ONE OF THE IMPORTANT THINGS in owning goats knows when and how to separate baby goats from mother goats.
It’s one of the more stressful parts, especially as a newbie keeper!
Eventually, you’ll need to separate your kids from their dam.
Most of the time, this is called weaning, but not always.
While you need to approach this process with care and consideration, it’s not as daunting as you may assume.
Yes, separating baby goats from their mothers is a stressful experience for both the mother and the kids.
Still, with proper planning and gentle handling, you can ensure the smoothest transition possible.
In this guide, we will walk you through the steps to safely and effectively separate baby goats from their mothers while minimizing stress and promoting the well-being of both.
How to Separate Baby Goats from Mother
Are You Separating to Bottlefeed?
If you are separating the kid to bottlefeed, allow the baby at least 2-3 days with the mother before separating them.
This time is crucial for their overall health and wellness.
Plus, the colostrum in their mother’s first days of milk does an immeasurable amount of good for the baby.
While you can supplement colostrum, it is not ideal.
And it is much better for the baby to get these nutrients straight from the mother, as the milk is specifically and biologically designed for that baby’s individual needs.
Once the baby goat has had a few days of colostrum, you can separate it from the mother.
Make sure bottle feeding works well.
And don’t forget to milk the mother on a strict schedule to prevent pain or life-threatening illnesses like mastitis.
When you separate the baby to bottlefeed, either you do this yourself or sell the baby goat to the buyer so they can bottlefeed.
Usually, this is more of a common practice among dairy producers.
It allows the owner of the mother to collect more milk.
And it lets the owner of the baby build a strong bond, usually, so the baby will grow up to be a dairy goat as well.
Are You Separating to Wean?
If you’re planning on separating as a by-product of weaning, there are a few pieces of information to consider.
First, you need to choose a developmentally appropriate age, a method for the separation, and a proper space set up to accommodate the mothers and the newly-weaned kids.
Oh, and if you’re only separating them because you feel you have to—you may not need to.
Many breeders allow goats to wean naturally and without human interaction.
And if your young buckling’s quickly approaching sexual maturity is worrying you, we have several solutions for that too.
Let’s get into those below!
Pick a Time To Wean
The first step in separating baby goats from their mothers is to determine the appropriate time to do so.
While the exact timing may vary depending on your specific goals and circumstances, a general guideline is to separate the kids from their mothers at around 8 to 12 weeks of age.
At this stage, the kids should have developed a strong immune system, be eating solid food, and be socially mature enough to handle the separation.
However, weaning is best determined based on weight—not age.
As highlighted in this article, What Can Baby Goats Eat?, it’s best to wait until the kid is 2.5 to 3 times their initial birth weight.
Then add one month past that milestone before weaning.
This practice is known to significantly “reduce stress, improve growth, breeding success, and production in the first lactation.”
I recommend you start the weaning process a few weeks before the kid needs to be fully separated.
This is to cut down on unnecessary stress for both mothers and kids.
It’ll also give the mother a fair chance to slowly dry up her milk supply to prevent pain or illnesses like mastitis.
How to Incrementally Wean Kid Goats
Take your baby goat away from the mother for an hour or two a day every day.
Put them in a different enclosure where they cannot see or hear the mother.
This works best if the mother (dam) and kid are preoccupied with other herd members, like fellow weaning kids and nursing mothers.
This keeps them somewhat entertained and better suited for the change.
Slowly, over the course of at least a week, preferably two weeks, keep them apart for slightly longer every day.
Separate them at the same time every day, but prolong their reunion by a little bit each day.
Again, this is to ensure the dam is getting a chance to get accustomed to the change and reduce her supply of milk.
With all of the above said, some breeders prefer a “rip the bandaid off” approach by weaning the babies right away without any incremental adjustments.
While I believe that it can be more beneficial for the kid just to have one bad day, it is difficult for the mother to adjust her supply accordingly, especially if you aren’t milking her.
Oftentimes, breeders pick this method when they are selling baby goats.
This gets weaning and separating, and rehoming done all in one day.
If you choose this option, make sure that the buyer will be taking the kid to a new herd.
It’s much easier for goats to navigate a new home if there are other goats around.
Can You Let Goat Kids Naturally Wean?
You can absolutely let kids wean naturally without separating them from their mothers.
This is what I do, and it seems to be working well for both mamas and offspring.
Keeping kids with her for longer allows them to be healthier, well-socialized, and stress-free, and they grow incredibly fast this way.
Keep giving plenty of good quality forage and minerals to the mother so she can stay healthy.
Then you’ve got yourself a low-stress, high-reward situation.
Do Bucklings Need To Be Separated Sooner?
If you intend to keep your buckling intact, as in not castrated, banded, or neutered, you will need to get him away from his mother sooner.
While I have heard of bucklings “successfully” breeding as early as six or seven weeks, this is rare.
And, for the most part, it shouldn’t be a concern until they are closer to five months old.
Note that some bucklings will start showing mounting behavior within a few days of birth, but this is not an indicator of sexual maturity.
Some breeders opt to separate and wean bucklings early, at six or seven weeks.
While some choose to put them in small buck aprons; others separate them but allow supervised nursing sessions with the mother throughout the day.
If you’re planning on castrating your buckling to be wether, you can band at eight to ten weeks old or surgically castrate sometime after that.
Once banded, he will likely be a bit lethargic for a day or two.
