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Help! Unsure about proper goat care and just lost 3 kids in 2 weeks

 
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This is my first post and I'm new to the site as of today! Bare with me, I'm broken hearted over my baby goats and also very frustrated! Important note: there is NO VETERINARIAN that sees any type of farm animal for over an hour and they won't travel to me.

My husband and I started our Hobby farm almost 2 years ago. I grew up on one, though not quite on our current level. I thought I had a good understanding of things especially caring for our critters. We added Nigerian Dwarf goats for milk/cheese about 6-7 months in and it has been difficult. We originally got 2 kids - doe & wether and 2 does in milk. The milk was great and milking was alright. The babies were on the bottle and all went well. We thought we would be able to find a buck to rent/borrow, but ended up buying one. We have had each of our does give birth since then. One was April 1st 2 kids one was Sept 10th 3 kids. The first two were great. I have no experience with this, so with the help of google and a few contacts who know about goats, we were going along fine - I thought. All have been bottle babies, and did just fine. As we weened the first two and got them used to life with the larger goats daily, it was still ok. Then one died - no idea why. The other followed shortly after. They were about 8 and 10 weeks respectively. I was so upset and sad, but thought "it happens on a farm." Our other doe kidded on Sept 10th - 3 kids. They were also fine, though one was getting very weak and needing to be warmed up and force fed every 2 weeks or so. I was trying to keep an eye on this, and they all made it to about 8 weeks. Then, that one died. I must have missed one of the weak/chill phases. The other 2 had always been fine, the first to go was always the smallest and last born. Then, out of nowhere the middle baby died. Last night, I think it was just too cold and we didn't have the heater on in the barn and our last one died. I assume this had to do with cold - we are in Wisconsin and it was windy/rainy. They are in a solid building built as a small farm/barn building 40-50 years ago but kept updated. It's off the ground, about  600 sq ft - the chickens have about 250 of that and a loft. The goats have a nice sized fenced yard, stalls inside (we don't always use them) and their milking area. The building is sided and has a new roof. It's pretty large and the goats have over 200 sq ft of it. We have been met with disaster and I don't know why. They eat good hay, or so I think and have good feed for when they are being milked. Access to lots of clean water, and a large yard to spend the days in. The last 3 kids broke my heart. I thought I was taking good care of them. I don't know if it's temperature related (again, Wisconsin), if it's something I'm not giving them, if they need to be weaned differently? I have no idea and now the other doe is pregnant. We already lost 5 kids (all does) and financially that's a huge hit, now we have another pregnant and I have no idea what to do. I don't know if I'm taking proper care of any of them at this point. Our doe stopped milking like 6-7 weeks after kidding, which also seems wrong. We have 5 adults right now - 3 does and a buck. They are all healthy and at least one doe is pregnant. Can anyone offer advice on their care in general and possibly what is causing my kids to die? They get hay to munch daily, they have a mineral block and we have a feed mix that the does eat while they milk. We usually give them small amounts of that feed mix when it's chilly/as treats. I thought they were primarily supposed to eat the hay. They sleep in the barn. The barn's wood floor is wood and it is newly sided. We have a "wall" of chicken wire and some of the barn posts/gates to give the chickens a seperate space. The chickens have an exit out the back and the goats can go in and out through the front door to their fenced area during the day. They go in the barn at night. We completely clean/scrape the whole barn (all of it chicken's and goat's sides) about 5-6 times yearly then we air out with fans and such, cover the wood with a mixture of mostly sand and some ash. The chickens then have layers of regular horse bedding and the goats have straw in their stalls. We add a layer of straw every 1-3 days depending on how it looks and it is changed totally every 7-12 days. The area outside the stalls has a mixture of the chickens bedding and straw, then mostly goat poop, which we rake/sweep out every 1-3 days. They get fresh water in 3 indoor and 2 outdoor waterers twice daily. They have access to a mineral block all day and hay in a feeder outside. The graze a bit on the grass and misc things like leaves and some sunflower seeds here and there. The outdoor area is around 30 by 50 feet, and they have a tire pile to climb around on - 40 or so tires filled in starting 1 high up to 3ish high with boards/filling so they can hang out on it.

Any advice please. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong or right. We got them for milk, cheese, and kids. We don't really get any of these and right now they cost us a lot.

