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    Care Recommendations For Goat Kids

    Proper care for goat kids is imperative to ensure their health and safety!

    Updated July 21, 2021

    Veterinary Review Initiative
    This resource has been reviewed for accuracy and clarity by a qualified Doctor of Veterinary Medicine with farmed animal sanctuary experience as of July 2021.
    Check out more information on our Veterinary Review Initiative here!

    Goat kids (baby goats) have their own special care needs to help them reach adulthood in good health and comfort. Depending on how old they are when they enter your care and whether they have had or continue to have access to their mother, kids have diverse needs when it comes to health, nutrition, and socialization.

    Sanctuary Intake Recommendations For Goat Kids

    When a new baby goat finds their way to your sanctuary, it’s critical to follow appropriate intake and quarantine guidelines in order to protect your new resident and the existing herd. They should receive all location and age-appropriate vaccinations, should be evaluated for any health issues, and males should be neutered when your veterinarian deems appropriate. There is some controversy around the best age at which to neuter a male goat, so you should discuss the pros and cons of neutering male goats at various stages of development with your veterinarian. While neutering individuals at a younger age may result in less risk of complications during the procedure, there is a valid concern regarding neutering goats before their urethra has had time to fully develop, since urinary blockages are such a concern in male goats. Keep in mind that most male goat kids will become sexually mature around 4 months old (though pygmy goats can go through puberty as young as 2 months old!), so if you choose to wait until that age or older, you will need to take measures to prevent them from impregnating any herdmates.

    Depending on regional laws, you may need to register guardianship of the baby goat with your local government. If they are with their mother, you should not separate the two unless absolutely necessary (especially if the baby is still nursing), such as if one of them has a communicable illness or needs extra space to recover from a health issue. Always weigh the stress of separation with the benefits.

    CAE Considerations
    If you rescue a pregnant goat who is positive for Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis (CAE), you’ll need to consider whether or not you will separate mother and baby in order to protect the baby from infection. Transmission of CAE in utero (from mother to fetus) is rare and accounts for less than 5% of infections. Whether or not to separate mother and baby is a difficult decision and what you decide will ultimately depend on your Philosophy of Care. Because the virus can be transmitted via colostrum (first milk) and milk, some sanctuaries choose to use a goat bra to prevent the baby from nursing in an attempt to reduce their risk of infection. This arrangement will not eliminate all risk of transmission via respiratory droplets, and may still cause distress for mother or baby, but will likely result in less distress than full separation. You can then milk the mother and pasteurize the milk to kill the virus or feed colostrum and milk from a non-infected source. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian to ensure you know exactly what you will need to do to make the milk and/ or colostrum safe and to protect the mother from developing mastitis. Because not all CAE-positive individuals develop clinical disease, some sanctuaries choose not to intervene and instead allow the baby to nurse freely.

    If you have not already done so, be sure to talk to your veterinarian about incoming testing for goat kids. Blood testing for certain diseases in very young goat kids may not be recommended due to the presence of maternal antibodies, which could affect the results.

    Daily Health Care For Goat Kids

    Be sure to monitor the goat kid’s rectal temperature once or twice per day and monitor joints and navel for any signs of heat, swelling, pain, or discharge twice a day. Typically, a kid’s temperature should be between 102 and 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.9 to 39.7 degrees Celsius), but a healthy kid’s temperature can fluctuate due to environmental factors and activity level and could reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) without actually being cause for concern. This is why it’s important to consider many factors when assessing a goat kid’s temperature- a kid who is bright, constantly playing, and has a temperature of 104, is very different from a kid who has that same temperature but also has runny eyes, a cough, and doesn’t have a great appetite. Taking a kid’s temperature either in the morning and/ or evening will likely give you the most accurate reading. After the first few days, assuming the kid appears healthy and has not been spiking a fever, you can take the kid’s temperature once a day instead of twice. If you have concerns regarding a goat kid’s temperature, always consult with your veterinarian and be prepared to give them other information about how the kid is doing overall (appetite, activity level, and if they have any other signs of concern).

    If the umbilical cord is still attached or the navel is still open, be sure to keep this area clean. If the kid is over 7 days old, the navel and any remaining umbilical cord should be completely dry. Upon intake, dip the umbilical cord in 7% providone-iodine solution or a 2% chlorhexidine solution, then clean twice daily with dilute 0.5% chlorhexidine until healed. It’s best to allow the umbilical cord to dry up and fall off on its own. We recommend weighing the goat daily until they are at least 2 months old, to ensure they are gaining weight appropriately.

