March 9, 2018

Goatkeeping: Managing Multiples

Between Dan's hand and nine baby goat kids our life is pretty full at the moment. With all those kids, though, how are the mamas managing to feed them all?

Jessie and her triplets

Daisy and her quadruplets

Violet's twins

Goats commonly give birth to twins and singles, occasionally triplets. Breeds like Kinders and Nigerian Dwarfs are also known to have quads! Unlike a cow, however, a goat has only two teats. A cow has one udder, four quadrants, and four teats. A goat has one udder with two halves and two teats.

So what happens when she has more than two babies? Well, goats aren't very good at taking turns and sharing, so how do I know everybody is getting enough milk?

Jessie and one of her girls

For the first couple of weeks the kids are small and don't take a lot of milk. Usually there is no problem with everybody getting enough, but I can still monitor that by weighing them. Any kid not gaining weight is not getting enough milk. I can put this kid and his mom in a pen several times a day to make sure he or she gets as much milk as they want.

Daisy and one of her daughters.

As the kids get larger there is more competition for a teat. Sometimes the doe produces plenty of milk, but the problem is that the larger and stronger kids usually hog the milk. Typically these are bucklings. One strategy is to start the little boys off on bottles from the git-go. Milk the doe out a bit and offer it to the boys in a bottle. If they learn that milk comes from a bottle, that's how they'll expect to get it. They can stay with their sisters and mother, and everybody will get enough milk.

The other advantage to this technique is that there is no cold turkey weaning. Bucklings usually reach breeding age before they are ready to be weaned, and therefore must be separated from the girls. This means weaning is abrupt and results in no small amount of hollering! Days worth of hollering. I've sometimes expected the police to turn up at any moment to ask if I was torturing somebody. 

Violet's buckling and one of Daisy's doelings.

So that's a definite advantage to bottle feeding the boys, but it requires a little bit of extra work and time. Is there an easier option?

There is. Once the kids are nibbling hay and grass it's possible to separate them from their mothers at night. I use our kidding pen and let individuals from triplets or quads spend the night there while their smaller siblings stay with mom all night. If they're all about the same size and weight I alternate them.

Of Jessie's triplets I put her buckling in the kidding pen, because he's the biggest and he makes sure he gets plenty of milk. Of Daisy's quads, I alternate kids. One night two of them stay in the kidding pen, the next night it's the other two. Violet's twins also spend the night there so I can milk her in the morning.

Violet's girl.

Of course none of them like it, but to sweeten the deal I give these kids a pan with a little Chaffhaye to nibble on. They think it's a treat and soon learn to go into the pen at night without me chasing them all over the barn to catch them.

In the morning the remaining kids are shooed outside while their mothers eat breakfast. After the does are finished eating I open the door to the kidding pen and the kids who spent the night there come rushing out to get their milk. Once they've had their fill I open the gate to outdoors and it's goat business as usual.

Waiting for the Maas to finish their breakfasts.

With everybody is getting enough milk they grow happy and well. And that's what it's all about.


  1. Leigh, they may be a handful for you and their mamas, they are just about as cute as it gets. Thanks for all pics! Makes me smile every time I see them.

  2. Mark, they are a delight and well worth it. A real bright spot in our lives!

  3. I love watching them grow. You are an excellent caretaker.

  4. I know you'd both rather have Dan healthy and working, but it must be nice for him to be home so much this time around so he can enjoy all the antics of the kids. And you must need a score card to keep track of who's turn it is to spend the night with mama, who's turn is it to be shut away for the night, etc. Good job of doing right by them all!

  5. Oops, bad grammatical error above. :o\ Both "who's" should have been "whose!"

  6. Michelle, it works! They are all gaining well and putting on some chunk. It gives the moms a break too, from all the pushing and shoving.

    tpals, and they grow so fast! Helping them get a good start in life is a good feeling.

    Mama Pea, I write in on the calendar! Otherwise I lose track of whose turn it is to spend the night with mom! It is nice having Dan home so much, but I know it's hard for him to be home and be so limited at what he can do. Sometimes, though, that's just the way it is, and I have to say he's not pushing himself. All the projects aren't going anywhere. :)

  7. Love the pic of Violets blue/grey kid!! She's beautiful! I love that color. Are you getting any milk for the house with all them babys?

  8. Annie, I like Violet's kid too. She's one of my keepers! I am getting some milk - from Violet. With the multiples I want to make sure the kids are all getting enough first, but with singles or twins I'm less concerned. Right now I'm taking about a pint in the morning, and the kids get her the rest of the day. That's enough to meet our needs at the moment.

    Caroline, thanks!

  9. Did you make a bottle holding rack for the bottle feeds? I've seen them in videos online.

  10. Renee, I've never had that many kids to make a rack to hold the bottles. At the most I've only had two, so it was one bottle in each hand. It's pretty sweet to bottle feed goat babies.

  11. Sounds like you've got your baby goats down to a fine art! That seems complicated, but I'm glad they have you to make it all work well for everyone.

  12. M.K. it was just problem solving! Hungry babies aren't good stewardship but once we found some answers it brought peace of mind that they were doing well. The only complicated part is remembering which of the quads spends the night in the stall!

  13. Wow, I didn't know there was so much work to raising goats! That is one animal my Dad never had. We had cows, horses, sheep and pigs. At one time they had chickens but I don't remember that. Seems you have a great system worked out! Nancy

  14. Nancy, nice that you grew up with so many farm animals! I imagine you have a lot of good memories. Bottle feeding kids is definitely more work! Separating kids at night to share the milk with them is pretty much standard practice, though, so I find it the simpler routine.

  15. It sounds like you need a spreadsheet! What beautiful kids! I imagine it's a full-time job with all that rotation and moving about. You really are a marvel.

  16. Susan, LOL. Naw, just a calendar to remember which of Daisy's kids turn it is. The hardest part is convincing them to go into the stall in the first place. Once they realize they'll get a treat, however, they're willing.

  17. I didn't consider the goat's personality in regards to getting enough to eat. until someone pointed it out to me. Bucks are generally more aggressive, and there are does that are pushier and greedier, but if you're looking at good survival instincts it takes on a more positive note. I still like the more passive easy to manage goats of either sex, but watching their food intake and hovering over them the first month is important. That's a pretty set of goats!

  18. Debby, good point about the girls! Yes, I've had some that way, and these are always candidates to be sold. I won't keep aggressive goats. I don't care for bossy goats either, i.e., ones that think they can boss me! I've had some in the past who would start non-stop hollering at 3 p.m. for 5 o'clock grain! Drives me nuts especially when they have plenty of pasture and hay.


Welcome to 5 Acres & A Dream The Blog! Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation.