When to Wean Baby Goats

When to Wean Baby Goats

During the spring, I get a lot of questions about when to wean baby goats. And, as usual, the answer is … it depends. 

However, a few guidelines can help you determine when it’s the best time to wean baby goats. 

As you dig into this article, be aware that most of these tips are based on my experience with Nigerian Dwarf goats. With that being said, you can use this information as a guideline for your own breed.

When to Wean Baby Goats Doesn’t Depend on Age

I know you’ve probably seen a lot of people talk about weaning kids at two months of age, and that’s what I did for the first decade or so of raising goats. Over the years, however, I discovered that when to wean has more to do with the weight of the baby goat and not just the age. 

Kids grow at different rates, especially if a doe is trying to raise too many kids. It is not true that a doe will always produce enough milk to feed all of her kids. On top of that, a doe only has two teats, so if there are more than two kids, the most tenacious kids will get the most milk. Even if a mom has enough for three kids, one can wind up gaining more weight than the others because it’s more pushy.

Nutritional Needs

There isn’t any food that can provide the protein and calcium that milk can. A kid can’t possibly eat enough goat feed or alfalfa to get enough protein and calcium. Goat feed and alfalfa are bulky, and a baby goat has a tiny stomach, so it must drink its calories and nutrition.

In other words, milk helps a baby grow and develop. It provides the protein young goats need to build strong muscles and the calcium needed for healthy bones. And no matter how much grain or alfalfa you give to a baby goat, it cannot eat enough to meet its nutritional needs.

If you tried to give a baby goat the equivalent nutrition in the form of goat feed, which is grain, the kid would end up with scours. Additionally, it’s not possible for a baby goat to eat the same amount of alfalfa to get the protein and calcium. 

I’ve been contacted by far too many people who were sold a kid that was 3-4 weeks old and told that it was old enough to be weaned because it was eating grain and hay. Yikes! The kids are often half dead by the time I get those emails, and it is a long, hard hill to climb to save them.

Trying to switch a baby goat to a bottle at 3 weeks of age is quite a challenge, although I did it when a doe died with one-month-old triplets. It took 5-7 days for the various kids, but I could not imagine a new goat owner trying to do it because kids that age act like you’re trying to poison them when you try to give them a bottle — and they are big enough to put up a good fight.

Kids start mouthing everything when they are only a few days old, but they are only exploring the world. Their tummies are too tiny for them to actually get much nutrition from what they’re nibbling on.

Baby goats use their mouths to explore the world around them. They learn from this, and even more importantly, they learn from their moms. So when you see a two-day-old baby goat “eating” a piece of hay, they’re just mimicking their mother and not necessarily eating it. 

Over time, baby goats begin to eat a 16% protein goat feed and hay, but it’s a very gradual process. So, you can’t base weaning off of food in the mouth. Here is more information on what goats eat.

Selling Baby Goats and Weaning

If I know I’ll be selling a baby goat, I won’t wean that kid before it leaves my farm. The day the baby is picked up is the day it is weaned. 

When goats are stressed, they’re more susceptible to illness, worms, and coccidia. And a baby goat with coccidiosis is a baby goat with diarrhea and eventually dehydration. Maybe even death. 

So it’s my goal to prevent stress as much as possible before selling a baby goat, because I want to set them up for success in their new home, not sickness. 

Baby goats are extremely stressed at weaning. It’s probably one of the most stressful moments in a goat’s life. Overcoming that moment takes a lot out of the baby. And in that same vein, leaving home and joining a new herd is equally stressful. 

So, instead of giving the baby goat two stressful events by weaning it and then sending it off to a new home a week or two later, I limit it all to one bad day. There is no benefit to having two separate, stressful events for the kid.

With that being said, I do not sell a baby goat until I am comfortable with its weight and health. 

Weaning Bucklings To Keep

Aside from a healthy weight, the other determining factor in weaning bucklings is sexual maturity. 

I don’t feel comfortable leaving intact male baby goats in with mom and sisters for much more than 10-12 weeks, even though I have never had a successful breeding by a buck younger than 5 months. So, while I rely on weight, I also keep a close watch on age when it comes to bucklings. However, if they get enough milk and hit my 4-ounce-a-day weight gain goal, they will hit 20# by 8 to 10 weeks of age.

A lot of people worry about baby buck behavior, but many bucklings display mounting behavior within days of birth. So it’s not a reliable indicator of sexual maturity. Some goats, even doelings, are dominant and constantly mount other goats.

One of these two-week-old baby bucks was much more dominant than the other one, and he was constantly mounting his brother.

When to Wean Doelings

Since mother’s milk is the best defense against health issues, I also consider it a health insurance policy. And in case you haven’t noticed a trend, here’s my motto: I try my best to keep kids with their mothers as long as possible. 