    Immediate Treatment Required
    If a goat kid is showing symptoms of navel or joint ill (discussed in more detail below), or if they appear to have even the smallest limp in one of their legs, they must be evaluated by a veterinarian immediately and may require hospitalization. Immediate treatment is imperative as these diseases can quickly cause irreversible damage and lead to sepsis, which can be fatal.

    Food And Nutritional Recommendations For Goat Kids


    Nutritional care decisions for goat kids hinge upon their precise age and whether they have received their mother’s (or a different recent mother goat’s) colostrum immediately after birth. Without colostrum, the first milk produced by their mother when they are born, goat kids will not receive the protective immunoglobulins they need to fight off disease (this is referred to as passive immunity). Colostrum also contains important nutrients and growth hormones which help the goat kid properly develop. Without colostrum, goat kids lack the crucial immune system boost required to help them survive and thrive until their own immune system develops. There is only about a 24 hour window for the goat kid’s intestinal lining to be able to absorb the colostrum’s antibodies, with the first 4-6 hours after birth being the most effective absorption time and an exponential loss in effectiveness as the day goes on. If the baby goat has their mother, or you have access to colostrum from another goat mother, the baby should receive between 10-20% of their body weight in colostrum (you can use the calculation in the table below), ideally spread out between a few feeding over the first 12 hours. In the event that they do not have their mother, colostrum (and later, milk) can be fed via a bottle, but if a baby goat is unable to suckle, they will need to be tube fed to ensure they receive the appropriate amount of colostrum. This must be performed or taught by a veterinarian or care expert, as improper tubing can result in aspiration and even death.  

    If a newborn goat kid arrives at your sanctuary and did not receive adequate colostrum in the first crucial hours of their life, they must receive rapid intervention. If they are less than a day old, you should still try to administer actual or artificial colostrum, but once they’re more than a day old, it is effectively useless. When using artificial colostrum, make sure you are buying a colostrum “replacement” versus a “supplement”, as the supplement does not contain enough IgG proteins to provide the goat kid with the essential level they require. Check packaging carefully- it will state which type it is. If you do not know if the goat kid received colostrum, or do not know if they received enough, you can work with your veterinarian to test them for Failure of Passive Transfer (FPT). Consult with your veterinarian regarding the best course of action for goat kids who have not received colostrum. They can assess the individual and may recommend antibiotic treatment or even a plasma transfusion. If you are not willing to provide these recommended treatments for a goat kid who did not receive adequate colostrum, there is a very good chance they will not survive or will be prone to a life where they are always more susceptible to infectious diseases

    You never know when a newborn kid will show up at your sanctuary, and you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are unable to provide the colostrum they require. Because time is of the essence, we recommend either keeping colostrum replacer in stock, making sure to replace it as needed based on the expiration date, or keeping frozen colostrum on hand. Frozen colostrum can be stored for up to a year. Be sure to thaw only what you need, thaw it slowly in warm water, and do not re-freeze any leftover portions. 

    Cow colostrum is an acceptable substitute for goat colostrum if that is all you have available, but you should feed about ⅓ more volume to make up for the fact that it is not as nutritious as goat colostrum. Make sure it comes from a Johne’s– free herd to avoid disease transmission. There have been some reports of kids developing hemolytic anemia 1-3 weeks after being fed cow colostrum, but this is rare, and if your options are cow colostrum or no colostrum, feeding cow colostrum is the better option. Always contact your veterinarian if a kid is not eating as well or is showing signs of weakness. If this occurs in a kid who was fed cow colostrum, be sure to let your veterinarian know that they received cow colostrum. Your veterinarian can assess the individual for anemia and perform a blood transfusion if necessary.

