Kids should be fed at least 8 ounces (250 ml) of heat treated colostrum (10% of body weight) within 8 to 12 hours of birth (for smaller kids, they can be fed in two meals), but it is preferred they get the first feeding of colostrum within 2 to 3 hours. If kids are born compromised (weak, cold, or in an unclean environment) they need to be fed colostrum as soon as possible, and warmed as soon as possible. If kids are born weak and have a weak suckle reflex, their suckle reflex will not improve until they are warmed and receive nutritional energy from warm colostrum. It may be necessary to tube feed colostrum to very weak kids. (An excellent publication, “Tube Feeding Neonatal Small Ruminants” by Kerr (2005), can be found at http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/sfn/su08ruminants.)
Upon consultation with your veterinarian, it may be beneficial to give some vitamin and/or mineral supplementation to kids at birth. Sources of colostrum Colostrum is the first milk a doe produces after she freshens. This first milk is rich in nutrients and contains antibodies that can be absorbed by the gut of newborn kids up until about 24 hours of age, but is most effectively absorbed within the first 12 hours. Antibodies in colostrum are large molecules and cannot pass through the gut wall after the kids are a day old. Therefore, most producers keep frozen colostrum on hand for use as soon as kids are born. Even though does are apparently healthy, it is recommended that producers heat treat all colostrum before feeding it to replacement kids.
To heat treat colostrum:
- First, determine that colostrum is of good quality. Colostrum should be fairly thick and yellowish in color. For an accurate measurement of colostrum quality, a “colostro-meter” can be purchased from a dairy or livestock supply company. Colostrum from only the first milking should be used. If does have been leaking milk, or been milked before kidding, it is not recommended that their colostrum be used.
- To adequately heat treat colostrum it should be heated to 135°F (57°C) and held at that temperature for 1 hour. Higher temperatures will denature the antibodies in colostrum, and should be avoided. The most convenient way to heat treat colostrum is to use a water bath. Pour the colostrum into canning jars with lids and heat to 135°F (57°C). Check the internal temperature of the jars and hold it for 1 hour. Then check the internal temperature again to make sure the colostrum in the jar has not gone below 130°F (54.4°C). If the colostrum temperature is still above 130°F (54.4°C), the colostrum should be properly heat treated.
- Pour the heat treated colostrum into 8 to 24 ounce bottles.
- Label the bottles “Heat treated colostrum (HTC)”, doe number or numbers, date, and amount.
- Put the tops on the bottles and freeze them. Producers should always have frozen colostrum on hand for immediate use. It is simplest to freeze colostrum in 8 to 24 ounce bottles so the amount needed can be thawed. The most effective and safest colostrum to use is heat treated colostrum from does in the resident herd. Does should be immunized against tetanus and Clostridium perfringens (entertoxemia), 3 to 4 weeks before kidding, so their antibody level is high when the colostrum is harvested. Never thaw colostrum in a microwave oven.
Additional sources of colostrum (in order of most to least recommended) are:
- Heat treated goat colostrum (from tested clean does in a different herd).
- Heat treated cow colostrum (first milking from second freshening and higher cows).
- Raw colostrum from dam.
- Raw goat or cow colostrum.
- Commercial colostrum substitutes based on bovine plasma (effective in lambs, not tested in goats). 6. Other commercial “colostrum substitutes” are not recommended. These preparations do not provide the necessary antibodies.
Providing colostrum to newborn kids within the first few hours of birth prevents “failure of passive transfer” in kids. Passive transfer is a method of providing kids with “passive immunity” to disease-causing organisms until kids start producing their own antibodies. Passive immunity means the antibody is available to the kids through ingesting antibody on the first day of life and having it absorbed through the gut. Another way to provide passive immunity to newborns is to have a veterinarian give the kid a plasma transfusion. Without passive transfer, newborns are susceptible to a number of life-threatening infections. After the initial processing of kids is completed, kids should be placed in a clean area dedicated to the purpose of raising kids through the first 2 weeks of life. The ideal kid rearing area should be at an appropriate temperature, keep kids isolated in small groups, be kept clean, and not used to raise previous kids.
To read more about how we feed our kids at HCF, click here.
Reference: Jan Carlson, University of California- Davis, Kidding and Kid Rearing.