Skip to Content

When Can a Baby Goat Leave Its Mother [Safely and Stress-Free]

Baby goats are little bundles of fluffy joy – until you wean them, and they pass all hours of the day (and night) calling for their moms.

Whether you’re bottle-feeding or relying on the doe to raise her baby, there comes a point at which the kid must be separated from its primary source of milk, but when can a baby goat leave its mother?

There are a lot of differing opinions about when the best time is to wean a baby goat. Some say 6-8 weeks is ideal, while others recommend weaning by bodyweight rather than age.

So, when can a baby goat safely leave its mother, and what care does it require, before and after that event, to keep it happy and healthy?

When to Separate a Bottle-Fed Baby Goat

weaning-bottle-fed-goat

Many goat owners prefer to bottle feed their goat kids as this enables them to bond with the animals early on. Having become accustomed to humans at such a young age, a bottle-fed baby will, more often than not, grow into a friendly adult goat.

This is a crucial characteristic if you’re breeding dairy goats or raising goats for the pet trade.

A newborn goat does need to spend at least a few hours, if not a few days, with its mother to make sure it gets the colostrum it needs. The first milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies that are vital for the baby kid’s survival and can’t be found elsewhere. 

After a couple of days, your babies should have had their fill of colostrum, at which point you can consider separating them from their mothers and transferring them to a bottle baby pen. 

For the first 10 days of a newborn goat’s life, you’ll need to bottle feed it four times a day, starting at 150 ml per feed for the first three days, then increasing the milk quantity to 300 ml per feed. 

You can start introducing small amounts of grain, pellets, and hay to the little one’s diet as early as one week. You can then increase this quantity incrementally as it grows. 

Depending on the breed, by the time a kid is 2-3 weeks old, it should be consuming around a quart of milk twice a day.

At eight weeks old, you can start to reduce the quantity of milk and increase solid feed in the form of a goat kid milk replacer feed (like this excellent one at Tractor Supply).

The final transition from milk to solid goat feed can be a tricky one, however, so we’re going to explore it in more detail later on.

When Can a Mother-Raised Goat Baby Be Separated?

weaning-mother-raised-baby-goat

Allowing a mother goat to raise her own baby not only saves you a lot of time, but it’s also the most natural and healthy approach.

Our baby goats stay in a dedicated enclosure with their mothers for the first two weeks of their lives. Here, the kids can nurse whenever they want while developing a strong maternal bond. 

Once they reach 2-3 weeks of age, we start allowing the mother goats out to forage for a few hours each day, keeping the babies safe in their enclosure. We gradually increase this period of separation until we’re ready to wean. 

This can vary quite a bit, depending on several factors, including the kid’s birth weight, overall health, current weight, and the mother’s milk production.

Theoretically, a kid whose body weight is twice his original birth weight is ready to leave to his mother but, I recently had a robust baby pygmy goat who reached that at four weeks old!

That seemed a bit premature to me and, fearing that it might put too much stress on him (and all of us), I decided to give him a bit more time to develop. 

He’s now almost lifting his mother of her feet when he nurses, so I think maybe I missed the ideal time to wean!

He is a little on the older side, being 12 weeks, so his day of reckoning is just around the corner – or possibly, tomorrow.

You would think the doe would have rejected his nursing efforts by now, but as I’ve found in the past, these long-suffering Boer goats will keep on nursing for up to six months or until they go into labor with their next round of babies! 

How to Create a Stress-Free Weaning Experience

The most important aspect of weaning any baby animal is staying calm and trusting the process. Things may get a little heated and noisy out there, but be confident that you’re doing the right thing. 

When it comes to weaning a bottle-fed or mother-raised goat baby, the process is much the same.

Babies like mine, who’ve been raised by their mothers, have an advantage in that they’ve been able to mimic their mother’s behavior so they already have a good idea of how to look after themselves when they’re thirsty or hungry. 

On the downside, they’ve also developed strong bonds with their mothers so they tend to experience more acute separation anxiety, which makes weaning more stressful.

To make it easier, we try to separate the babies for a few hours a day, gradually increasing that period until they are completely weaned.

This approach also helps prevent common weaning problems in the does, like mastitis. See our article on treating goat mastitis naturally here! 

We also try to keep the mothers and babies within sight of one another, although that does little to lower the volume!

Weaning bottle-fed babies is a lot easier, however, as they are not bonded to their mothers. For these little guys, it’s just a case of reducing the amount of milk they receive each day while increasing the solid foods.

You might want to wean your babies off the bottle at the same time as you let them out to graze as this can help reduce their complaining by giving them something else to focus on, as well as something else to eat. 

The best diet for a healthy baby goat is one that combines 80% hay or alfalfa, with 15% pasture, 5% grain, and a few extra nutrients, either in block or powder form.

As we wean, we also deworm and give them probiotics to boost their digestive and immune systems during this stressful period. This approach also helps reduce the likelihood of coccidiosis and other similar conditions. 

As goats are sociable animals, keeping a weaned baby or mother goat alone will only increase stress.

Make sure you have a companion to keep each one company, even if it’s an older nanny goat, and you’ll find the process to be a lot calmer and quieter!

On the plus side, goats are remarkably hardy even at a young age, so cold weather shouldn’t be a problem for your little ones, assuming you’ve provided a clean stall and plenty of bedding.