    Bottle Feeding

    Without their mother present, you’ll have to feed a goat kid with a bottle, artificial nipple, or bowl for at least four weeks, though many sanctuaries continue to feed milk to goat kids for at least two months. There are a few different options when it comes to milk. In the absence of their mother’s milk, feeding goat’s milk is the next best option. If your local grocer does not carry goat’s milk, you should be able to buy powdered goat’s milk online. Whole cow’s milk can typically be used if goat’s milk is unavailable, just make sure any store-bought milk is full fat. When using store-bought milk, choose pasteurized milk to prevent the possible spread of disease. The last option is to use a milk replacer, but be sure to use one formulated specifically for goat kids, and follow the directions on the package when preparing. The milk replacer will come with a scoop provided and all mixing instructions will be based on using that scoop, so don’t throw it out!  It is important to follow all package instructions, as improper mixing can result in issues such as scours (diarrhea- discussed in more detail below) or malnutrition. While it can be more expensive, whole goat’s milk is easier for digestion and is less likely to cause scours.

    There are a variety of styles of nipples and bottles that can be used with goat kids, including thinner styles like Pritchard Teat Nipples, larger nipples typically labeled for lambs and foals, or even bottles and nipples designed for human babies. It can be helpful to have a few styles on hand, because some individuals prefer one over the others, especially if they were on a bottle prior to their arrival at the sanctuary. Some nipples do not come with an opening at the end, instead requiring you to cut the tip- in some cases cutting a small slit, and in others a small “x”. It is important not to cut too large of an opening. Milk should not easily flow out of the nipple when the bottle is inverted; instead, the goat kid should need to suckle to get milk out of the nipple. If the opening is too large, either because it was cut too large or it became larger with regular use, the baby could aspirate, which can result in pneumonia, and in severe cases, death. Always check the bottle and nipple before using, inverting prior to offering it to the baby goat to ensure it is safe to use. Discard any nipples that do not work properly.

    Goat kids should be fed at least 10-12% of their body weight, though your veterinarian may recommend up to 20%, especially if you are feeding whole goat’s milk. Feeding too much milk replacer can cause stomach upset, so they may suggest you stick with 10-12% body weight to prevent issues. If you took in a goat kid in the middle of this period of their life, try to get what they had been eating before coming to their new home so you can gradually transition their diet (and if they were bottle fed, it’s helpful to know what type of nipple they are used to). This will prevent the likelihood of stomachaches or other digestive problems as their body adjusts. Regardless of the type of milk you are feeding, goat kids, especially newborns, should be fed warm milk heated to around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.78 degrees Celsius).

    To make things a bit easier, when calculating how much milk a goat kid needs, you can approximate that a U.S. customary fluid ounce of milk and an Imperial fluid ounce both weigh one ounce. To determine how much milk a goat kid needs per day and per feeding, you can follow this formula:

    Weigh goat kidKid weighs 10lbs
    Convert to ounces10 x 16 = 160oz
    Multiply weight in ounces by percentage you
    want to feed to get total amount per day
    If feeding 10% body weight

    160oz x 10% = 16oz milk per day
    Divide the total amount fed per day by the
    number of feedings to determine amount
    to feed at each meal
    If feeding 4 times per day

    16oz/ 4 meals = 4oz per feeding
    Follow these simple steps to calculate how much milk a goat kid needs!

    Until they’re two weeks old, they should have milk split between four and six feedings per day, and they should generally remain on 4 feedings per day until they are one month old (goat kids on milk replacer tend to do best on smaller, more frequent meals than larger feedings, so keep this in mind). At this point, they can be fed 3 times per day. When you reduce the number of feedings, make sure you are increasing the amount of milk fed at each feeding to maintain their overall daily amount (unless you are in the process of weaning), and be sure to increase their overall milk intake as they grow!  Ensure that you sterilize their bottle after each feeding, either with a baby-safe sterilizing agent, a sterilizing appliance, or with boiling water. 

    If They Cannot Suckle

    If a goat kid cannot take in milk via bottle, artificial nipple, or bowl, you may need to teach them how to suckle. You can hold the goat in your lap and place the nipple in their mouth- at first they may just gum the nipple, but they almost always figure it out eventually. Sometimes getting them to suckle on your finger first is helpful. If they are truly struggling with the concept, they may need to be fed via intubation so they continue to receive the vital nutrition they need until they learn to suckle. Remember- do not tube feed any animal without receiving in-person training from an expert, as they can easily drown if not intubated correctly every time. An injection of selenium and vitamin E is commonly given to goat kids who have a weak suckle response- contact your veterinarian for specific instructions.

