Raising Dairy Goat Buck Kids
Table of Contents
Buck kids are often viewed as a byproduct of the dairy goat industry. Raising buck kids can be a profitable business, whether you raise kids born on your own dairy goat farm or purchase them. This factsheet provides information that will help raise and market healthy buck kids including information on feeding colostrum, milk feeding, weaning, housing and best management practices for health.
Studies have suggested that consumption of goat meat would increase if more goat meat were available in supermarkets,1 which creates a marketing opportunity for raising dairy buck kids. Buck kids are a part of dairy goat production. A dairy goat farmer who has made the decision not to raise buck kids must find a buyer willing to do so. The dairy goat farmer should provide the proper amount of quality colostrum to buck kids, within the correct time frame, as well as provide adequate neonatal care.
Colostrum is essential for kids. It is an excellent energy source and contains antibodies for protection against disease and other immune factors. Feed colostrum as soon as possible after birth, since the ability to absorb antibodies decreases rapidly. Ideally, the first feeding would occur within the first hour. The amount of colostrum fed is also critical.
Kids should receive:
Weigh the kids to ensure they are receiving the appropriate amount.
Colostrum Feeding Example
For a 3-kg kid, feed:
If you are purchasing buck kids, ask the source farm about colostrum protocols. Source farms should be selling kids that have received an adequate amount of quality colostrum during the correct time frame.
There are a number of systems and techniques for feeding kids. These vary from bucket feeding to automatic milk feeders that measure and mix the milk replacer regularly. The choice of system will depend on the number of kids to be reared, individual circumstances and preferences. Sanitation is critical, regardless of which system is chosen.
Follow the mixing instructions from the milk replacer company when using milk replacer. Mixing milk too cold may result in the fats not mixing evenly throughout, and mixing milk too hot will cause the proteins to denature. Feeding cool milk (6°C-10°C) prevents kids from drinking large quantities of milk at a time, reducing digestive problems. Again, follow recommendations from the milk replacer company on recommended temperatures.
Free-choice access to milk improves health and reduces digestive problems. Using acidified milk may reduce the amount of bacteria present in the milk if it is available free choice throughout the day.
It is important to agitate the milk, as the fat may settle out over time, so mixing or stirring throughout the day is ideal. Economic concerns often dictate just how much, or how little, milk replacer you can afford to feed. Fehr and Hervieu (1975) determined that it is not advisable to use less than 7 kg of milk replacer powder per goat kid.2
Make a starter ration available to kids within the first week of age. It should be highly palatable and digestible. Ask your nutritionist to suggest a balanced ration for your kids.
Make roughage available after 1 week of age to encourage rumen development. Supply water to kids within 24 hr of birth. Ensure the water is always clean, fresh and available at room temperature.
For successful weaning, feed kids some level of solid feed (approximately 150-200 g/day) consisting of highly palatable and digestible rations. Provide fresh, clean water where the kids can easily find it.
Weaning shock is less severe in kids weaned by weight compared to in those weaned by age. A Langston University Study found that successful weaning was achieved by weaning kids at 9 kg (20 lb) of body weight. For weaning by age, the same study found that kids should be 8 weeks of age before weaning. Weaning by weight prevents unhealthy or undernourished kids from being weaned too early and allows the kids more time to develop.3 As a general rule, kids may also be weaned at 2.5 times their birth weight.
Monitor body condition score and feed intakes closely during the weaning period to ensure kids are transitioning and adapting to consuming solid feed and water.
When raising kids, housing is an essential component to reducing stress, disease and mortality. Below are some considerations for housing young kids:4
Try to keep kids from different source farms separated. If this is not possible, closely monitor kids. Identify sick kids, provide appropriate treatment and separate them into a designated sick area. Track illness and mortality rates from source farms; this is important to know, as health status may differ between farms. Colostrum management may be better on some farms than on others, so discuss this with the farmer when purchasing kids. Benchmark mortality and illness rates, and compare them annually, between groups and source farms (if applicable). Make changes to your purchasing process accordingly.
Work with your herd veterinarian to establish a buck kid health protocol and discuss potential problems that may arise, such as pneumonia, bloat, coccidiosis, pulpy kidney, enterotoxemia, neonatal diarrhea and floppy kid syndrome.
Research marketing options and opportunities early when raising buck kids. Asking some key questions can help you know what time of year and at what weight to market kids. Before purchasing the kids, know when you will market: year-round, seasonally or for specific holidays when there is a demand for goat meat. Study prices for the year. Talk to buyers at sale barns or abattoirs to have a good idea on price peaks and valleys for the year.
Another factor that should be considered is the desired end weight and finish. Asking processors or other potential buyers for their input is helpful for answering this question. For example, some processors may want a 27-kg (60-lb) well-finished live weight kid, while others may want different weights and finishes. Pricing will vary depending on the weight and finish desired.
Goats are seasonal, short-day breeders. A large percentage of the dairy goat industry will kid from January through to the end of April. Based on this, the majority of buck kids are usually available for purchase in the spring. As a general rule, 36-kg (80-lb) live-weight kids can be finished within 5-6 months, so many kids are marketed in the fall. Depending on the target weight desired, kids may be marketed at different time frames. Kid rations can also be formulated to either accelerate growth or slow growth to meet a desired holiday. There are some dairy goat producers who take advantage of out-of-season breeding to capitalize on milk incentives. In this case, buck kids can be available in the fall.
When raising buck kids, keep records on weight into the system, average daily gain, weight marketed, the rations fed and the time frame required to market kids. This information will provide a benchmark for future years to help develop a marketing plan for buck kids.
To be successful in raising and marketing buck kids, provide kids with quality colostrum as soon as possible after birth. Feed kids 50 mL of colostrum/kg of body weight (5% of body weight) at the first feeding, with 200 mL of colostrum/kg (20% of body weight) fed over 3 additional feedings within the first 24 hr of life. Start kids on a highly palatable and digestible starter ration as soon as possible and have access to clean water and roughage. Provide well-ventilated housing that is free of drafts. Weaning can occur by 9 kg (20 lb) of body weight, or at 2.5 times their birth weight.
Aim for your target weights and track the success and progress of kids. Sick kids should go into a designated sick area for treatment. Track mortality rates and discuss this information with your herd veterinarian to develop a plan to reduce mortality. Benchmark mortality and illness rates, and compare between groups, source farms (if applicable) and on a yearly basis. Knowing your mortality and illness rates will help you with purchasing, management and marketing decisions. Finally, research marketing options early to establish when you will sell kids, at what weight and at what finish.
For more information on the milk-feeding period, visit the OMAFRA website at ontario.ca/livestock and search for Nutrition of the Young Goat: Birth to Breeding.
1Integrity Intellectual Property Inc (and Associates). Understanding the Ethnic Market Opportunities for Veal, Goat, Lamb and Rabbit. Funded by Ontario Goat, Ontario Sheep Marketing Agency, Ontario Veal, Ontario Rabbit and Growing Forward 2. 2015.
2O'Brien, A. Nutrition of the Young Goat: Birth to Breeding. OMAFRA. Queen's Printer for Ontario. March, 1998.
3Lu, C.D., and Potchoiba, M.J. Milk Feeding and Weaning of Goat Kids - A Review. Small Ruminant Research, 1, (105-112). Elsevier Science Publishers B.V. 1988.
4Ontario Goat. Best Management Practices for Commercial Goat Production. Version 1.0. August, 2014.
This factsheet was written by Jillian Craig, Small Ruminant Specialist, OMAFRA, Lindsay.
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