwood, rhododendron, St. John’s wart, laurels, hydrangea, etc…
  • Pitted fruit
  • Moldy hay
  • For a more extensive list of harmful plants for goats, refer to this article on Toxic Plants for Goats.

In an effort to decrease the occurrence of Urinary Calculi, we recommend that you TEST your WATER and grass hay for Calcium and Phosphorus loads.  Geographically, water will vary in calcium and phosphorus content. 

The Calcium:Phosphorus ratio combined with water & hay should be 2:1 or no more than 3:1.

High levels of either or both, could assist the development of stones. While all of this is currently being tested, we feel it is best to provide the information to reduce any chance of stone development in goats.

In addition, we encourage delayed castration to 4-6 months.  This has been shown to be a sufficient amount of time for the Urethra to completely develop to its full diameter.  We have found that age of castration varies among the goat community, therefore, we are simply providing our recommendations based on shared information. 

How To Handle A Baby Goat When They Won’t Take A Bottle

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