Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

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I have been treating my two five week old bucklings for coccidiosis (vet said one of them had) with Albon but the one buckling who tested "positive" for it has continually had loose stools overnight and then seems better in the day time. Tonight when I put them up for the night, I gave them a small bowl of grain as I have done for the last week and I noticed Toro (the one with loose stool) parked himself over the bowl gorging on the grain. Do you think he is eating too much grain and that's what is causing his loose stool? I have been so worried about him but now I'm wondering if it's the grain eating that is causing the problem. Leo (the other buckling) doesn't have loose stools at all. I thought they needed something to eat in there since they are separated from mom all night. What do you think?

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Five-week-old kids shouldn't be eating more than a handful of grain, so it is possible that he's eating too much. Hay is fine for them overnight. I'm assuming you are not separating them every night. It sounds like they're twins, so unless this doe is producing more than half a gallon a day, they can't get enough milk in 12 hours.

I have been separating and milking her (after they drink some first) every morning for 3 weeks. I get over a pint from her each morning (after they drink for a minute or two). They are 11 and 13 pounds now (born 3 and a half pounds) very beefy and seem to be getting enough so I guess she's producing plenty, right? I understood that it's okay to do this and they have been gaining well since I started milking, now you have me worried... 

Oh, my! I hope I wasn't the one who led you to think that would be okay. I don't normally recommend separating twins from mom every night that early. Separating twins a couple of times a week at that age is the most I'd suggest, if the kids were gaining weight well. (If I ever implied anything more, please let me know where it is, and I'll edit it.)

Is your doe producing enough for you to be doing this? If you are only getting 16 ounces of milk after a 12-hour separation, that would probably mean she is only making a little more than a quart a day, which would mean the kids are not even getting 16 ounces between the two of them, which is not good. A 5-week-old kid needs at least 16 ounces a day, but 24 ounces is better, and 32 ounces isn't unreasonable when dam-raised and nursing in little snacks through the day.

Since you've already seen a case of coccidiosis, that's another sign they are not getting everything they need. Nursing is not just about the kids getting enough milk to grow. In addition to the nutrients, the doe's milk also contains antibodies that help the kids immune systems fight off things like coccidia. There are literally dozens of things that can cause diarrhea in a kid, and the best thing for his tummy would be lots of his dam's milk. Any goat with diarrhea should not be receiving grain because it is a challenge to digest.

If you leave the doe and her kids together 24/7 and put her on the milk stand twice a day, then you'll know the kids are getting what they need. If she is indeed an exceptional producer, you'll get milk. If she is just making enough for the kids, then you won't get much, if any.

wow, 5 weeks seems pretty old. I thought at 8 weeks they should be weaned. I thought also - at that age (5 weeks) separating them every night would be the thing to do. My doeling is almost 16 weeks and I have had her off her Mom since 10 weeks. Just when you think you know. :(

If I left the doeling with Mom all day - there is nothing left for me in the evening.

I had posted a question about this a couple of weeks ago: "Question about morning milking with young kids on mom". One of the women who typically respond answered my question and I felt okay about it. At that time the bucklings were not eating hay or grain and now they are eating regularly (eating grain with mom in the evening) and browsing with mom and the doelings. They are full of energy and tripled their weight since birth. I do let them nurse first before I milk the doe and I don't milk her until she walks away from them. I realize I misunderstood about separating them every night and I will go back to only a few times a week for now to make sure they are getting enough. 

Wow, Deborah!  Not until reading your book (which I just got done devouring, and am thankful to have) and reading this thread, did I know that's how you handled the dam raised kids and milking.  I have consistently separated at night earlier than this for two years, even triplets.  Things have gone pretty well, really.  I have had a couple kids with probable cocci (2 out of 12) and some loose stools from overdoing the grain, which was quickly corrected, but really they've grown well, gaining according to what I've read to be normal here on this site, and elsewhere.  I wait until they're eating hay and grain and I see them drinking water, but definitely earlier than 2 months even for the triplets.  As Melissa said, "Just when you think you know."

Strangely, I thought I was following the advice gained on this site???  Now I'll have to go back and see if I can find where I got my info.

I don't think I've ever heard anyone say kids "should be weaned by 2 months," although a lot of people do wean by then. That is really a minimum age for weaning, definitely not a maximum.

As for having nothing left in the evening if the kid is with mom all day, that varies tremendously from goat to goat (both doe and kid) and changes based upon age. I was getting a substantial amount of milk from one of my does this year without ever separating her kids because she was producing more than they were able to consume. As kids get older, they do nurse less often. From what I can tell, only three of my spring doelings are still nursing, and they're with their dam all day long, so I have to milk them now or they'd dry up.

