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Introducing New Kids to the Herd

I was asked a question recently, about when to introduce new kids to the rest of the herd. It's a good question, because there are a number of variables: herd dynamics, individual personalities, and the dam's mothering style.

I like to leave mothers and their new kids in the kidding stall for their first couple of days. New mothers, especially, need to learn who these tiny creatures are and bond with them. The stall isn't out of sight from the other goats so there's no herd separation anxiety for the new mother. They can see and smell one another and it gives everyone a chance to become familiar with the kids.

This also gives new babies time to learn how to use their legs and get around. They need to be steady enough on their feet and able to run out of the way of any adult who is trying to teach them their manners. Learning their manners includes learning which teats are acceptable to nurse from and which are not! With so much access to milk at eye level, it's a lesson that needs to be learned.

For their first outing, I like to wait until the others are out grazing and then let Mama and her babies out of their stall. That gives them the chance to explore and become familiar with the common area.

When it comes to meeting the rest of the herd, I supervise introductions.

I want to observe how the other adults react to the new babies and how well their mother will protect them. I've had does that let others butt their kids around, and I've had does who butt everybody else away before they can get anywhere near their kids.

Some adults are gentle with kids. They push rather than butt them away. Other adults are rough and rude with the kids, so I'm always on the lookout for bullying. The kids learn quickly and soon know who's way to stay out of.

I also keep an eye on the older kids because they tend to play rough and need to be supervised. Eventually the newbies know how to stay out of the way.

I keep these first times pretty short. If Mom wants to go out to graze, I'll put the babies back in their stall until she's back. They sleep a lot their first week or so and don't miss her while she's out with the others. I keep the adults out of the empty stall during this time, and I'll put mama and the kids back in it for several more nights.

I don't know if it's necessary, but I feel better knowing they can't get too far from their mother at first. Once everybody knows who's who and what's what, they don't need that anymore. Then it's just regular goat business as usual.


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