Grafting a Baby Goat

We brought home a bottle baby goat this past weekend. We intend to raise him to be our breeding buck. However, as I’ve read from multiple sources and heard from many people I’ve asked about it, bottle-fed breeding males can be dangerous. What do I mean by that? Well, imagine your cute little 8lb baby goat, sitting happily in your lap, sucking away at a bottle. You’re bonding with the animal, and enjoying the baby animal snuggles. Now fast forward 6 months to a year and imagine that same baby goat is now a 200 lbs intact male with a fully grown set of horns and radiating testosterone- you don’t want that animal thinking it’s appropriate to jump in your lap.

That is why I have chosen to graft him onto one of our milking does. Honey is our oldest, at right about 3 years old. She’s nearing the end of her lactation cycle so we really weren’t even that optimistic that a grafting would take. Would Fonz get enough milk from her? Would she reject him as a grafted baby? Would he refuse to nurse her? So many unknowns. But I gave it a try anyway.

I would be lying if I said I believe this process easy. However, I have had unprecedented ease all things considered, and mostly I attribute that to God faithfully answering my prayers.

His first night with us, I did go ahead and give him a bottle, which he took eagerly and drank about 6oz. The next morning, I went out at 5:30ish and gave him a bottle just to tide him over until I could get out after breakfast and morning chores to attempt the first graft nursing. He didn’t as readily accept that morning bottle, and only took 4-5oz.

I can’t describe the amount of strength it takes to hold a doe still while an alien baby attempts to nurse an unwilling mama… All the resistance training I’ve ever done pales by comparison. It’s a matter of determination on the part of the human, and high attention- don’t hurt or stress the mama, don’t let the baby be hurt or kicked or sat upon, and try to encourage the kid to nurse all while keeping the doe as calm and still as possible. Talk about needing a nap afterwards. My whole body is stiff and sore.

But, I’m happy to report that by the 3rd round of nursing Saturday evening, Honey was less resistant and Fonz was more confident and adept at nursing his fidgity adoptive mama.

There isn’t a lot of information on the internet about how to make this graft happen. Probably because it is pretty straightforward and there are a lot of unknown variables as mentioned above. But if I had to advise based on my experience, I would say you definitely want to graft to your most senior/maternal doe because 1) she’ll likely have the supply to satiate a grafted kid, 2) she’ll have the maternal instinct to accept him/her as her own kid.

Our other milking doe, Luna, has not been a part of this process for a couple reasons. 1) we believe she’s pregnant, so we don’t want to overtax her 2) we’re preparing to dry her off as she has begun to do so naturally anyway. 3) she’s lowest in the goat hierarchy and isn’t protective/maternal compared to Honey. I assume that will change once she has her own babies, but she’s pretty preoccupied with being pregnant right now and hasn’t really shown an interest in Fonso anyway.

Throughout the process I’ve been keeping a bottle baby record which I’ll post as a download at some point for you folks who may be interested. It helps me keep track of the feedings and allows me to monitor progress and such in a quantifiable way. I like having spreadsheet data. Anyway, Fonso will need to nurse for at least 7 more weeks, 8 would be preferable.

I determine the amount of milk Fonz got at his first nursing by milking out Honey the rest of the way after he nursed. I know she usually produces about 4 cups of milk so when I measured out 3, I deduced Fonz must’ve gotten about 1 cup or 8oz. Which was great for the 1st feed.

Honestly, a lot of it depends on your level of determination- I’m fairly stubborn. And a lot depends a lot on nature- babies just know how to nurse so their instinct takes over when you provide the right conditions And the rest comes down to faith and prayer. God is good! And we have had success thus far.

Fonso and Honey have been bonding well over the last 48 hours and he follows Honey everywhere she goes. I’ll keep you posted over the next 7-8 weeks on how the graft progresses.

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