I've seen photos of other goat areas that are much nicer, so I wonder if they need better bedding, more or less hay, a larger outdoor area, more to climb on, and feed/mineral/snacks beyond the hay and mineral block with occasional feed. The babies get bottle fed and we buy good quality milk replacer, as mom's just don't make enough. We give the mom's milk that we do get before replacer though. I worry we aren't giving them enough or maybe too much? They usually start at 4 feedings a day for the first 10-14 days, then 3 until day 20-30, then morning and night. We always let them have as much as they want. We start weaning around 2 months, this is my husband's decision - I wonder if it's too early? Weaning usually starts with limiting to 16 oz twice a day for a week or so, then down to maybe 10-12 oz, then down to 1x 16 oz bottle a day, then down to 10-13oz 1x daily. They are always starting to graze and eat hay by that point. I don't know if I should be giving them anything additional or weaning differently? The internet gives a lot of DIFFERENT info. They eat high quality everything, the mom's tested negative for all your standard blood test stuff right before the first pregnancy. We use homemade/organic everything around the farm and house.

I've seen raised platforms or some form of raised "beds" in many barn's for goats. Do they need this? What about heat? The older ones always have a thick winter coat and seem very comfortable. We do have 2-3 heat lamps that go on for a chunk of the morning and evening when it gets really cold - again, we are in Wisconsin. Heat lamps are mostly for chickens as we have a lot of "furry footed" breeds. The goats do not get any of the chicken feed - well, occasionally as much as they can scramble for when they make an escape here and there. The babies I have let sleep and stay in my jacuzzi (I know! It's ridiculous, but I had no other option) when they are first born/it gets chilly, we haven't had them stay inside the stall in barn overnight when it's a bit chilly until they are over 8 weeks. Is this too soon?

Notes: - Central Wisconsin weather starts cold around late October, by now it's generally 32-45° daytime and 30s at night. By end of November it's typically snowing constantly and 20-30° daytime 15-20s night. January and February we see 2-5 feet of snow and often have weeks where it's 40° BELOW with the wind. Generally December-March it's 10-30° daily and usually -10-15 at night. We expect these next kids to come sometime between Christmas and March. Other 2 does will likely be pregnant again if not already (our buck turned out to be a great addition!).

Sorry for the very long post and many questions. I don't know where to turn and I am really Heartbroken about losing the babies. Would happily take recomendations for sites or blogs or books that might be helpful. Thank you!
 
master gardener
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Your posts contain a good deal of information, but little information on the goats that died. Can you describe their appearances and behavior from the time you noticed they were ill until their death? Or did they simply go from healthy to dead?
 
Dani Kelley
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Of the 3, the biggest one was the strongest and lived longest, and same situation happened with the others. The smallest one had troubles from the get go. She could NOT suck/eat properly, it took several days to get her to actively suck and eat on her own. The first time I noticed something was wrong, was when I noticed she wasn't standing on her own; she would just sort of flop over or tip towards and then got very lethargic. This was about 4 days after their birth. This was also their first time fully outdoors on their own, as we had a cold snap in early September (35-40° and raining for the first days of their lives) and I kept them inside. They needed to be introduced to the outdoors, so they went on the porch inside a dog playpen with blankets. Anyway, I took her inside and warmed her up immediately. I couldn't get her to eat, so I first gave her a bath in hot water and then dried her as much as possible, wrapped her in a blanket, set her by the fireplace and worked at getting her to eat. She barely ate, so I got some in her, put her by the fire, and every hour fed her a bit until she got going on a bottle and was perked back up. She did fine until she had a similar incident about 3 weeks in. I brought her in again, kept her by the fire and fed her with a syringe until she ate and perked up. Happened again around 6 weeks old, I did the same thing. Then, shortly after, she had a similar incident while I was away. My husband cared for her a bit, but didn't put as much effort in or mention it to me, she just weakened and died within a 1.5 hr time span.

The second one never really did this until she was about 6.5/7 weeks old. Again, husband was here. She got weak, couldn't really keep herself up, and weakened and died within an hour. He tried to keep her warm and feed her, but it didn't work.

The last one, was just gone when we went to do morning chores. She looked like she had laid down and just never got up.

It was a particularly chilly night and had rained, she was in her stall with an older doe who she was close too. They usually snuggled together at night. The stall had just had fresh straw added and the barn was dry and such. It's a pretty nice building overall, so she was comfortable and we'll protected, but I think it got down to about 35° that night outside. We typically don't turn the heat lamps on until it's much colder, but gave been on the nights it's below 32°ish, as we have some younger furry footed chickens who are newer to our flock and we have had a lot of rain recently. So, we have already used a heat lamp to help ease into the cold, but unfortunately it wasn't on that night. I think I probably should have had one on the baby goat. I'm wondering if it's just a chill that could have done this to all 3?
I am unsure how much extra heat they require until what age?