The More Gradual, the Less Stressful

When it comes down to “What age can a baby goat leave its mom?” there are no hard and fast rules. Most breeders and owners agree that four weeks is too young and 12 weeks too old, so aiming for somewhere between 6-8 weeks is ideal.

The more gradual the weaning process is, the less stressful it is for everyone involved. It also gives your baby goat’s digestive system more time to adjust from a milk-only diet to one that includes everything in your vegetable garden!

While this approach won’t do much to reduce the constant bleating, it will ensure the future health of your little ones. 

Although weaning a bottle-fed baby is, in some ways, easier and almost always quieter, it comes with its own challenges.

These babies have never seen their mothers drink or forage, so learning these basics will be more challenging for them. Your best bet is to let them out with the herd or put them with an older goat who can show them the ropes.

Listening to newly weaned baby animals cry for their mothers can be heart-breaking but, knowing what I do now, I’m going to be strong this time and hopefully create the most stress-free weaning experience our homestead has seen to date. 

What’s your weaning process or will you be weaning for the first time? Let us know your experiences below in the comments!

Author

  • A horse-mad redhead with a passion for the outdoors, Nicky lives on a 6ha small-holding on the Wild Coast of South Africa. She spends her time rearing goats, riding (rearing) horses, and meticulously growing her own chicken food. She has a witch’s knack with herbs and supplements everything, from her beloved Australian Cattle Dog to the occasional passing zebra with the fruits of her labor. Nothing is bought unless Nicky fails to MacGyver it out of scraps of broken bridles, baling twine, or wire. She loves baling twine (and boxes, oddly enough).

Marcia Cooper

Sunday 31st of July 2022

First 6 years with milk goats, I let the mothers nurse their babies and wean them when they thought they were ready. Interestingly, the only daughter she had still was not weaned completely at six months! Had to put a "goat bra" on Mom! Other litters were weaned around 4 months. Now, I have three babies whose mother died the day after they were delivered by C-section. They did get some colostrum with the Vet's help and have been healthy. A blessing is I had their mother's mother at my small country home because she was needing a little more "hands on" care for health. Her "home" is 50 acres where the goats almost exclusively graze and her teeth were worn down. So, Grandma is their constant companion, teaching what to eat, etc. Two of the three had health "issues" - little girl was born with a selenium deficiency which I gave her a dose and Vit.B a day for the first 2 months, and now once a week, and the smaller boy developed an umbilical hernia that we (Vet and me) are watching. The kids have just turned 3 months are are still getting 3 -1/2 bottles a day, early a.m (before I get out and feed "everybody"), mid-afternoon to counter the 2 month "heat wave" we've been experiencing, and before "bed", with gradual decrease in volume and richness, as well as a full diet of good quality goat pellets, alfalfa hay, small apple bites, and small servings of sunflower seeds and alfalfa pellets for "extra vitamins, etc." They are definitely fond of their bottles and come to my back door, with the little girl being the speaker for them, telling me it is "bottle time" and she is not off by 5 minutes of their schedule! Little boys like Yannis "John" and Mihail "Michael", don't "give milk" and the Dr. said Angeliki, named after her grandmother, "Angel", probably should not be bred because of the selelnium "issue", so I guess they will just be my "goat children". (All of my goats have Greek names - long story)

The really sad part of this "story" is that their mother, Geselle, died. She came from the same pasture and had been with me for about a year and a half to keep my LaMancha doe, Penelope, "company" after her sister, Helen, died last year. She seemed healthy so I bred her to my LaMancha buck and was hoping for at least one little girl from each doe. (Penelope, my LaMancha doe who gave the BEST milk!, had to be euthanized after the birth of her babies was delayed. For whatever reason, she did not go into labor when I had figured, and about two weeks later she began labor, but no really good, strong contractions so by the time I could grab her feet, the little girl was born dead. Took Pene to a different Vet. and they tried to get the little boy out but he had been decomposing for some time, and she had a tear in her uterus we feared would not heal.)

I DO NOT consider myself any kind of "expert" with goats. (I have had various pets all my life, my "older sister" was a little Spitz my dad got when he was in the Army during WWII. We had dogs all my life, raised registered American Eskimos for about 20 years, many cats, three horses at different times, various parakeets, and other assorted smaller animals, so I am not unfamiliar with raising various animals.)

I do understand goats are "different" and have downloaded "tons of information", I read and refer back to.) Penelope had three litters of healthy babies, and Helen had two litters, healthy, so I had not really had to deal with many "problems" until last year when Penelope's first kid got his head bent backwards and friends who had raised goats and cows, could not get his head straightened to get him "out" alive and the little brother behind him was born alive but died three days later, from the long stressful labor, etc.

I am sharing this basically to "warn" anybody, like me and my friend who has had goats for about 25 years, and is a retired R.N. Neither of us had heard/read of the selenium issues with goats and where we live, central Texas, the land is quite deficient in selenium! I am sure the selenium issue was part of Geselle's health and death!

Elle

Sunday 31st of July 2022

Hi there Marcia, Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your story with us! This will be very helpful for other readers raising goats - we appreciate it very much :) Elle

Rosanna Sue Ramsey

Wednesday 10th of November 2021

this information is not accurate or correct

Elle

Wednesday 24th of November 2021

Hi there Rosanna! I'd love to hear your thoughts - can you provide more details? Elle