The decision to dam raise or to bottle raise kids needs to be made before the kids are born. There has been a bias towards bottle raising baby dairy animals for the past few decades as factory farms took over the dairy industry. When you have thousands of cows in a dairy, it is impossible to socialize them if they are dam raised. Dairies want as much milk as possible from the cows, which they can do if they milk them and ration the milk given to the calves, selling the excess milk and increasing profits. In spite of the fact that our goat website includes milk records and clearly states that our kids are dam raised, I still get questions every year such as “Can you milk a doe if she was dam raised?” I always point out that people were milking cows, goats, and sheep for thousands of years before bottles were invented. An old-time farmer will laugh at the idea of bottle raising kids. It is a modern misconception that dam raised kids are inevitably wild.
Like most animals, goats will be wild without plenty of human contact as babies. A litter of kittens found in the woods or in a secluded part of a barn will be as wild as lions. Goats are very much the same way. When kids are born on pasture and get little human interaction, they will be wild and difficult to handle. When handled daily, though, they will be friendly. But regardless of whether their mother or a human raises them, some kids can be incredibly stubborn.
Some claim that it is easier to milk does that were raised on a bottle. This view comes from the fact that when an entire herd is employing bottle-feeding, the does are easier to milk overall. It is not the doe that was bottle-fed as a kid that is easier to milk, but rather it is the doe that has no kids to feed that is easier to milk. If a doe has been nursing kids for a couple of months and is put on the milk stand, she may not be thrilled with the idea of letting you milk her because she firmly believes that the milk is for her kids. Just as she would kick at any strange kid that tries to nurse, she may kick at the bucket or your hand.
This is Part 2 in our series on issues related to kidding season. It is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More by Deborah Niemann. Here is Part 1: Is My Goat Pregnant? and Part 2: Conducting a Newborn Check in Goat Kids.