As for the first 2, well, I have no idea. One of them seemed to suddenly be crying out and upset, my husband thought something was causing her pain so he held her and have her fresh water (I think she was about 10-11 weeks). She got up and walked away after about 20-30 mins, but 15 mins later when he checked on her, she looked like she had fallen forward and was dead. The other, about 2 weeks later, my husband went to check waters and food for the whole crew and she appeared to have also just fallen forward and was dead. She had seemed normal 2-3 hours before this.
 
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Welcome Dani.
hopefully one of the goat keepers can chime in with details but I know there are mineral deficiencies with goats that need specific attention (selenium and copper come to mind).
If they share space with chickens, you might also have to look at illnesses like cryptosporosis? coccidiosis? You might be able to send a sample to your cooperative extension, maybe? That is how I would start if I were in your shoes, contacting the local coop extension to see if they could put me into contact with someone local who I could talk to.
 
John F Dean
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Goats have good cold tolerance. The temps you mention probably were not a significant factor. Read up on goat polio and listeria.  To me, you are not really describing my experiences with either, but when it comes to dead goats those are the two prime suspects disease wise.  We keep Vitamin B1 and Penicillin G on hand.  
 
John F Dean
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Please dont interpret my above comment to mean that I think heat lamps are a bad idea.
 
pollinator
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It would be worth looking into whether your area is low in selenium and if so your goats will likely need supplementing with selenium and vitamin E.  The poor suckling and sudden death are among the symptoms. If so, you should be supplementing the adult goats and possibly also kids after birth. We do yearly treatment with an injectable. There is also a gel you can give orally but if you use that also give vitamin e capsules meant for humans as they need it to properly absorb the selenium.

There are other things that might cause kid death but this is a very common one as a lot of places are very low in selenium.

The ideal situation would be to find a local goatkeeper who could mentor you and knows your local conditions.
 
Andrea Locke
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https://mrdata.usgs.gov/geochem/doc/averages/se/usa.html

This is a map of selenium levels in the US. If I am right about which one is Wisconsin it looks pretty low in selenium. I am not sure what actual value indicates supplementation is needed, but we used to supplement when we lived in New Brunswick and I see that Maine close to the border is pretty low too so is probably comparable to our NB levels.
 
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I grew up milking dairy goats, I wonder if the kids were converted to solid food to soon. Usually we would keep some feed and hay in the kid pen (we kept our kids separate for a good while). But we fed milk or replacer until they began to really eat solid food on their own. And I always feed plenty of milk, feed them until their sides bulge. I know the little bucks have a tendency towards gluttony.

Also having young goats around chicken manure can introduce problems, young goats are like little children that like to taste everything. That's one reason we always separated them from the mature goats, if the older ones had something the kids would pick it up.

Did the older one that slept with the kid roll on it? That can happen..

 
Dani Kelley
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Thank you everyone! Lots of helpful info. I think I figured out a start of the solution for my goats. Already adding some supplements/minerals and have an order in for other items. Weaning the babies later and changing how we feed overall seems like it will make a big difference. I wish I had a mentor/help in the area, but there isn't even a vet for over an HR.
 
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Goats need a good legume or a legume mixed hay in their diet to make sure they get enough calcium and protein, especially for any milking does.  Need more information about the condition of the kids before they died.  Did they have runny stool, any fever?  Were they gaining weight and eating plenty of hay?  Kids can’t take much grain and adult animals not much more.  Grain is not natural for goats in a concentrated form.  Best if they get a little seed/grain attached to hay so they get the fiber with it.  Too much grain impairs their digestion.  Sounds like you are already feeding mineral and that is important.  I always gave a loose mineral free choice, kelp free choice in another mineral feeder and baking soda which they used for self medication when they did get too much acid in their diet (such as grain).  If your babies got weak and died quickly they may have had some illness or not getting enough milk/hay to get their caloric needs met.  They need more carbs in winter and if they get it, will stay warmer.  Hay should always be available no matter how much fresh forage they get.  In summer it is easier because even greater ragweed and Sunchokes tops are high in minerals and protein, about equal to alfalfa.  You can dry those for hay too.  

Kids tend to get worms easier than adults and they can weaken and die quickly from that.  A parasite load can cause does to dry off quickly too, as they don’t have enough energy left to produce milk.  If you would check inner eyelids to see if they are light pink, it is a good indicator if they are getting anemic from intestinal parasites.  You can give them garlic and lots of other herbs as wormer, or Ivermectin or other things if you are going the commercial poison chemical route.  Molly’s herbals is a good herbal wormer for goats.  
 
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