    Transitioning To Solid Foods

    Until a goat kid is at least a month old, milk will be their primary source of nutrients. However, you can start offering a small amount of hay right from the start. They likely won’t eat it at first, but should start nibbling on it here and there. You should also offer water in a small dish that prevents spilling. Avoid water sources that could result in the baby becoming wet, either by spilling the water or walking through the water, especially in colder weather. To assist in their rumen development, you can start offering goat kids a small amount of kid starter food when they are 3 days old. Like the hay, at first they may not eat it, but it’s good to have it available to them. Increase the amount when they start showing interest in eating it.

    Talk To Your Veterinarian About Vaccination For Clostridial Diseases
    If a mother is fully vaccinated for clostridial diseases (clostridium perfringens type C and D, as well as tetanus), kids will receive passive immunity to these diseases through her colostrum. This immunity is temporary and will begin to fade when kids are about 6 weeks old. Vaccinating these kids when they are about 6-8 weeks old will ensure continued protection against these dangerous diseases. Kids who did not receive colostrum from a vaccinated individual (and therefore did not receive passive immunity) should be vaccinated for clostridial diseases at an earlier age, typically when they are between 3-4 weeks old. Kids with unknown immunity or vaccination status should also be vaccinated between 3-4 weeks of age. Be sure to administer subsequent boosters following the manufacturer’s instructions or your veterinarian’s recommendations.

    When the goat kid is eating kid starter and hay (or pasture) regularly, or around the time they are 1 month old, you can start offering free choice mineral access. While some people have had no issue offering mineral access before this point, there is a chance they will overindulge, which could result in toxicity issues. Whenever you start offering minerals, watch closely to ensure that they do not overdo it, removing access for the rest of a day if necessary. When the goat kid appears to be eating hay and kid starter well, you can begin slowly reducing their milk while giving them more solid food access. Bottle or bowl feeding might continue for up to 16 weeks, though the goat kid may transition fully to solid food well before this time. They should be eating hay (or pasture if your sanctuary’s foliage can fully support their diet) as the bulk of their diet once weaned. Your veterinarian may recommend you continue to offer measured amounts of kid starter at first, but be sure to talk to them about the risk of urinary calculi in neutered male goat kids on grain.

    If The Goat Kid Has Their Mother

    If a goat kid came to your sanctuary along with their mother (or if a pregnant goat came to your sanctuary), you should let their mother take charge of feeding and nutrition for the most part as long as you are confident she is producing enough milk to do so. Lactating goats require more protein and energy in their diet and should have access to  a high quality hay and supplemental concentrate formulated for lactating goats. While we do not recommend alfalfa hay for herds containing neutered male goats, alfalfa hay is a great option for lactating goats. If pasture is available, be sure to consider if the quality is high enough to provide the nutrients necessary- if the quality is only average or below, continue offering supplemental hay. When feeding concentrate, offer about one pound of concentrate for each kid she is nursing.

    Kids will wean off of their mother’s milk when they feel it is appropriate (or when their mother feels it is appropriate), and as long as kids have solid food and minerals available to them, they will time their development much better than a human would in most circumstances! Both goats will be much happier to have each other than if they had been separated. About 60 days after they’ve given birth, you can start making changes to the mother’s diet to decrease milk production and prevent unhealthy weight gain- reducing, and then discontinuing, supplemental pellets and offering average quality hay or pasture. 

    Be sure to monitor mom’s udders for signs of injury from enthusiastic nursing and closely monitor her overall health- especially as lambs grow- and watch to make sure she is not losing too much weight while kids are nursing. Some individuals may require more supplementation than outlined above. Discuss any concerns with your veterinarian.

    Keep in mind that goats who have recently given birth are more susceptible to parasitism than other adults and could be shedding large numbers of eggs in their feces, especially in the first month of lactation. Those who are nursing more than one baby are even more vulnerable. Kids also are very vulnerable to parasitism as they have not developed any immunity to them yet. Good nutrition can help prevent issues with parasitism, but be sure to talk to your veterinarian about other ways to protect both mother and baby, such as more frequent FAMACHA scoring and being thoughtful about which pastures, if any, mothers and kids have access to.