So, when it comes to doelings, I let mom decide when it’s time to wean her kids. I find that kids raised naturally, with mom, are some of the healthiest goats produced. Not to mention they grow faster and sometimes larger than goats weaned earlier. Most of them never have a problem with worms or coccidia, and they are more likely to reach two-thirds of their adult weight by seven or eight months so they can be bred to kid as yearlings. 

When I first started raising goats, I had not heard anyone say not to breed does when they’re small. In fact, everyone I knew in the early years would breed does to kid as yearlings. But the one time I went against my better judgment and bred a smaller doe, I ended up in the vet‘s office during kidding. 

So What’s a Good Weight to Wean a Goat?

Since I raise Nigerian Dwarfs, I can speak specifically about this breed, although some of the same thought theories may apply to other breeds as well. 

I’ve found that kids handle weaning best when they weigh about 20 pounds, which is one-third the weight of a full-grown Nigerian Dwarf. I’ve had the best luck, healthwise, when I’ve allowed kids to reach this weight before weaning. They thrive well and grow into healthy adult goats.

Any less than 20 pounds, and I’m uncomfortable with weaning or selling a kid. In fact, any less than that probably means the kid needs more milk. 

This brings me to my next point. 

Growth Rate as a Tool

Nigerian Dwarf kids gain, on average, 4 ounces a day if they’re healthy and everything in the milk factory is firing on all cylinders. Standard-size dairy goats gain closer to half a pound daily, with meat goats gaining more. I’ve heard of some gaining as much as a pound a day.

If a baby Nigerian dwarf isn’t averaging 4 ounces per day, there could be something wrong. Weighing baby goats daily for the first two weeks and then weekly can put you ahead of the curve before serious problems become unmanageable. 

A baby goat that’s not growing can indicate a variety of issues like disease or lack of milk. If a doe has mastitis or CAE, she may not produce enough milk, and some does simply do not have the genetics to produce as much as other does. When a doe has more than two kids, one of them could be less aggressive than the others and may not get its fair share and will need to be supplemented. In other words, slow or no growth could be a red flag that means you need to begin bottle-feeding a baby goat before it’s too late. 

I prefer to know a kid isn’t gaining enough weight for a few days than to come out and find a half-dead kid when it may be too late to help.

So, as you can see, there isn’t one answer to the when-to-wean question. And a lot of the timing depends on growth, gain, and the health of your baby goat. In other words, let nature help you make the decision regarding the right time to wean your baby goats. 

Want to learn more on how to raise your baby goats? Check out Raising Baby Goats: Essential Tips for Success

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When to Wean Baby Goats

29 thoughts on “When to Wean Baby Goats”

  1. This is super helpful! I retained a doeling from a Dec kidding and she is still with Mama and I was feeling worried about it. Is there a point where I should step in and separate or is it normal for a doeling to still be nursing this long? Is it healthy for Mom? I’m going through your parasite class right now and had heard that keeping kids on mom prevents parasites. Thanks!

    • When I say I never wean doelings that we are keeping, that is really what I mean under all normal circumstances. I’ve seen kids nurse for 18 months, maybe longer. I really don’t pay attention because there is no negative side to letting them continue to nurse. We’ve had hundreds of doelings continue to nurse for many months with only two being “weaned” because they bit their mom when they were 6-8 months old. Other than that, they’ve all done great. They have zero parasite issues and grow big and healthy. Most of them hit 40 pounds by 7-8 so they could be bred to kid as yearlings, if I want. (These are Nigerian dwarf. A doe should be 2/3 of her adult weight being before bred.)

      • Hello!

        I will be getting five baby Nubians (all wethers) in about a month, and am brand new to goat ownership. You spoke of how stressful it is for kids to be separated from their mothers and herd—I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to make this process any less stressful for them? One thing that I think will be beneficial is that they’re all coming from the same herd, so they’ll at least have that familiarity/comfort of being together, but if there’s anything else I can do to relieve their stress I’d love to know! Thank you

        • Hi Sylina!

          The one thing that I cannot stress enough, is if these kids are coming to you as bottle babies, be ABSOLUTELY sure they are eagerly taking bottles before they get to you. So many people pull kids off of their dams as “bottle babies” who have never had a bottle in their mouth. This typically turns into a disastrous situation for the brand new goat owner AND for the kids.

          Another tip is to start them on medicated goat feed, if they are not already on it. After about a month, you can transition them off of the medicated feed and use a non- medicated one until they no longer need the feed for growth. Using medicated helps to interrupt the breeding cycle of coccidia, which tends to ramp up during stress, and can lead to coccidiosis.

          The fact that they are all coming together is perfect! This will go a long way in helping them to transition as stress free as possible.

          Good luck with your new babies!

