Weaning is always a difficult time. The kids are always very upset when we start separating them from their mothers, and it’s often difficult for us and the entire herd because it requires that we find a place in the barn to put the babies away from their mothers. Since the goats love their routine, when we have to switch stalls, there’s a lot of confusion. It’s often Chaos for a week or two, but especially the first week.
We wean for several reasons.
- The mothers begin to lose a lot of body condition the longer they nurse the kids. In order to prevent them from becoming far too thin, we will pull the kids and wean them.
- The boys begin to get “bucky”. Mounting the other baby girls and generally exhibiting mating behavior. When we see this, we know it’s time to wean. Even though they are very young, they still have the ability to impregnate the young does, so it’s time to wean and get them out of the doe pen.
- It’s just time. We often leave the females in with their mothers for a much longer time than the males, but at some point, it just becomes time to wean the little does and get them to be more independent.
Weaning is very stressful on the kids. Nursing at the later stages of 12 weeks and later is more of an emotional need for the kids rather than for nutrition. At 12 weeks of age the kids are eating hay and browse and often they will start eating their mom’s grain in the evening so I will even give them a small pile for themselves. They do not need milk at this point. This doesn’t stop them from trying to nurse, and some does will accommodate their kids for a very long time.
We never know exactly what the kid’s reaction will be when we begin weaning, but we do it in stages to ease the transition. I know that some people just separate and that’s the end of the story, but then you have to closely watch the mother’s udders to make certain they don’t get over full and infected which is called mastitis. We begin by separating overnight. We do this for a couple of weeks to get the mother’s milk demands down which slows her milk production. Then the next step is complete separation. We’ve never had a doe develop mastitis and we feel like the staged separation is easier for the kids to handle. The kids each handle this differently. This year the bucklings became very aloof and would not let us near them for several weeks. We had to earn their trust back by bribing them nightly with various leaves for treats. We also had an accident with one of the doelings. Michonne’s Misty Moon found a small gap in the fencing on the stall she was in and got her head stuck, then in her efforts to pull her head out, ended up pulling the outside sheath off her left horn. When we let her and the other doelings out of the pen in the morning she was covered in blood, still bleeding profusely and clearly in pain. We had to stop the bleeding by carefully wrapping it in gauze and then wrapping the entire head. This was not as easy as it sounds because she was thrashing around and kept hitting her head on us, and the more she thrashed, the more she broke open the bleeding that had already stopped. We then had to put her with her mother and have kept her there until we feel like this has healed enough before we start the weaning process again.
Farming is always an adventure.