    Living Space Recommendations For Goat Kids

    It’s important to ensure that goat kids are provided with relief from extreme temperatures. In colder environments, they may require extra bedding, goat-safe heaters, or blankets if necessary, until they’ve developed a more robust coat and extra insulating body fat. Kid-sized coats can be found online to help keep babies warm. In hot environments, it’s important to give them ample opportunities to avoid overheating, including employing fans and giving them ample shade if they desire it. Offering both indoor and outdoor living spaces (if the weather allows) away from other goats and large sanctuary mammals (other than their mother if she’s present) will help keep goat kids safe until they grow a little bigger and stronger, and until their immune system grows more robust. Keep in mind that goat kids are more vulnerable to predation than mature goats, so even if your resident goat herd is safe having access to the outdoors overnight, it’s best to keep young goat kids closed in a safe space overnight. This will also ensure they don’t get stuck outside during inclement weather when caregivers are not around to escort them inside and dry them off or warm them up as needed.

    Ventilation Is Imperative!
    Appropriate ventilation is key for goats of all ages, but especially kids. Poor ventilation is a common cause of pneumonia in goat kids. Keep spaces draft-free, dry, and offer extra bedding in cold weather, but avoid creating spaces that are too warm or humid.

    Social Recommendations For Goat Kids

    Goat kids should be given space away from mature goats (except for their mother if she’s present) until they have matured to a point where they no longer require supplemental feeding. If you are caring for more than one mother/ baby grouping, these families may do well together, especially if the mothers knew and were friendly with each other before giving birth. Just watch closely, as sometimes mothers do not appreciate another goat’s baby coming into their space! Consider creating a separate area that the kids, but not the adults, can enter. This will allow them to get away from adults if desired and is also a good place to put additional hay and water, as well as kid starter.

    If you are caring for multiple new goat kids who do not have their mother, once they are given a clean bill of health from a veterinarian, they will typically make for very close lifelong companions! The same can be true for young goat kids and lambs who are around the same age, though depending on personalities, they may seek out companionship with members of their own species as they mature.

    Be Sure To Establish Healthy Boundaries!
    Baby goats are adorable and love to run, jump, and play! While play between human caregivers and baby goats can be fun for everyone involved, be sure to consider what sort of message you are sending with how you play. Goat kids love to stand-up and headbutt each other, and caregivers may partake or encourage this behavior by using their hand to headbutt in return. While this behavior is harmless with small babies, if those goat kids grow up to be large goats who continue to want to play in this way, you could have a potentially dangerous situation on your hands. Headbutting directed at humans, even when playful, can result in injury, so keep this in mind when playing with goat kids!

    Common Goat Kid Health Challenges

    While not an exhaustive list of the potential health challenges a goat kid could face, below are some of the most common issues that affect kids.

    Navel Ill

    Goat kids with FTP, especially those born into dirty environments and who do not receive proper navel (umbilical) treatment, are especially prone to navel infection, referred to as navel ill or omphalitis. In newborns, the umbilicus, or navel, is open and can allow bacteria to enter. The umbilical cord serves as a connection between the baby and mother for the transfer of nutrients, and after being born, this membrane is torn and should dry up and close within a few days of birth. A goat kid with navel ill may have a hot, swollen, painful navel, there may be discharge present, and the kid may appear very dull with little interest in eating. Maggots can also develop in this region if there is an infection present. Left untreated, the infection can spread, resulting in other issues such as peritonitis, joint ill (described below), or septicemia. Goat kids with suspected navel ill should be assessed by a veterinarian immediately and will require systemic antibiotic treatment, possibly intravenously. In some cases surgical intervention is also necessary.  Be sure to keep goat kid living spaces clean and dry, monitor their navel twice daily, and follow the instructions listed above regarding proper navel care and rectal temperature monitoring.

    Joint Ill

    If bacteria travels to the joints, this will cause an infection in the joint called joint ill or infectious arthritis. This can develop as a result of untreated navel ill, or the bacteria can travel to the joints as a result of an infection in other parts of the body. A goat kid with joint ill may have a hot, swollen, and painful joint, and they may be reluctant to stand or bear weight on the affected leg. It can affect one or multiple joints at the same time. With early infection, the only obvious sign may be a minor limp. As noted above, if a goat kid develops even a slight limp in their step, you should have them evaluated by a veterinarian to determine if the cause is an infection or injury. Goat kids with joint ill can face lifelong mobility challenges- early treatment is imperative. This is why we recommend closely monitoring a kid’s joints (fetlocks, knees, and hocks are most commonly affected, but any joint can develop an infection) twice daily. Goat kids with joint ill will require systemic antibiotics and pain management. In some cases the joint will need to be flushed or the placement of antibiotic beads may be recommended.


