What Happens if Goats Drink Cow Milk?

Interspecies milk-drinking isn’t something we haven’t heard of before. After all, we buy milk all the time, but it’s not human milk. We drink cow milk, and we’re (mostly) fine. At the very least, our many problems don’t seem to come from drinking milk not meant for us. But what happens if goats drink cow milk?

While not ideal, baby goats will be totally fine if they’re raised on cow milk. The best option is to give baby goats fresh, raw milk from a momma goat, but the next best option is cow milk. Do NOT give baby goats milk replacers because they have the potential to kill the baby goat.

Adult goats don’t really drink cow milk, since most adult animals don’t drink milk past infancy (except humans, apparently), but baby goats need milk to get enough nutrition to grow up big and strong. There are a lot of different avenues to take (and different versions of milk) to give a baby goat, and it changes on a case-by-case basis.

Cow Milk

If goat milk is not readily available, then goatherders recommend using the next best thing: cow milk. There are many different theories as to what different version of cow milk works best, and there are pros and cons to each option.

Many people stand by giving baby goats fresh, raw, whole cow milk straight from the cow. This is the “second-best” option in many people’s minds (if you can’t get your hands on fresh goat milk), but there are many drawbacks to this alternative. First of all, the cow might be carrying a disease, such as Johnes, CAE, or CL which are diseases that are prevalent in cows, sheep, and goats. They are also known as Caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE), Caseous Lymphadenitis (CL), and Paratuberculosis (Johnes disease). They cause serious weight loss and reduced production, not to mention major economic loss and stress (for the owners) if the baby goats get sick and die from it.

Fresh, raw cow milk also contains fat globules that are too big for kids (baby goats) to digest. So, if you do use cow milk, it can’t come straight from the cow. It must be homogenized to ensure that it’s smooth and doesn’t have any chunks of fat that will be too thick for a baby goat’s stomach to handle.

However, store-bought milk isn’t the solution either. It has been homogenized and pasteurized, but some goatherders claim that store-bought milk has been stripped of all the nutrients necessary to raise a healthy kid. This is more of an allegation than a scientifically proven fact, but there have been some cases where baby goats raised on store-bought cow milk haven’t gotten enough nutrition and are somewhat malnourished.

Despite all the negative possibilities of each option, plenty of goat farmers use both options and change it up depending on what’s working for them. If you can get your hands on fresh cow milk (homogenized) from a dairy farm you trust (or from your own cows) use that. If you’d rather use the store-bought kind, just be watchful to make sure the kids are developing and growing properly.

Cow Milk Formula

Of course, there is a best of both worlds. While you should never use powdered milk or store-bought milk replacements/formulas for growing kids (there aren’t nearly enough nutrients for them), there are some homemade cow milk formulas that can navigate the confusion of choosing what kind of cow milk to use.

Cow milk formulas take store-bought cow milk (usually two-percent) and add in other ingredients made for growing kids that more than make-up for all the lost nutrients in the store-bought milk. There are many different homemade recipes, but here’s one you can use if your goats aren’t growing properly from the diet they’re on right now:

Ingredients from recipe on goat-link.com:

  • 1 gallon Whole Milk
  • 1 can Evaporated Milk
  • 1 cup Cultured Buttermilk
  • Goat Nutri-Drench

“Pour off 3 cups of the whole milk into a container. Add the evaporated milk and buttermilk. to the remaining milk in the gallon jug-  Add back as much of the whole milk (roughly 1 cup) to refill the gallon milk container. Add 1 pump of Goat Nutri-Drench to the first bottle of the day.” –Bottle Feeding Baby Goats

Amazon has plenty of options for Goat Nutri-Drench and cultured buttermilk, and you can find cans of evaporated milk at your local grocery store (and Walmart). These formulas aren’t always the first choice, but if your baby goat isn’t doing well on the other alternatives, it might be time to bring out the big guns. Which brings us to the next question, how does one know if their baby goat is malnourished?

Signs of Malnourishment and How to Fix it

There are plenty of ways to know if you’ve got a weak kid on your hands. One way to check quantitatively is to check the baby goat’s rectal temperature. If the temperature is less than one-hundred degrees Fahrenheit (around thirty-seven degrees Celcius), that means that they’re too weak to maintain their internal body temperature. They’re not getting enough food or nutrients to keep themselves warm from the inside out.

Another clear sign that they’re not getting the nutrients they need from their milk is based on their waste. If they are scouring (diarrhea), they need a diet change, stat. That is a serious sign that something is wrong, and they might not live past infancy if they don’t get what they need to survive.

Another symptom is called floppy kid syndrome, which can be caused when kids are given milk replacers. It shows up in baby goats from three to ten days of age, so you need to be vigilant. Their tongue will stop working (it won’t wrap around the bottle), and they’ll stop eating as much. Their muscles will literally feel floppier than before, and won’t be as tight, hence the name of the disease.

There are plenty of things to do to help ease the pain of a weak kid. This website has a list of different symptoms of weak kids, and how to help properly in each scenario.

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