Feeding Orphan Goat Kids

Hanai (v.) – to adopt, to be close; to nourish, to sustain. There isn’t a singular definition for the hawaiian word hanai. It was common practice for the Hawaiian people in the olden days to give their first born child to their parents to raise as the highest form of love and respect that one could bestow upon their parents. As time went on the practice extended to the community… to nourish and sustain by adoption.

Recently our prize doe Boer** goat “Ha’ole Girl” got her head stuck in the fence and passed away leaving a set of week-old triplets orphans: a female and two males. We were very distraught not only for losing Haole Girl but also the potential loss of the orphan kids. It is NOT the nature of goats to cross foster other kids who aren’t born to them. I use to cross-foster piglets by rubbing Vicks on their moms noses so the pig sows or moms would take any baby, but goats are another animal.

The thought of having to mix formula 4-6 times a day and bottle feed the triplets was daunting but we had to try and began our vigil. The two boys came readily to the bottle when called. But the female would not have it, sometimes taking me 45 minutes to catch her and even then she just wouldn’t take the bottle. I also had problems with the formula. The directions said 4 ounces of dry power milk to 12 ounces of water but that gave the kids the scours or runs. Reducing the powdered milk to 2 ounces to the same 12 ounces of water stopped the scours. It was impractical to bottle-feed the triplets with our busy farm and music schedule!

BoerKids3We had a nannie (lactating female) “Flying Nun“, named after the American sitcom because her ears stick out ever so slightly like airplane wings. Her young kid, named “Hop Along” because of a dislocated hip, couldn’t keep up with her. The Flying Nun would cry and cry for her baby to follow but Hop Along kept getting weaker and weaker. We finally had to separate them and put the kid in the goat condo (our horse corral enclosure) so his nannie mom wouldn’t step on him. Next thing we know the orphan female is sneaking up getting a drink off of Flying Nun!

Was there a way to get nannie goats to hanai needy kids?  Nancy came up with the brilliant idea of using the milking stand that my hanai nephew, Sam Hambek built, to secure the nannie to let babies feed. No more mixing formula, chasing down kids and no more runs from bottle formula. At first we had to hobble or tie the various nannie hind legs so they wouldn’t kick the triplets off which takes an additional 5-15 minutes to hobble both hind feet together- time that we don’t have!  So we developed a trick where you just hold up one hind leg of the doe being milked and the triplets just go for it. Most goats have only 2 teats so it’s a challenge to keep one triplet off while the other two go for a drink! And not to forget Hop Along as he won’t drink from anyone but his mom, Flying Nun.

It worked so well we started rotating all of our lactating mommas on the milking stand, including “Dark Eyes“, “Grand Daughter“, “Dark Eyes Daughter“, “House Goat“, and “Cow Girl“. The orphan triplets love it, feeding off of all the lactating does and moms in our herd.  It’s a trip to watch them fight each other to hop up onto the milk stand and milk from any of our lactating does. It’s so successful that their bellies are getting really, really, really, stretched out, even over full! All three are bombucha boozas… big and really heavy!

Yes we are still learning about goats but looks like we’ve discovered a practical method, that others can use, to get nannie goats to hanai or cross foster orphan kids.  And now our orphan triplets are thriving on our farm.

 -Uncle George 

** The Boer goat is a breed of goat that was developed in South Africa in the early 1900s for meat production. Their name is derived from the Afrikaans word “boer”, meaning farmer.