What Can Baby Goats Eat? Is Hay ok?

Baby goats need milk for the first month (1)

Recently, our goat gave birth to two little, beautiful baby goats. If you have baby goats, you are probably worried about the proper time to wean, what supplements babies need, and when you should introduce hay. 

When can kid goats eat hay? While baby goats will start nibbling hay almost from birth by mimicking mom, they won’t get many nutrients from hay until they are at least double their birth weight. Kids will start to eat hay as a minor part of their diet within days of birth. Kids can be weaned as young as 30 days old, but waiting until they are 6-8 weeks old will help develop and grow your baby goats. During this time, kids will start to munch on hay naturally. 

Timing isn’t a steadfast rule, though. When a goat reaches 2.5% of its birth weight, it can be weaned and have hay become its main diet. Their bodies are ready to digest hay. Kids that their moms don’t nurse will need to be bottle-fed for at least 6-8 weeks before transitioning to hay. 

Weaning is the process of introducing your baby goats to solid food. You may be surprised to know that hay is the preferred feed of goats. Hay should make up 80-100% of a goat’s diet.  And, there are many kinds of hay. (link to article) Its fibrous material is beneficial to build rumen in baby goats. The rumen is the main digesting chamber in baby goats that develop during the weaning period. 

You should avoid any quick transitions in your baby goat feed from milk to hay. It can cause bloating and other severe digestive issues due to improper rumen development. At birth, 15%, or less, of a baby goat’s diet should be hay. 

When can Baby Goats Digest the Nutrients in Hay?

By about 1-2 months, healthy baby goats are able to digest hay and absorb the nutrients in the feed properly. Doelings that are kept with the mamas for a longer period may still occasionally nurse but will increase their hay until they mostly eat hay. Bucklings should be weaned and separated from their moms by 10 weeks because of their budding sexual maturity. 

At this age, baby goats mainly digest fiber from hay that improves the development of the epithelial lining of their rumen. This will ultimately increase the absorption of their nutrients capacity. Furthermore, you can also provide baby goats some minerals for their muscle growth. But keep in mind that you can only give them loose minerals to facilitate digestion. 

How to Facilitate Baby Goat for Hay Feeding

Goats are very social animals. They learn quickly from the environment. Baby goats will usually have access to taste and nibble on hay when they are with their mamas. If you have a baby goat that’s separated from its mom, you can still offer hay when your goat is only two weeks old. But don’t expect your kid goat to start eating hay in earnest for at least a few more weeks. 

During weaning, separate baby goats from their mother. Offer hay as an open choice food. If you are bottle-feeding your baby goats, you can gradually lengthen out their bottle feedings by a couple of hours and reduce the number of times each day they nurse from the bottle. During this period, make sure your goats have plenty of hay to eat. 

A baby goat likes to try new food and will start nibbling consistently. This will automatically drive baby goat attention towards hay without extra effort. 

Sometimes, it is also observed that baby goats start to eat hay with their mother as a learning adaptation. This happens mostly when you rear goats as pets. Overall, in either case, a comfortable environment helps baby goats to adopt solid food quickly. 

What to Feed a Separated Baby Goat? 

Feeding an orphan or separated baby goat is an important issue when you have no alternative milk doe. But, you can feed baby goats by the bottle. Milk is the primary and most important diet for a baby goat. You should provide milk by the bottle at least 6-8 times a day for 3-4 weeks, depending upon the health condition of a baby goat. Usually, you can use milk from other milk doe or milk goat starter formula (check out our favorite kind on our recommendations page). However, it is better to use milk from doe instead of milk formula.

Baby goats need colostrum, which is different from milk. Lactating mothers produce colostrum for the first few days of a baby’s life. If you don’t have a goat producing any, you can also purchase commercial colostrum for your babies.  This is crucial for orphan baby goats as it builds their initial structural and digestive systems. 

After a few weeks, you can start to provide solid food to orphan baby goats. First, provide greens or hay. Then you can also feed other nutritious feed like baby goat pellets. Continue bottle-feeding along with other feed. After 8 weeks, you can fully replace milk with hay, grain, and other feed supplements. 

Baby goats need colostrum (1)

Do Baby Goats Eat at Night? 

Goats don’t usually eat at nighttime, but baby goats and kids are different. They cannot go all night without eating, or it will impact their growth and health. Younger baby goats need to feed more frequently, according to their age. During the first week, the baby goat needs six to eight feedings a day,  which means a feeding every 3-4 hours.

From the second to fourth week, you should feed your baby goat every 6–8 hours. It means that midnight feeding is also included. However, you can feed baby goats just before going to your bed and just after you get up. After the fourth week onward, baby goats don’t need night feedings anymore. 

If you keep a baby goat with its mother for the first few weeks, the baby goat can nurse anytime they want.

