PRODUCTION

Guide to Nursing Baby Farm Animals


January 27, 2022

Baby farm animal drinking milk

Raising baby farm animals is a rewarding task but requires a great deal of responsibility to keep your baby farm animals healthy and happy from the get-go. If you are a farmer looking for guidance on what to do during the first moments of your farm animals’ lives, our nursing guide can help provide care for nursing animals.

Chick

Baby chicks with mom

Fertile chickens hatch after an incubation period of 21 days. A chicken can lay about one egg per day until they lay an entire clutch (about 10 to 12 eggs). Broody hens will sit on the fertilized eggs until they hatch into chicks. Chicks can weigh about 1.5 ounces but vary depending on breeds of chicks.

Baby chicks must be kept at a stable temperature of 95-100º F during the first two weeks of life. After the initial two weeks, the temperature can be lowered by 5 degrees per week until they are one month old.

The brooder’s bedding should be changed once per day. Bedding options include newspaper, pine shavings, straw, and hay. We recommend putting down 2-3 inches of bedding in the brooder. 

Give your chicks access to fresh water in an appropriately-sized waterer. Chicks require starter feed, which contains the suitable protein, vitamins, and minerals needed for proper growth and health in a chick.

Purina Start and Grow Medicated Crumbles Premium Poultry Feed

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Probiotic Chick Boost

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Learn more about raising baby chicks from our blog resource here.

Piglet

Female pigs (sows) have a gestation period of about three months, three weeks, and three days (115 days). Gestation periods can range between 111 and 120 days. A sow’s brood size ranges between five and 25 piglets per litter. Most litters, however, are between 10 and 12 piglets.

Newborn piglets are between one and three pounds in size. During the first week, the baby pigs will double in size.

Piglets should be able to suckle at the sow’s teats during the first 12 hours of being born. Weak pigs can get squished between more vigorous piglets. Remove the stronger piglets for a couple of hours in the morning and evening to allow weaker pigs to nurse.

After birth, piglets only have just enough body fat to make it through one day and cannot regulate body temperature during the first few days. While female pigs require cooler temperatures (60-65º F), piglets need warmer temperatures in their housing (70-80º F).

The colostrum provides piglets with immunoglobulins to protect them from disease during the first moments of their lives. If colostrum is not available for your baby animal, consider colostrum from another nursing sow.

Kid

Baby goats playing in hay

Goats have a gestation period of about 150 days (143-157 days depending on breed). On average, most goat breeds will have a litter size of two babies, although giving birth to one and three goats is also normal.

Newborn goats vary in weight depending on the breeds and litter size. For instance, Nigerian dwarf goat babies can weigh just a couple of pounds while larger breeds can weigh up to 10 to 12 pounds.

We recommend maintaining a dry and clean stall where your female goats (does) can give birth. When delivered, look for activity levels in the kids. Keep active kids with their mothers. 

When handling kids who lack vigor, remove mucus from their mouth and nose and maintain them in a sitting position to improve their oxygen flow to the lungs. If the newborn is not breathing normally, gently insert a piece of straw in its nasal passages to stimulate rhythmical breathing.

Feeding your baby goat the appropriate amount of colostrum, the animal’s first stage of milk, must happen in a short time window after the delivery. Healthy kids will begin nursing within 30 minutes. 

Farmers should ensure the kids receive at least 10% of the birth weight of the colostrum within two hours of delivery. If no colostrum is available, farmers can purchase colostrum replacers at their nearest farm and ranch supply store.

Sav-A-Kid Goat Kids Milk Replacer, 8-Lbs.

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Calf

Calf enjoying milk

Gestation periods for cows vary by breed and sex of the calf. Usually, gestation can take between 279 to 287 days. On average, most cow breeds have a gestation period of about 283 days. Cows carrying bull calves generally have more extended gestation periods.

Cows will typically have a single calf, but they can be known to have up to three calves at a time. Calf size varies by breed, but newborns usually weigh between 80 and 140 pounds. As the calving time gets near, the cows should be in a clean and dry pen or grassy area. 

The mammary gland secretes the colostrum right after calving. The colostrum’s high-protein and low-lactose nutrition gives calves the necessary nutrients and hormones and builds immunity to disease. Colostrum should be fed to calves within 12 hours of delivery.

Calves should be housed individually in draft-free, well-ventilated facilities. Calf hutches are optimal for preventing the spread of disease from between calves. Calves should be identified at birth with either an ear tag, tattoo, sketch, or photograph.

Land-O-Lakes Calf Balance 24-16 50 lb.

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Foal/Colt

Horses have a gestation period between 11 and 12 months. Horses usually give birth to a single foal per year. Giving birth to twins is extremely rare and high-risk. Often methods are used to terminate one of the embryos to prevent twins from being born because there isn’t enough room or nutrients to support growth of more than one foal. Mares tend to deliver the baby within 30 minutes of the water breaking. Newborn foals usually weigh about 10% of the weight of the mare.

Once the foal is born, the mare may need assistance ensuring that the amniotic sac has broken and is not covering the foal’s nose. Most foals blow the liquid from their nose on their own. Let the foal and mother spend time together in a quiet and clean stall.

As the baby and mother move around, the umbilical cord will break on its own. When it breaks, the umbilical stump should be dipped in a disinfectant solution like iodine to prevent infection. Shivering is a normal occurrence when the babies are naturally heating themselves.

Mothers will usually clean the newborn. Watch the newborn closely and ensure it can stand on its own within an hour of being born. After it stands, the foal will instinctively try to nurse. Allow it to find the udder on its own to cement the bond between the mother and the young animal. 

Land O'Lakes ProNurse 8 lb.

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Lamb

White baby lambs

Sheep have a gestation period that ranges between 147 and 152 days. Fine-wool breeds usually have shorter gestations than medium-wool or meat-type sheep breeds. Female sheep (ewes) typically give birth to one or two lambs. Triplets or larger litter sizes are rare.

Newborn sizes depend on the breed and the brood size. Generally, newborns can range in size between 6 and 14 pounds. Lambs (baby sheep) require nursing soon after being born, or they risk getting weaker. 

The colostrum provides lambs with the right amount of protein, vitamins, minerals, and antibodies to resist disease. If colostrum is not available from its mother for whatever reason, farmers can use goat’s milk or a milk replacer.

Grafting, also known as fostering, is an effective method of pairing orphan lambs with another ewe. There are many ways of grafting an extra lamb onto a ewe. One approach is to smear the birthing fluids over a lamb when a ewe is lambing to simulate the birth of another lamb.

Land O'Lakes Ultra Fresh Optimum Lamb Milk Replacer 8 lb.

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Homesteading Supplies at Wilco Farm Stores

Protect your farm animals’ health throughout its life with the proper nursing and care supplies from Wilco farm stores including neonatal care supplies. We also carry a premium selection of milk replacers for animal milk and nursing bottles with livestock-appropriate nipples to feed your young animals the nutrients they need.

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