But still, being with his mother to the nurse will greatly improve his situation and get him feeling better faster.
You can breathe a sigh of relief because he will not be breeding his mother or sisters now.
How To Provide Separate Housing For The Kids
If you are keeping the kids and not selling them, and you want them away from the mother, they will need their own housing.
Fencing for Goat Kids
Kids are so much smaller than adult goats, so their fencing will have to be much tighter so they don’t walk through holes.
And when you’re in the weaning process, they will want to escape to find their mother.
Cattle panels, hog panels, and combination panels won’t hold in baby goats alone.
Electric wire probably won’t work either unless you use several strands and properly introduce them to the electricity.
You can also use a snow fence, which is surprisingly cheap and easy to install, especially for the interior of your pre-existing fence.
Shelter for Goat Kids
The shelter needs to be clean, dry, draft-free (if used in the winter), and still well-ventilated.
It also needs to be predator-proof.
Freshly-weaned babies will loudly call out to their mothers at all hours of the day and night, which also calls in plenty of predators.
Make sure that your space is as safe as possible.
Livestock guardian animals are incredibly useful, as are preventative predator electric fences, motion-sensor lights, sprinklers, alarms, and cameras.
Socialization and Enrichment for Goat Kids
While separating baby goats from their mothers, it’s essential to provide them with opportunities for socialization and enrichment.
Goats are highly social animals.
Being suddenly separated from their mothers can be very emotionally challenging.
Make sure that kids have the company of other goats of similar age and size, as they will learn from each other and find comfort in their companionship.
Provide them with toys, climbing structures, and space to explore to keep them mentally stimulated.
Big rocks, wooden planks, old tires, and even children’s toys, like plastic slides, work well for young goats.
Shallow pools and play balls are other good options, especially if you have a decent-sized herd of young kids.
If you do not have other newly-weaned baby goats for them to socialize with, friendly adults who are not in milk are another good alternative.
Does and wethers are great options; bucks should generally be avoided.
Do not try to substitute other animals, like horses, donkeys, cattle, or chickens, as friends.
Goats need the companionship of other goats to be happy and level-minded.
High-Quality Nutrition for Newly Separated Kids
Baby goats need proper nutrition to support their growth and development.
Introduce them to a diet of quality hay, pasture, minerals, and fresh water.
You can also supply a suitable commercial or homemade pelleted goat feed.
Consult with a veterinarian or an experienced goat breeder to determine the appropriate feeding regimen for your specific breed and age of goats.
FAQs about Separating Goat Kids and Mothers
When Should I Separate Baby Goats From the Mother?
Baby goats can naturally wean from the mother if so desired.
If not, wean and separate the babies one month after they have tripled their birth weight.
If you want to wean based on age rather than weight, you should do so around ten to fifteen weeks of age—or sooner for intact bucklings.
What Kind of Enclosure Do I Need For a Goat Kid?
Goat kids need dry, clean, and predator-proof shelter with ample shade in the summer and draft-free warmth in the winter.
They also need the socialization of other goat kids, or at least kind adult goats.
They also need fencing that will hold them in that they cannot escape, plenty of climbing opportunities, room to run, and enrichment activities.
The best place to put this enclosure is somewhere the kids and mothers cannot see or hear each other.
Most operations choose to put the mothers and babies on opposite sides of their property.
We warned, though, that this is a noisy process—you will probably hear them calling for each other all day and night, even while you’re in your house.
What Is The Best Way To Separate Goat Kids From the Mother Goat?
Gradual separation is the best option; if you can do this method, then you should.
Start by separating the kids and mothers for an hour or two a day, and slowly, incrementally, increase this time away over the next several weeks.
This gives the mother a chance to slow her milk supply while reducing the kid’s stress levels.
What Should I Feed the Baby Goats During the Separation Process?
Baby goats need high-quality forage such as hay, alfalfa, pasture, grass, or a wide assortment of weeds.
They also need a constant supply of clean, fresh water and minerals.
It is much better for the baby goat to be introduced to each of these food items prior to separation to make the transition easier.
You can also provide pellets or grains in small amounts if so desired too.
You do not need to provide milk if the baby is old enough to be weaned.
Is Separating Baby Goats From The Mom The Same Thing As Weaning?
It is possible to separate baby goats from their mom without weaning them.
Many breeders intentionally separate kids from the mother when they are only a few days old, and they, or their buyers, will raise the baby goat on a bottle.
It is also possible to let baby goats naturally wean from the mother completely before later separating them.
Sometimes separation and weaning are synonymous, but this is not always the case.
Can You Reunite the Baby and Mother Goats After Weaning?
If you don’t want babies to wean on their own, you can absolutely separate them for a few weeks or even a few months before putting them back in with their mothers.
This completely stops their nursing, and it means that the mothers’ milk supplies have fully dried up.
Baby and mother will likely be happy to see each other, but they will have more of a fellow herd-mate relationship and less so of a mother/baby relationship.
Separating Baby Goats From The Mother: Final Thoughts
Separating baby goats from their mothers is a tough but often necessary step in goat husbandry.
By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure a smooth transition for both the mother and the kids.
Remember to establish the right time, provide suitable separate housing, opt for a gradual separation if possible, ensure proper nutrition, and prioritize socialization and enrichment for mothers and babies.
By promoting the well-being of the goats throughout the separation process, you contribute to their overall health and happiness as they grow into healthy adult goats.