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Why Bottle Feed

Why Bottle Feed

All of the Alpine dairy goats at Goat Milk Stuff are bottle raised. This takes a lot more work for our family, but we do it because we believe it is best for the kids, the dams, and the family. We now Facebook Live our goat births and one of the most common questions we receive are from people wanting to know why we bottle raise instead of letting the dams feed their own kids. Below are the reasons we bottle raise all our alpine goat kids.

Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE). There is a goat disease called Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE) which is passed from infected mother to kids through colostrum and milk. Because we did not want this disease in our herd, we spent several years practicing CAE prevention. This requires bottle raising all the baby goats on heat treated colostrum and pasteurized milk. Since our herd has tested CAE free for years, we no longer heat treat the colostrum or pasteurize the milk that is fed to the babies, but we continue to bottle raise because of all the other benefits.

Healthier Kids. We are able to keep a much closer eye on the kids because we bottle feed them. We know if any of them are getting sick or having a problem. While many goats successfully raise their own kids, many goat moms also have kids that starve to death because they are not getting enough milk. This particularly happens if there are more than two or if there is a dominant larger kid that takes all the milk. We can prevent this from happening by bottle feeding and knowing that each kid is getting the nutrition they require. Not all goats produce enough milk to feed all their kids and bottle raising prevents us from losing kids to starvation.

Friendlier Kids. In our experience (and yes, we dam-raised goats in the early years), bottle-raised goats are friendlier than kids that are dam-raised. They seek attention - and food - from humans and so are very comfortable around them.

Better Milkers. In our experience, goats that were bottle raised grow up to be better milkers. Perhaps because they are more comfortable around humans.

Less Stress. We feel that goats that are bottle-raised experience less stress when being handled by humans than goats that are dam-raised.

Easier Moves. It is a fact of farm life that we can not keep all the goats that are born every year. In 2017, we had 149 alpine baby goats born. Selling goats is a fact of life. A baby goat that is raised on a bottle and is able to move to their new home and still be fed the bottle experiences less stress than a dam-raised kid that gets used to their mother and then is pulled away from her at 3 months and sold to a new farm.

Fewer Weaning Problems. In our experience, weaning time is an incredibly stressful time for both mom and kid. When they are physically separated after 2-3 months of time together, it usually ends up with screaming kids and unhappy moms. When bottle raising, you can just decrease the number of bottles the kid is fed. They'll still be upset with you when they don't get their bottle, but they still have all the herdmates they're used to, so it isn't as stressful.

Healthier Udders. We don't show our goats, so it is not as important to us that the udders are equal in size. But with bottle raising, there is less damage and inconsistency to the dams' udders.

Those are the reasons that we bottle raise our goats. I'm not saying that bottle raising is for all goat breeders. And please let me be clear that I am NOT saying that dam-raised baby goats do not make good goats. That is not the case at all. There are many goats that were not bottle raised that are healthy, friendly, excellent milkers. But as a stereotype, we believe that bottle raising increases the odds of getting a healthy, friendly, excellent milker.

Another question that I am often asked is if the moms get upset when their babies are removed at birth. In our experience with our herd of Alpine dairy goats, most of the moms are not at all upset. If you watch the Facebook Live videos, you will see that most of them don't pay any attention to their kids and they don't react when the kid is removed to be bottle fed.

Bottle raising is a lot of extra work, but for our family and our herd, it is definitely worth the outcome as it has produced an Alpine dairy goat herd that we are incredibly proud of.