Feeding from the Bottle
Last Resort and Weening
You may have had a baby pygmy goat come in to your possession for a variety of reasons. Perhaps it was orphaned or perhaps the mother goat became very sickly and was/is unable to provide milk to her young. When milk is supplied to a baby pygmy goat, from a bottle, all effort should be made to ensure that the baby doesn't become too reliant upon the milk you are providing for them. As such, not only should milking from a bottle be a last resort course of action, but your approach to milking should include a thorough weening schedule. At its youngest, a baby pygmy goat's needs for nutrition are very high, and, concurrently, feedings should occur more frequently.
As weeks go by, you will have to feed them less and less. While some have different approaches, your weening schedule should include feeding from the bottle 4 times a day until they are roughly 10 days old. Doing this will provide your goat with ample nutrition at its most critical period in its development. After the first 10 days, relience and addiction can be thwarted by making your first change in quantity of milk supplied: adjusting down to only 3 bottle feedings per day until they are 7 or 8 weeks old. Following the longest step in the weaning cycle, after 7 or 8 weeks, your baby pygmy goat should only drink 2 bottles a day for a week. At this point, you will simply provide one bottle until they are successfully weaned.
Formula administered can take many forms, however, your veterinarian should be consulted in order to ensure that your goat is receiving a formula in which they will derive maximum benefit from.
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Milk Formula Preparation
Visiting your veterinarian will give you the opportunity to explore different formula options. Ultimately, your vet will recommend one based on their experience with seeing results in other pygmy goats that they may be familiar with. Once you obtain the milk formula, be sure to warm it up just like you would for a human baby. Warming milk will make it more soothing and palatable to your pygmy goat. Be careful not to make the formula to hot. As you would do with a human baby's milk, prior to giving it, be sure to test the milk temperature with your pinky finger. If it is too warm, be sure to let it sit for a minute or two before giving it.
Fill the bottle with the warmed milk now.
Gather Your Supplies!
Before feeding your baby pygmy goat, make sure that you have your milk-contained bottle, a few towel, and, if possible, a helper to assist you. While you can certainly feed your goat on your own, a helper will simply help to calm the goat if they get anxious or excited, and they will also help to hold the goat stable while feeding. Towels should be brought simply because, no matter how careful you are, milk can always get on the goat itself. You can also position the towel below its mouth while feeding. This will help to catch any milk that falls from the bottle and doesn't make it into their mouth.
Giving the Milk Formula
Even if a baby pygmy goat is thirsty, they may be initially skeptical to drink out of a bottle with contents that it is uncertain about. In order to help familiarize the kid with what the bottle contains, you will want to express some of the milk formula into your hand and rub it on to one or both of the goat's nipples. Because nipples are generally very sensitive, the goat will have a quick understanding of the warmth and consistency of the milk. Doing this will make the goat familiarized with the feeding and prepared to partake.
The towels you brought can also be used to kneel on when you feed your pygmy goat. Doing this can help to save your pants from getting dirty and ruined.
Inserting the Bottle Nipple
Even after rubbing milk on your pygmy goat's nipples, he/she may still be unfamiliar with exactly what it is that the bottle contains. If this is your first time feeding your goat, you can expect him/her not to immediately associate the presence of a bottle with food. With time and feedings, the goat will become gradually conditioned to know and understand that the bottle, in fact, means that food is going to be given.
In this step, your helper will come in handy, however, you can still do it on your own if need be. You will want to cover your goats eyes with one hand or a towel. This is something that you can have your helper do. Doing this helps to remove anxiety from the goat, causing it to be more calm during the feeding process. It may be difficult, or it may not be, to get your goat to open their mouth. With one hand, you should gently pry open the mouth and insert the bottle nipple, while being sure to remove your thumb as quickly as possible.
Typically, it may not be until the nipple is in your goat's mouth that they associate it with food. As mentioned, with time and experience, your goat may come to better associate the bottle with food.
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Mimic the Doe
A baby pygmy goat will come to expect milk to be provided by way of its mother's udder. Using a bottle is necessary, however, it isn't the most natural form of feeding milk. It is important that you do what you can to mimic what would generally be 'natural' to the goat. The back-end of the milk bottle should be tilted up, with the nipple down facing the goat's mouth. This positioning will help to effectively mimic how the baby would feed from its mother's udder, which will making the feeding process more natural. Hold the bottle in this manner will help to utilize the force of gravity to feed, as well.
Cleaning Up and Weening
After each feeding, be sure to utilize your towel and helper to clean up. Dependent on how anxious your goat was, there may be little to no mess to clean. This should be done after every feeding.
As mentioned, baby pygmy goats are provided quite a bit of nutrition from bottle feeding at least initially. At around 8 to 10 weeks, the weaning process will begin. Around 21 days old, you can leave solid foods with the goat in order to help facilitate the weaning process. In the last week, milk can be used as a viable replacement for milk so as to make the goat hungry enough to partake in the solid food provided.