  2. How does that work for milking does tho? if you are wanting to milk do you only do so once a day or do you do twice a day cause if kids are drinking from the teat constantly you won’t have any milk.

    • The short answer is, “it depends!” If the doe has a single, you should be milking her daily if you want her to have a decent milk supply because one kid can’t consume that much, and her body won’t supply more than what is being demanded. On the other hand, if she has two or three, the answers are completely different. I spell it all out here:

      Once the kid is 20#, you can start separating overnight and milking in the morning. Letting kids have unlimited milk until they are 20# is my definition of “health insurance” for my goats.

  3. This is a very helpful article-
    My 2 Nubian babies are 8 weeks and 7 weeks. I thought I would start separating them at night so I could milk in the morning. They are nice and healthy and being singled have had plenty of milk. Then let them be with their moms all day. However, in the last couple weeks, I’ve noticed that my doeling nurses of her mom and the other babies mom. Should I separate her and her mom from the others goats so she cannot nurse off her best friends mom. Thanks!

    • It’s not a problem exactly, and even if you did separate them, she would just start doing it again when you put them back together. If each doe had a single, it would have been a good idea to start milking them on day one. A single kid can’t consume that much milk, so you typically wind up with a fat kid and a doe with a very low milk supply. Keep that in mind if you are disappointed by their milk production. It will be better next time if they are nursing two kids.

      The only potential problem in this scenario is that if one doeling is nursing off the other goat, her dam’s supply will go down even more if you’re not milking her. It’s all about supply and demand. I’d suggest you start milking them both ASAP. You can either milk them twice a day without separating, or separate them overnight and milk the does in the morning. When a doe has a single, I always say that you have to be the twin that wasn’t born. If they had twins, the kids really need all the milk, but your average doe should have more than enough milk for a single. Assuming these mamas are not under a year old or small for their age and still doing a lot of growing themselves.

  4. This is extremely helpful! “Let mom do it” is what my gut says for the ones we’re keeping but I hadn’t thought to NOT wean the kids we sell. One swift stress event makes a ton of sense. Thank you for simplifying this process, even with all the things it “depends” on!

  5. My Nigerian Dwarf doe had triplets this year. They are now 4 months old and were just separated from mom. I’m going to continue to milk the mother. I haven’t been able to find any information on when I can reintroduce the babies back into the herd. What is your opinion? Thanks!

    • There is no single answer to this. Some kids will start nursing again after a month or two. It might even take them a few days, but it’s not uncommon. We don’t ever wean any doelings that we are keeping. We just separate them overnight when we want milk. We milk in the morning, and they spend the days together. This also means that we are not tied to 2x a day milking forever. If the kids are still nursing, we can skip a day with no worries. We don’t have to find a farm sitter who knows how to milk goats if we want to go somewhere for a few days. I don’t really see any benefits to completely weaning doelings or wethers. I love having kids that are still nursing.

  6. I’m so glad I found this page
    I’m new to Nigerian dwarfs was a bit of a rescue
    I have 2 bucks
    2 does
    And a doeling and buckling aged 7 weeks
    When I ween buckling can he go with bucks ?

    • If your goats are rescues, I’d suggest castrating the male and leaving him with the does. The bucks probably won’t be nice to him. If you leave him intact, however, that is what you will have to do.

  7. Our FF had twins as a yearling last year and was barely able to keep up with their milk demand. In fact, I was worried about the doeling for a while as she was only gaining 3 ounces per day. She ended up being quite healthy if a little on the small side.
    This year the same doe had a single and he’s gaining 4-5 ounces per day. Should I still start milking her soon (he’s 4 days old) or weight a while to see if she’s keeping up?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Philip!
      A yearling FF has a lot of demand on her with growing babies and then producing milk while still growing herself 🙂
      Now that she has another year under her belt and a more mature udder, you should be just fine to start milking. In fact, that will help to establish a better milk supply since she only has one kid nursing-supply is driven by demand.

  8. Our 2 FF both had twin bucklings now 4 weeks old.
    I will castrate one to keep as a companion for our buck and sell the remaining 3.
    If the remaining 3 have not sold by 10-12 weeks old should I put them in a separate area by themselves away from the does ( if I can create one) or put them in with the buck?
    My concern is that if I put up more fencing for a separate pen it won’t have a shelter in place. On the other hand , I imagine 3 bucklings in with the buck could be a problem as well.

    • Hi Connie
      Everyone seems to find a way that works best for them in this scenario.

      I personally am not comfortable putting my Nigerian bucklings in with full sized bucks until they are at least 30+ pounds and well acquainted through a shared fence line.

      My boys are quite tame and gentle natured, but the risk of injury is still there due to the rough-housing that goes on amongst intact bucks.