    Pneumonia is a respiratory disease caused by inflammation in the lungs. Goat kids can develop pneumonia from a variety of causes including environmental factors (high humidity, poor ventilation, and/ or being exposed to cold temperatures) and aspiration (often from inhaling milk from a nipple that flows too quickly). It can also be caused by a variety of organisms including bacterial, viral, fungal, or a combination of these. As stated above, poor ventilation is a common cause of pneumonia, so be sure to offer appropriate ventilation in kid living spaces. Goat kids with FTP are especially vulnerable to developing pneumonia due to a deficient immune system. Signs of pneumonia may include fever, coughing, nasal or ocular discharge, labored breathing, open mouth breathing, gurgly or wet sounding breathing, a dull appearance, lethargy, and a poor appetite. If the goat kid is suffering from a chronic pneumonia, you may only see a mild version of these signs; they generally have nasal discharge with a slight increase in their respiratory rate. Goat kids displaying signs of pneumonia should be assessed by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend an antibiotic treatment and based on the severity may recommend other treatments or diagnostics (including blood work and an ultrasound of their lungs). Without proper treatment, goat kids can die from pneumonia, and those who recover can suffer from permanent damage to their lungs.


    Scours is another name for diarrhea in ruminants, which could originate from a number of different infectious and non-infectious sources. Viruses, bacteria, and protozoa can all act alone or together to cause scours. The goat kid’s diet can also be a contributing factor. If left untreated, goat kids with scours can quickly become dehydrated. In young goat kids it is often this dehydration, not the organism that caused the scours, that is the most common cause of death. Newborn goats do not have the same pelleted poop as adults, so don’t let the absence of pellets worry you! Their first poop will be dark and tar-like; this is meconium. After that, their poop will be the color of mustard and will go from pasty to more formed. A baby goat should not have watery or overly loose poop. When in doubt about what is normal and what is not, grab a sample or take a picture and consult with your veterinarian.

    We strongly recommend a goat kid with scours be seen by a veterinarian, but if you are experienced in how to conduct a physical evaluation on a goat kid and know how to determine their level of hydration, you may choose to closely monitor them at first. If you are not familiar with how to assess a kid’s hydration status, you should have your veterinarian show you how to do so through skin tenting and assessing if a kid has sunken eyes. By being able to provide this information to your veterinarian, they will be able to determine if you can manage the goat kid’s care on your own or if more advanced interventions are necessary. It is imperative you involve a veterinarian if the kid is showing signs of dehydration or has had scours for more than a couple days. They can help determine the underlying cause (though this usually requires fecal testing as well), establish an appropriate treatment plan, and provide supportive care as needed. The most common scour- causing pathogens in goat kids less than one month old are E. Coli, rotavirus, Cryptosporidum, and Salmonella. In most cases, treatment consists primarily of supportive care, but depending on the underlying cause, your veterinarian may recommend other treatments, such as dewormers or antibiotics. To address their dehydration, the goat kid will need goat kid-safe electrolytes, which can be given in addition to their milk, or in place of some of their milk. Some electrolytes can hinder the absorption of milk given; therefore, your veterinarian should help determine the best treatment plan. They may also recommend adding lactaid tabs to their milk. If the kid is too weak to accept fluids orally, they will require intravenous or subcutaneous administration, performed by a qualified veterinarian or care expert.

    Ensure that the goat kid is kept warm, dry, and quarantined during recovery, and continue to practice good biosecurity habits to protect the rest of the herd. If the scours source is zoonotic, you must take all appropriate measures to ensure that no human is exposed directly to their fecal matter. Do not let a goat kid with scours interact with the public! It is imperative that everyone working with or around a goat kid who has scours wears gloves and avoid letting any part of the goat kid make contact with a human’s face (we know they are extremely kissable, but for everyone’s safety, you really must avoid directly kissing a goat kid with scours).