Age Frequency of feeding 
0-3 days Colostrum supplement
0-7 days  Every 3-4 hours 
1 week- 2 weeks  Every 4-6 hours, increase feedings by 15 minutes a day to adjust. 
2-4 weeks  every 6-8 hours 
5+ weeks  Every 8 hours from morning to night 

Hay is the preferred food for goats. It is essential. Hay provides both nutrition and roughage, or fiber, that assists kid goats in rumen development. What Kind of Hay is the Best for a Kid Goat? 

Grass hay is the preferred type of hay to feed goats. However, because kid goats are growing and their bones developing, alfalfa is also acceptable for young goats. Alfalfa has higher protein and calcium than grass hay. 

Most grass hay contains around 7-8% protein content. In terms of hay grass, Bermudagrass and orchardgrass is an excellent option for a kid goat. These grass hays are more palatable and nutritious. 

Both alfalfa and grass hay should come from the first and second cuttings. The later the plant has to grow, the less nutritious it will be for your goats. As plant flowers, the nutrients go into the seed, and it becomes nutrient deficient in the stalk, leaves, and other parts. 

One of the most critical things is hay quality as kid goats are under development. Don’t feed your goats contaminated or moldy hay. It will disturb and harm their digestive system. Consider hay quality a priority. 

Important tip: Goats have sensitive digestive systems and can easily bloat. Offer free-choice baking soda to your goats to help with their health and avoid bloating and the other health issues that can come from bloating. 

How Long Should A Baby Goat Bottle Feed? 

Although baby goats can be weaned as early as 4 weeks, they often benefit from having milk in their diet for up to 8 weeks. If you are nursing a baby goat, you might consider bottle feeding for a little longer than 4 weeks. 

A struggling kid can eat as often as 6 times a day or every 4 hours, but they may only eat a couple of ounces at a time. As your kid grows, they will naturally drink more milk and go longer between feedings. A good rule of thumb is that your baby goat will eat about twice as many ounces per day as they weigh in pounds. 

At 5-6 pounds, a baby goat will eat about 12-15 ounces of milk a day. They should be eating every 6 hours. As your goat gains weight, they will eat 16-17 ounces of milk a day. When your goat weighs at least 7 or 8 pounds, it is ok to reduce the number of bottle feedings each day down to 3 or 4. 

Many owners prefer to keep feeding their baby goats 4 times a day, but they may lengthen out the night feedings for convenience’s sake. An 8 lb goat will eat about 18 oz of milk a day but will have smaller feedings during the day and a larger feeding in the morning and right before bed. When a goat reaches 10 lbs, you can reduce milk feedings two times a day, but the total ounces per day should remain at 20-22 ounces in a 24-hour period. Your goat will eat more ounces until they are about 25 pounds and eating about 40 ounces of milk a day. 

Baby goats will start eating hay around 4 weeks (1)

When Should a Kid Goat Eat Grain? 

Baby goats should not be fed grain as a newborn. Even for adult goats, grain should be treated like candy and used only as a treat. Grain is compacted with calories and can be given to pregnant or lactating does, and to 4H kids who are being fattened for the meat market. Heavy doses of grain are not good for a goat’s long-term health. 

After 3-6 weeks, you can introduce grains, as a treat, to your baby goat. At that time, its digestive system is more developed, and it looks to eat new food. Find grains that are free from mud and stones. Grain is usually sold in four different forms, whole, pelleted, rolled, and texturized. When kids are young, avoid whole grains. Instead, provide baby goat-modified grains in other states.

Baby Goats That Develop Diarrhea During Weaning

Baby goats that develop runny fecal matter while weaning may have Enterotoxemia. Enterotoxemia is often a severe disease of goats and can occur at any age. It is caused by two strains of bacteria called Clostridium perfringens (types C and D). These bacteria are ordinarily found in low numbers in the gastrointestinal tract of all goats.

Dietary changes are the primary cause. Be very careful when changing the type of grain or hay that your goats eat. It can stimulate the disease’s growth in the intestines. 

During the weaning period, many baby goats develop severe diarrhea. These are the most typical symptoms of this disease. If the mother goat is already a carrier of this disease, the baby goat can suffer severely during the weaning period. The best remedy is vaccination of this disease to both mother and baby goat. 

Conclusion

Ensuring the proper diet of hay and milk for young goats will help them to grow properly. After goats transition to almost entirely a hay diet, make sure that they are being fed nutritious and clean hay. But that’s not the only thing a goat needs for good health. Check out this article to find out what other nutrients and minerals goats need for optimal health. 

Annemaria Duran

Hi, I’m Annemaria Duran. I moved out to the country 6 years ago, mainly so I could have more land. I love all aspects of country living. First, we got chickens, then ducks. Now we have sheep, goats, and rabbits. I'm always learning and love sharing it!

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