Melissa Johnson said:

wow, 5 weeks seems pretty old. I thought at 8 weeks they should be weaned. I thought also - at that age (5 weeks) separating them every night would be the thing to do. My doeling is almost 16 weeks and I have had her off her Mom since 10 weeks. Just when you think you know. :(

If I left the doeling with Mom all day - there is nothing left for me in the evening.

My kid-raising practices have become more refined with each passing year, and my definition of acceptable kid growth and health have also become far more demanding. If even one kid in my herd winds up with coccidiosis now, I am not happy. And I want my doelings to grow fast enough that they can be bred to kid as yearlings. As I've been on milk test for five years now, I've seen a 100% correlation between kid growth and dam's production, which equals how much milk the kid is getting. I suppose a lot of people just assume that some kids grow slowly, which I used to. A lot of people think that it's normal for quads to grow slowly, but the only reason they're growing slowly is because they're not getting enough milk in most cases. VERY few does make enough for maximum growth when feeding four kids. I know a lot of people think coccidiosis is "normal" for kids because every kid in their herd gets it unless they're on preventative. Basically, the longer I raise goats, the pickier I get.

I hate to break it to you, but you will never get it all figured out! :-) And if you do think you've got all the answers, they'll change the questions. Goats are tricky like that. Several years ago my daughter said to me, "I think we could raise goats for 100 years and still not know everything!" That is totally true. But I know I'm in good company. A couple years ago at the Mother Earth News Fair, Joel Salatin said that we were the first audience to see his revised presentation. Every year they try new things on his farm, and he revises his presentations every fall based upon what worked and what didn't.

I re-read my post on "Starting to milk" and added this yesterday as it is more concrete and measurable:

Added Sept. 18, 2013: Figuring out if kids are gaining adequate weight is virtually impossible for someone who is new to goats or does not have other kids to compare. So, before separating the kids every night, you should also look at how much milk you are getting from the doe. Ideally a kid should be getting 24 ounces per day, but 32 ounces is not unreasonable for a dam-raised kid that is snacking all day long. This means that if you separate her from the twins every night, she would need to be making 3 quarts a day (12 cups or 6 pounds) to adequately feed the kids enough milk while they are together during the day. This would mean that you would get 1.5 quarts (6 cups) when milking her in the morning.

This actually leads to another question I've had.  Is it realistic to assume that the amount of milk I get in the AM after 12 hours of separation in the same amount she makes all day as her kids are nursing on her?  I really question that as a mom who has nursed 4 babies.  I could never have pumped or expressed enough milk when away from my kids to equal what they could get from emptying the breast many times a day.

Please don't think I'm arguing with someone with so many years of experience on me. :)  On the contrary, I've patterned much of what I do after you, and I much admire your wisdom and how you dig in to things and find the answers.  I've just been wondering this for a long time (and I'm always full of questions).


Deborah Niemann-Boehle said:

My kid-raising practices have become more refined with each passing year, and my definition of acceptable kid growth and health have also become far more demanding. If even one kid in my herd winds up with coccidiosis now, I am not happy. And I want my doelings to grow fast enough that they can be bred to kid as yearlings. As I've been on milk test for five years now, I've seen a 100% correlation between kid growth and dam's production, which equals how much milk the kid is getting. I suppose a lot of people just assume that some kids grow slowly, which I used to. A lot of people think that it's normal for quads to grow slowly, but the only reason they're growing slowly is because they're not getting enough milk in most cases. VERY few does make enough for maximum growth when feeding four kids. I know a lot of people think coccidiosis is "normal" for kids because every kid in their herd gets it unless they're on preventative. Basically, the longer I raise goats, the pickier I get.

I hate to break it to you, but you will never get it all figured out! :-) And if you do think you've got all the answers, they'll change the questions. Goats are tricky like that. Several years ago my daughter said to me, "I think we could raise goats for 100 years and still not know everything!" That is totally true. But I know I'm in good company. A couple years ago at the Mother Earth News Fair, Joel Salatin said that we were the first audience to see his revised presentation. Every year they try new things on his farm, and he revises his presentations every fall based upon what worked and what didn't.

I re-read my post on "Starting to milk" and added this yesterday as it is more concrete and measurable:

Added Sept. 18, 2013: Figuring out if kids are gaining adequate weight is virtually impossible for someone who is new to goats or does not have other kids to compare. So, before separating the kids every night, you should also look at how much milk you are getting from the doe. Ideally a kid should be getting 24 ounces per day, but 32 ounces is not unreasonable for a dam-raised kid that is snacking all day long. This means that if you separate her from the twins every night, she would need to be making 3 quarts a day (12 cups or 6 pounds) to adequately feed the kids enough milk while they are together during the day. This would mean that you would get 1.5 quarts (6 cups) when milking her in the morning.