    Orf (Contagious Ecthyma, Sore Mouth)

    This highly contagious condition is quite common in goat kids and is caused by a poxvirus. Individuals with orf will develop crusty lesions on their mouth and nose, and could even have lesions inside their mouth or other parts of their body. A nursing goat kid with orf could also spread the disease to their mother’s udder. While adults with orf typically continue eating, goat kids with severe lesions may  be reluctant to eat, in which case tube feeding may be necessary. There is no treatment for orf, but the condition will usually resolve within 3-6 weeks barring any complications. In some cases, topical or systemic antibiotics may be recommended to address secondary bacterial infections. While this disease is most common in younger goats and sheep, adults can also become infected, so be sure to practice good isolation procedures to protect the rest of your residents. Immunity after infection typically lasts 2-3 years, though after the initial infection, any subsequent infections tend to be less severe. Orf can be spread to humans (though it manifests differently in humans, resulting in a single lesion, often on the hand), so it is imperative that anyone interacting with an individual with orf wears gloves and other protective coverings. Sheep and goats with orf could continue to spread the disease for weeks after lesions have healed. If orf is an issue at your sanctuary, be sure to consult with your veterinarian regarding the best way to prevent further infection.

    Floppy Kid Syndrome

    The exact cause of this syndrome is not known, but some sources suggest over-consumption of milk to be a contributing factor. Kids are born healthy, but suddenly become very weak 3-10 days after birth. Kids will not be able to suckle because they cannot use their tongue properly, but they can swallow. They will exhibit flaccid paralysis (loss of muscle tone resulting in affected individuals being limp or “floppy”, hence the name “floppy kid syndrome”). This syndrome does not cause other symptoms such as diarrhea, dehydration, respiratory illness, or fever. Blood work will reveal metabolic acidosis (low blood pH). Immediate correction of blood pH and supportive care is imperative. While there have been some reports of spontaneous recovery without intervention, this syndrome can have mortality rates as high as 50% without treatment. Be sure to contact your veterinarian immediately if a goat kid is showing signs of floppy kid syndrome- they can also rule out other conditions that are often mistaken for floppy kid syndrome, such as white muscle disease or enterotoxemia, and make treatment recommendations. Depending on the severity of the syndrome, your veterinarian may recommend giving the kid sodium bicarbonate orally, but in more severe cases, IV fluids will be necessary. They can also make feeding recommendations while the kid recovers and may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent secondary infections.

    Growing Up

    Once they are weaned and on solid foods, goat kids should be strong and nimble enough to spend time among other grazing goats (and sheep, as long as the goat kid isn’t too rough or rambunctious!) and will have the ability to safely get away from others if confronted or bullied. Because internal parasites can be such a serious issue with goats in certain regions, and young kids do not have any immunity yet, we recommend you work with your veterinarian to come up with a plan to keep young kids safe. This may include fecal testing, and possibly deworming, of the new goat kid before and after their introduction to the herd and keeping them away from known high-shedders or highly contaminated pastures. 

    When you first introduce a much younger goat to the existing herd, make sure to watch over initial interactions to ensure everyone is playing safe, and be sure to consider the personalities in the herd. A herd with a large, confrontational goat (especially a male) may not be the best fit for a much smaller goat kid who is still figuring things out! However, in the right setting, older goats (and possibly sheep) will teach a younger one how to appropriately play and establish boundaries. For more information on goat introductions, check out our resource here.


    Colostrum: “Liquid Gold” | Maryland Small Ruminant Page

    How to Convert Fluid Ounces of Water to Weight | Sciencing

    Advanced Topics In Resident Health: Small Ruminant Lentiviruses (CAE And OPP) | The Open Sanctuary Project

    Floppy Kid Syndrome | Sale Creek Veterinary Services

    Floppy Kid Syndrome | Louisiana State University Agricultural Center

    Weak Kid Syndrome | New South Wales Local Land Services

    Sheep And Goat Medicine, Second Edition (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Caring for Baby Kid Goats of an Unknown Age | The University Of Maine Cooperative Extension: Livestock (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Goat Reproduction Parturition/Kidding | eXtension: Goat Community Of Practice (Non-Compassionate Source)

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    Feeding Goats | Fias Co Farm (Non-Compassionate Source)

    CDT Vaccinations | Maryland Small Ruminant Page (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Periparturient Egg Rise | Susan Schoenian (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Diarrhea (Scours) In Small Ruminants | Maryland Small Ruminant Page (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Contagious Ecthyma – Commonly Known As Orf | Ontario Ministry Of Agriculture, Food, And Rural Affairs (Non-Compassionate Source)

    “Floppy Kid” Syndrome | Andres de la Concha and Ramtin Juste (Non-Compassionate Source)

    Non-Compassionate Source?
    If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

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