Dam Raising Vs Bottle Raising (OP: 3/2014)

There are plenty of things goat keepers debate about, and one of the biggest? How to raise your kids!

The main two ways kids are raised are bottle feeding (removing the kid from the mother and feeding by a bottle or bucket/lambar system) The second is dam raising (allowing the mother to raise the kid naturally).

Both ways are fragmented into a hundred more ways to do them, and both have their benefits.

You’ll find that most large breeders and dairies will bottle feed their kids. The babies are removed at birth, fed colostrum and milk through the bottle from day one. This is especially prevalent in herds that practice CAE prevention by pasteurizing all milk and colostrum. It also enables the handlers to check each kid individually and the kids learn that humans = food, making them easier to handle as they grow.

Small breeders often dam raise, allowing the mothers to clean and nurse their kids. This is only recommended in herds with CAE negative test results that span years. It only takes one doe to cause a contamination of a herd, as kids are not particular about who they will nurse from. Dam raising often results in hard to handle kids unless the handlers take the time to associate themselves with the kids on a daily basis.

When I started, I dam raised. I had the time to play with and socialize the kids every day, and I often wondered why people would claim “All dam raised kids are wild” when it obviously was not true. However, I learned very quickly that when you have a job and a large herd, it becomes almost impossible to ensure the offspring become socialized and you have an uphill battle.

There are, of course, other ways to combine the two. I learned about a technique another farm uses, where the babies are placed in a communal pen directly after birth and receive all sustenance from the owners, but the dams can still see and “speak” with the offspring. After a couple weeks, the kids are let loose, and will return and follow their dams, but continue to be fed by their handlers.

Other farms allow the dams to keep the kids a week or more, allowing colostrum to clear the system, before removing the kids and training them to take the bottle, keeping them separated until the bond between dam/nursing and the kid is broken.

Some farms dam raise and allow the youngsters to run wild, until it comes time to be bred and then broken to the milk stand.

In the meat production world, almost all kids are dam raised.

So which is better? This is entirely up to you. Find out what works best for you and your farm. When properly done, both bottle raising and dam raising can produce strong, healthy, friendly kids.