If you've got question, I'm glad you're asking! :) I really like what the editor of Grit magazine said about my book -- "cuts through the formulaic and often inflexible so-called 'expert advice' and encourages us to get to know our animals and listen to what they tell us." If you know your goats and you are getting the results you want, then don't worry.

In a former life I was a lactation consultant, and I nursed three babies, which is part of the reason I'm such an advocate for dam raising. I've no doubt that kids can get more milk than we can -- but probably not THAT much more unless you are brand new to milking -- but again this is going to vary from doe to doe, and you will probably know when a doe is holding back on you. But it takes time with THAT doe to know if she is holding back on you or if she just has a meaty udder. This does not even take into account the topic of whether a doe has a large or small cistern in her udder, which complicates matters even more. However, since you compared this to humans, we don't "milk" like goats and cows because we have no cistern -- and you will be less successful in getting out all of the milk when a goat has a smaller cistern.

Let's assume you have milked a doe in previous years, and you know she's produced 1/2 gallon a day at her peak. If she has twins and you separate them every night, they are most likely only getting 16 ounces each during the day. Even if you are not an outstanding milk maid, and the kids are getting 20 ounces each, that's better than 16 ounces, but not as great as the 32 ounces they could be getting if you weren't taking some of the milk. I do know someone who used to have a herd of NDs, and  she only gave 16 ounces a day to her bottle babies. The vast majority of people give 24 ounces a day when bottle feeding, and a few even give up to 32 ounces a day. When I have correlated the amount of milk that I get from a doe when milking her, comparing that to her kids' weight gain, they generally follow the same pattern. Does that are only producing a little more than 2 pounds a day have twins that gain weight far slower than I consider acceptable, whereas a doe that was producing 6 pounds a day had the most healthy, big, and vibrant triplets I've ever seen.

If I were right there with someone in their barn and was milking the doe and feeling the kids myself, I'd be a lot more confident in saying whether a kid was getting enough milk and/or a doe was being completely milked out. However, I'm not. :( So, rather than having a bunch of undernourished kids across the country, I'm erring on the side of caution in trying to come up with more concrete guidelines (how much milk is a doe producing in 12 hours) rather than something that a new goat owner would be hard-pressed to figure out (is the kid gaining weight appropriately). Unfortunatley, as NDs become more popular, there are a lot of sub-standard milk producers out there who can barely make enough milk to feed twins when with them 24/7. Since this group gets 5,000+ unique visitors every month, I'm always thinking about the lurkers who might be reading this post (who may have a pet-quality doe with poor production), in addition to those who are actually participating in the conversation.

I view the information on here as a big buffet -- take what looks good to you and leave the rest. :-)

Patty Meyer said:

This actually leads to another question I've had.  Is it realistic to assume that the amount of milk I get in the AM after 12 hours of separation in the same amount she makes all day as her kids are nursing on her?  I really question that as a mom who has nursed 4 babies.  I could never have pumped or expressed enough milk when away from my kids to equal what they could get from emptying the breast many times a day.

Please don't think I'm arguing with someone with so many years of experience on me. :)  On the contrary, I've patterned much of what I do after you, and I much admire your wisdom and how you dig in to things and find the answers.  I've just been wondering this for a long time (and I'm always full of questions).


If you want to know more about the cistern, there is a good explanation under "Milk storage in the mammary gland" on page 8 of this study:

http://stud.epsilon.slu.se/2551/1/hogberg_m_110511.pdf

(Sorry my computer won't let me cut and paste from a PDF.)

Thanks, Deborah. :)  I have been milking for three years, and I have just started to understand about the cistern.  I know I have a doe with a small cistern now, and it takes forever to get all the milk she has the potential to give me because of it.  She needs to be massaged a LOT more, and lets down a little more milk with each massaging.  It is an exercise in patience to milk her out.  However, her kids nurse more often and for longer than any of my other does have nursed their babies.  They're very healthy and plump.

Boy, is there ever more to learn, and more to learn about each doe each year.  That's part of what makes this adventure so much fun, even though it means I always feel that I could be doing things better. :)

I remember that now about the human breast not having a cistern.  That totally makes sense. :)  Thanks for sharing the study too.  This is really neat, because it's really explaining what I've been starting to figure out this summer.

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