If you’re thinking about getting some young dairy goat kids, another consideration before purchasing is whether to choose goats from a farm that dam or bottles raises the kids.
Bottle raised kids are those that are “pulled” away from their dams right after they are born and are then fed with a bottle. They are more common than dam raised kids because many of the standard size dairy goats carry diseases (such as CAE) that are transmitted from dam to kid through the milk. Therefore, to prevent disease transmission to the kids, they are “pulled” and bottle raised.
Bottle raising goats is more time consuming than letting the kids nurse, because especially at first, they need to be fed small amounts several times a day. Some breeders feel that bottle raising also results in kids that are better socialized and friendlier than dam raised kids. Finally, there are breeders that believe allowing the dam to raise kids ruins her udder for show purposes.
Dam raised kids are those that are allowed to stay with their dams and nurse whenever they (or their dam) decides it’s appropriate. They are typically weaned when they are eight to ten weeks old.
Allowing the dam to raise her kids is less time consuming for the goat owner. But, it also means that the owner doesn’t get immediate access to the milk for their own use.
The miniature breed goats (Nigerian Dwarf and Pygmy) are relatively new arrivals as common goat breeds, and disease is less prevalent than among the standard size goats. So, dam raised kids are easier to find in the miniature breeds.
Is Dam or Bottle Raised Better?
If there is any chance that a goat could contract one of the five deadly goat diseases (see Five Deadly Goat Diseases To Avoid) from its dam, then obviously it should be separated immediately at birth and bottle raised.
But if the goat herd has been regularly tested and shown to be free of any disease, then bottle raising or dam raising is a personal choice. We test annually and have not had a goat test positive for disease, so we dam raise the kids.
We own both bottle raised and dam raised Nigerian Dwarf goats, and don’t notice any difference in how well socialized the kids are. Those that have been bottle raised seem a bit more demanding (all they want is that bottle) and less respectful.
When choosing your goat kids, make sure to find out how the kids have been raised and protected from disease before deciding which ones to bring home. We’ve found that if they’re friendly and well socialized, both bottle and dam raised dairy goats have become fantastic additions to our herd.