Weaning the Angora Goat Kid
By Dr Mackie Hobson

Wednesday, 27th October 2021

WEANING - THE ANGORA GOAT KID

Angora goat farmers wean the kids at slightly different times depending on the environmental conditions (drought) and management system.

A balance needs to be made by the producer between the impact of weaning on the kids and allowing the ewes to recover to be in a good enough condition to conceive at the following mating.

 

What does the milk production of the Angora ewe tell us about weaning?

If we read Hoon, Olivier and Griessel on milk production by ewes on the veld (2003-2006, Middleburg district).

If we look at the graph in relation to milk production relative to time (weeks):

  • The kid's dry matter intake (veld, pasture, concentrate) naturally increases dramatically after about 6 weeks of age, so the kid becomes less dependent on the ewe. (Drop-in ewes milk production)
  • We also know that Angora ewes will wean their kids naturally by the five and a half months even if the ewe and kid have not been separated.

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How early can we wean our kids under drought conditions?

From the graph of the Angora ewe’s milk production, we can see:

  • Milk production drops dramatically at about 8 weeks, so under drought conditions, some farmers wean as early as 2 months of age (creep feed adapted).
  • There are farmers who will wean by weight - as early as 10kg (creep feed adapted)
  • Under GOOD conditions, most farmers typically wean the kids at about 4 months (18 weeks). This varies from 3, 5(15 weeks) to 4.5 months (20 weeks).

 

What are normal weaning weights?

  • If we look at data collected by Gretha Snyman (Longevity project 2000 to 2015), we can determine the average weaning weight under good conditions at 4 months to be 1kg on the veld and 19.1kg on lands.
  • Other data by Gretha Snyman (Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute) showed average weaning weights to be 17.6kg (equates to an ADG: birth to wean (g/day) of 113g.

 

Remember when weaning:

  1. Kids must be feed adapted

 

  1. Kids must be fully vaccinated (complete course of 2 injections)

 

  1. Weaning stress and poor acquired immunity of Angora goats until 12 months of age leads to susceptibility to internal parasites.
  • Monitor/treat Cocci. The most effective control is to strategically use Deccox in the feed

https://www.angoras.co.za/article/drugs-for-treating-coccidiosis-in-angora-kids

  • Monitor faecal egg counts for both cocci and roundworms

 

  1. It is a good idea to give oral vitamin doses during this period.

For options, see: https://www.angoras.co.za/article/mineral-and-vitamin-options#360

 

  1. Running kids with a few older goats does help (to a small extent) to reduce weaning stress. It is also believed that they teach the kids what not to eat?

 

  1. It is better to move the ewes out rather than the kids at the initial weaning as this helps reduce stress to a small extent.

 

What is the impact of weaning on Angora kids? WEANING SHOCK

Kids who are weaned lose weight or do not progress due to “weaning shock” and under normal Karoo conditions cannot recover sufficiently, as demonstrated in the graph.

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The effect of weaning shock can be demonstrated from extracts from studies by Gretha Snyman (Grootfontein) on 4 to 7-month-old kids.

 

Even where kids are given feed supplements, the impact of weaning stress on growth rates is marked.

  • Where ewes and kids received supplementary feeding (80% milled lucerne and 20 % mealie meal), the average daily increase (ADI) of the un-weaned group was 33,8g compared with the 21,9g of the weaned
  • When this trial was repeated with just lucerne-hay, the un-weaned kids increased by 17,7 g per day compared with the 9,6 g per day of the weaned  
  • The daily gain of the un-weaned group on the lucerne/mealie meal ration was 54 % more than the weaned kids. On the lucerne, the growth of the un-weaned group was 85% better than the weaned group.

 

The experiment was repeated under veld conditions. As a result of good rains before the commencement of the experiment, the veld was in above-average condition during the period of the experiment. The ADI was calculated from weaning (4 months) to 7 months old.

  • The ADI of weaned kids was 10, 2 g
  • The ADI of the non-weaned group of 34 g
  • So there is a definite benefit to the kids to keep them with the ewes for as long as possible.

 

Would running the weaned kids with older goats reduce weaning stress?

The practice of swopping ewes or running with older goats to decrease stress during weaning has a minimal benefit as these kids had ADI of 12,4g compared to 10,2g where no adults were present.

 

How to reduce weaning stress?

  • Supplementary nutrition to reduce this setback of weaning stress is important.

This should ideally be started before the kids (creep feed) are removed from the ewes so that they have already adapted to the diet. This should be for a minimum of 2 weeks before weaning.

  • It is also a good idea to move the ewes and leave the kids so that there is less stress on the kids and they are familiar with their surroundings, water and feed.
  • Running older goats with the kids has a very slight effect of reducing weaning stress.
  • Vitamin supplements
  • Keep parasite-free

 

Creep Feeding:

During times of drought, the availability of feed may determine what creep feed is provided.

Consider adding ‘ Deccox’ at strategic times to control cocci levels.

 

Examples of a creep feed:

 

  1. Feeding just Lucerne Hay

Expectations on this ration would be that the Average Daily Gains (ADG) would be:

  • Un-weaned kids 17,7 g per day
  • The weaned kids 9,6 g per day.

Feeding long stem lucerne is better for rumen function than milled lucerne.

 

  1. Feeding (80% milled lucerne and 20 % mealie meal)

Expectations of ADG would be:

  • Un-weaned kids 33, 8 g
  • The weaned kids 21,9 g .
  1. Example of a manufactured creep feed (Molatek)

Sheep Fattening/Calf Concentrate 15%
Maize meal                                      65%
Lucerne hay (average)                    10%
Molatek Bypass                               10%

Analysis(Dry Matter) of this ration would likely be:

Protein                        16%

ME MJ / Kg 12.62
NE Mcal/kg 1.37
Ca                               0.67%
P                                 0.37%

UREA (other NPN)     1.09%
Ionophore `mg/kg 12.14

  1. An example is an ad-lib self-made creep feed.

Mielie meal 

 50%

Lucern meal

 25%

Cotton/Soya oil cake meal

 15%

Feed lime

10%

Salt

1%

What impact does weaning have on the ewe?

Studies by Hoon, Olivier and Griessel evaluated the body weight change and conception rates of ewes from weaning (4months) until mating/scanning.of ewes in the next breeding season. These studies were of ewes on veld conditions (above average) in the Middleburg district from about 2003-2006.

  1. A comparison of Bodyweight between ewes who weaned their kids (4 months) and those where the kids were not weaned.

 EWE

Kids Weaned 4 months

 Kids Not weaned

Weight at weaning (kg)

29.21 ± 0.26a

 31.40 ± 0.27b

Weight at mating (kg)

31.63 ± 0.27a

 33.18 ± 0.28b

Body weight change (kg)

2.40 ± 0.14a

1.73 ± 0.15b

  1. The conception and scanning percentages of the ewes - four year period

 EWE

Kids Weaned (4 months)

Kids Not weaned

Conception percentage (%)

87.2

92.9

Scanning percentage (%)

104.4

112.3

 

What is surprising from these studies was the fact that weaning/not weaning, under good veld conditions, did not have a significant impact on ewe production figures, but we know it has a considerable impact on the kids.

It is clear that keeping the kids with the ewe for as long as possible has a large benefit to the kid and no significant impact on the ewe when conditions are good.

However, under drought conditions for early weaning, producers must ensure good nutrition, reduce stress, keep the kids free of parasites, and ensure they are fully vaccinated.

Dr Mackie Hobson

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