Together with the Dutch organic goat farm “De Bonte Weide”, a team from Eyes on Animals tested out today how new-born kids could stay with their mothers after being born, instead of being separated and raised without their mothers. To begin we first observed how mother and kids behaved towards each other just after birth and shortly thereafter. This was important to figure out how much intervention is needed from the farmer in regards to the kids getting enough colostrum etc. We witnessed two births today. Both mothers gave birth to two kids. The mothers were allowed to keep the male kids.
After giving birth, both mothers immediately started licking their kids clean. One kid quickly started drinking from its mom, and this mother was very protective (she chased away the other dairy goats). The other mother however did allow other goats near her kid. Eventually this kid also drank from a different dairy goat.
It was striking to see how the kids could already walk just shortly after birth and how some of the other dairy-goats were very interested in the new-borns, even if they were not their own. This is likely because they were highly pregnant, or too had given birth, a couple of days earlier, but their kids had been removed and thus they could not perform “motherly” behaviour. However, a new-born kid drinking from a dairy goat that is not its mother poses a risk that he or she may not get colostrum or enough of it. Colostrum is the first milk a new mother produces, that is vital to the health of its baby as all the antibodies are in it. To prevent suckling from the wrong mother goat, we will construct birthing pens, so that mothers can be separated from the herd around the time of birth. The mobile pens will be placed within the deep-litter barn, so that the mother goats are not completely isolated from the rest of the herd. Together with the farmer we will make a plan of action- with the purpose of eventually helping other dairy goat farmers to follow this plan as well. We will also apply the knowledge and experience of dairy goat farmers who are already keeping kids with their mothers.
We would like to thank de Bonte Weide for their interest and enthusiasm to work with us on this experiment.