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One of the most important parts of keeping up a sustainable farm is being able to raise new baby animals to be strong and healthy. Most new animal mothers know instinctively what their children need, but can always benefit from some help from you.
If you are raising goats specifically, you should be well acquainted with goat colostrum, what it does, it’s benefits and how to provide it if your dam cannot.
What is Colostrum?
Colostrum is a thick, sticky, yellow fluid that dams (or any other mammal) produce after giving birth. It’s the first milk produced after having a baby. It’s low in fat and high in nourishing vitamins, carbohydrates, protein and antibodies. It is nature’s way of providing a much needed boost to a newborn’s immune system after being first introduced to the world outside its mother’s womb.
Why is Colostrum Important for Baby Goats?
All mammals produce colostrum for their young. If you are raising baby goats, it is essential they have access to it the first few days of their life for many reasons.
- Kids rely on colostrum for benefits to their immune system and healthy growth. Goat Colostrum contains minerals like selenium, copper and zinc which are essential for proper immune function.
- It contains macro and micro nutrients such as cytokines, immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and many other hormones that kids need to support their immune system.
- Getting colostrum from their mother means that the kid is getting antibodies specific to the farm and area in which they will be living.
- A newborn goat’s life expectancy is practically zero if it doesn’t have access to colostrum. Their intestinal tracts have not developed in the womb and in those first days they won’t be able to produce antibodies to fight off any infections.
How to Supply Extra Goat Colostrum
It’s impossible to know how much colostrum a kid is getting if they are nursing directly from their mother. But if you are bottle feeding or if for some reason the dam is unable to nurse, you’ll need to know how to supply this essential liquid at the beginning of the kid’s life.
It’s a good idea to freeze and store excess colostrum from any nursing mother goats for future kids. There are commercial colostrum replacers. Although it’s far better to have colostrum available from a doe that’s lived on your farm, even if it’s not the kids dam.
It is possible to buy powdered or gel colostrum for kids from livestock supply retailers or farm co-op stores. There are brands available for cross-species use, but it’s advisable to use one specifically meant for goats. If you are using a substitute form of colostrum, monitor your kid closely. Signs of dehydration or diarrhea should not be taken lightly.
Some experts say that meat goats need to receive 10-15% of their body weight in goat colostrum during the first day of their life. Others say that at least one ounce of colostrum per pound of body weight three times per day is necessary. When nursing, a kid is getting frequent small meals every day from their mother. You should imitate this frequency instead of providing one or two large feeds per day.