Farm Animals · Farming with kids · Goats · New to farming

To Wean or Not to Wean…

When it comes to weaning my children, I have a success rate of 25%. That is to say that, of the four, I successfully weaned one. The last one. The first three weaned themselves sometime during my second trimester with their next-in-line sibling. I didn’t set out to nurse all my kids for two(ish) years. It’s just that I was always still nursing when I got pregnant again, and it was just too exhausting to deal with growing a new life, morning sickness, a toddler, and weaning.  So, I sort of delegated the responsibility weaning to the child in question.  It was just easier.

When #4 began to approach is second birthday, and there seemed to be no #5 on the way (much to my dismay), Big Hal and I began to wonder how we would ever get this little guy weaned. Fortunately, having had three children already and having read all the latest enlightened and progressive books on child rearing, I knew the best way to handle the situation. I bribed him. I took, him to the store and pointed out the biggest, shiniest Tonka truck in the place. I told him that as soon as he stopped having nursie he could have the truck. He didn’t take me up on my offer right away. In fact, I don’t even remember the last time he nursed or going to buy him the truck. But there it is in our sandbox to this day – a testament to the last days of babyhood at our home…

Until now. Now we are dealing with a different kind of baby. Baby goats. After a long and tedious decision making process, we got Isabel when when she was four days old.  She took to the bottle right away, and Kitty was in love with her new little one.

Kitty and Izzy
Kitty and Izzy

When Kitty adopted my parenting style and  decided to attachment parent her goat (by showering it with attention), I was proud and delighted.  I knew it would make for great girl/goat bonding. Here she is holding Isabel in the “baby sling” she made out of a bed sheet.

Attachment Goat Parenting

In fact, having Isabel and bottle feeding her was going so well that we decided to get Duke when he was four days old.

Chet and Duke

Soon we were one big happy bottle-goat-baby family. That was in early May.   It is now July and we are still one big happy bottle-goat-baby family. The problem is Izzy is over three months old and Jake is fast approaching the two month mark, and I don’t know how to wean.  I mean I know how. I just don’t see it happening.  One way is to cut them off all at once.  That is apparently what is happening with Natalie.

Natalie

We bought her just a couple of days ago, and I do believe that she was with her mother right up until the deal went down.  She is inconsolable.  She stands at the gate day and night crying (presumably for her mother).  It is pitiful.  On top of that, she has been skiddish.  For the first day, she wouldn’t let us near her.  We tried catching her and holding her close (otherwise known as snuggle therapy).  We’ve tried scratching behind her ears.  We even tried to give her a bottle (otherwise known as reverse weaning).  Finally, after much coaxing with sweet feed, she’s coming close enough to let us pet her – and even to scratch behind the ears.

Chet giving Natalie a before-bed snack
Chet giving Natalie a before-bed snack

She is coming around, but she still cries a lot.  She cried so much the first day that she made herself hoarse.  The point is, I know we don’t have the stomach to cut Duke and Izzy off cold turkey. We couldn’t bear to listen to all that bawling.  Of course we couldn’t stand it knowing they were suffering, but it would also be like having Taylor Swift cover band giving a concert behind our house 24/7.

As bad as I am at weaning though, we have made some progress.  They are both down to one bottle a day.  And a couple of weeks ago I started mixing Izzy’s milk with water.  This morning her bottle was filled completely with water.  She didn’t even seem to notice.  She was so happy. She just wagged her little tail and looked up at me with those adoring eyes and I thought, “Where is a big, shiny Tonka truck when you need one.”

Linked at The Barn Hop

Barn-Hop

And at  The Farm Blog Hop

And at Homemade Mondays

 

4 thoughts on “To Wean or Not to Wean…

  1. Hi,

    I came over from the Barn Hop. Does it help if I tell you that by now their stomachs are all working, and they can no longer digest the milk enough to get nutrients from it? By 8 weeks of age, goats need to be switched over to grain, because most of that good stuff in milk is just passing through without stopping, and the little goats are going to be at a deficit. They can’t absorb the vitamins and minerals from the milk that they need after that age. They should be put on grain and hay and a loose mineral, hopefully they are eating it a bit already. Just think of it as feeding them well. They need the nutrition that they are no longer getting from that bottle.

    And water in a bottle is a bad idea. You’ll go forever like that. Just some advice from someone who’s weaned a few goats in her day–some very difficult ones, too. Natalie isn’t crying because of the lack of milk, she’s crying because she’s away from her mom and her herd. I’ve been through that as well. With time, she will come around. It does take a while, though. Goats are very smart and know what they’re missing.

    Good luck to you! Your goats are very beautiful.

    1. Actually, that is quite helpful. I thought I had done me research, but I hadn’t heard that goats are unable to digest the milk past eight weeks. Some of my sources suggested weaning by eight week and others by 12. As it turns out, my daughter and I had to be somewhere early yesterday. We left the bottle feeding to my son, but assumed we had already done it. So, no one got a bottle yesterday and no one died!

      They do have access to plenty of grain and hay. They also a place to graze and forage. But just to be on the safe side, my dad, who is worse about babying them than I am, is hand feeding Natalie every night and morning – just in case the other goats are letting her eat.

      Thanks for the information. And thanks for stopping by the blog.

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