      None of mine have horns, which also makes my situation and choices for size at introduction a bit safer.


  9. Hi Deborah,

    This was a wonderful article. I have a number of bucklings that I am going to castrate tomorrow and some are 10 weeks and some are 12 weeks. I wanted to keep them in with their moms so they continue to get moms milk, rather than putting them in with the ones that are going to be bucks which I have already separated. Is it too late at 3 months to keep them with mom? A vet told me that they continue to produce sperm for 60 days after they are castrated. I am using the side crusher. Thanks!

    • Hi Mary Ellen

      Deborah has castrated 100s of bucklings at this age and left with mom. No unforeseen pregnancies.

      If you were castrating a fully mature buck, I definitely would keep separated for a couple of months, but at this immature age it should not be an issue.


  10. Thank you Tammy,

    Regarding when to wean, should my LaMancha bucklings be close to 65 lbs before they are weaned ? The sire is right around 200 lbs so my assumption is that the bucklings will be close to the same weight.

    • Hi Connie
      I have Nigerians, so just doing some quick math- assuming they gain around 8oz a day and are 5-6 lbs at birth, that would put them right around 50 or so # by 12 weeks of age.
      So that should be a good guideline for you.
      Most don’t like to keep intact bucklings with mom and other female herd members much after 10-12 weeks, so keep an eye out for anything going on that may require them to be separated sooner.

  11. Hello my name is Hallie and I did a lot of goats when I was a little girl and have decided to do goats again. I have a mom that came to me pregnant. She had twins. But her milk sack is really small and she won’t bed with them and won’t let them eat unless you make her. What should I do. I feel like she don’t have the milk for both babies. My other goat that had twins has a huge sack full of milk and keeping the babies warm. But my other momma is not. Any suggestions? I’m at a lost and don’t wanna lose the babies

  12. I use 2.5 times birth weight to start weaning. I am also switching to bottle feeding besides yielding a goat more tolerant of humans, it also allows me to assess their health.

    Bottle feeding may be less important if you are raising goats for meat, but dairy it can help you a lot. For one think if a kid dies you are pulling from both teats and not one. I have one doe who is producing milk from only on teat with no indication of mastitis.

    I think her body is confused with one teat in full use and the other not producing anything beyond a swallow. Even at full use she is producing far less than her sister who had two doelings keeping her busy.

    I am hoping we don’t lose a beautiful doeling again, but at least if we do we will not lose production.

  13. When you wean, how do you know the kids are drinking water? We just brought home some 8 week old Nigerian Dwarf kids and they were weaned a few days before. We were told they’re drinking water just fine and they had even watched them drinking. It’s been 4 days and I haven’t seen them touch any water we have out (all clean and fresh) and the water level hasn’t changed. We did start giving them 4-6oz of whole cow milk each day to help with bonding (and personally, I thinking complete weaning that young is too hard on them) so I know they’re getting that. No signs of dehydration – gums are normal and definitely defecating and urinating a good amount. We’ve also had a lot of rain, so I’m sure there’s some extra moisture in the green browse they’re eating from the paddock they’re in. But I’m just concerned they’re not drinking water. Is this something that needs to be taught or will they drink when they’re ready? I’ve heard goats can be picky about their buckets color even, is it possible they’re just being stubborn?

    They mainly browse their paddock and eat hay. They have access to a good loose mineral blend (which I’ve seen them use). But I haven’t seen any sign they’re drinking water. Is it possible they’re getting enough hydration through other means?

    • Hi there!
      You can absolutely continue their milk bottles. If we leave kids on bottles until they are about 1/3 of their adult weight they tend to be much healthier and have a stronger immune system than kids that are weaned according to a number of weeks. For most kids they will achieve that weight by the time they are 10-12 weeks old. I don’t know your breed, but for instance, a Nigerian kid should weigh about 20# before being weaned.
      At 8 weeks of age they should have learned to drink water from watching the other goats where they came from. So hopefully you are just not noticing the small amount they are drinking. And yes, they do get a decent amount of moisture from moist green vegetation, but fresh clean water in a container with low sides for them should always be available. Since they are consuming minerals, you could put their water right next to the minerals which will help encourage water intake.
      Please DO NOT give them water from a bottle. Too much water entering their system all at one time can cause a condition called water toxicosis and goat kids in particular are quite susceptible to it.
      Here is an article on bottle feeding kids for you 🙂



  14. So if a nigerian weighs at least 20lbs at 8 weeks you are happy to wean them then? We are selling our babies and they are on track for 20lbs at 8 weeks so was hoping they could go to their new homes by then. Thank you.

    • Hi Lydia!
      Yes. If they have reached 20# by 8 weeks that is great. As long as they are actively eating grain, hay, pasture, etc., they should be good to go 🙂


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