Goats are usually considered friendly, gentle animals who enjoy jumping around and playing with the other goats in the herd.
Despite their cute appearance, sometimes the playfulness of goats turns into aggressive behavior, especially among male goats.
There is a hierarchy in every goat herd, and males are more likely to assert dominance than females.
This dominant behavior is most prominent when a new goat is introduced into the herd.
But do male goats attack and kill baby goats?
While it is not necessarily their intent, a male goat can kill a baby goat. Male goats view any new member of the herd as a threat to their dominance. A male goat will butt heads or ram other goats they perceive as smaller or weaker than them.
The aggressive behavior in male goats typically stems from a crowded environment and competition for food or breeding mates.
Even if the goat has been disbudded and does not have horns, it can still inflict severe damage to other members of the herd.
Read on for more information on why male goats become aggressive and how to keep baby goats safe.
Why Are Male Goats Aggressive?
Goat herds have a pecking order, and a dominant female and male are usually considered the pack’s leaders.
Some breeds of goats are naturally less aggressive than others, but there is still a hierarchy in every herd.
Female goats are sometimes just as aggressive as the bucks, but since males are generally larger, they can inflict more damage to the other animals.
Bucks may have at least one other male they are friendly toward, but the hierarchy must be reestablished when a new goat is introduced into the herd.
If your goats do not have enough open space to move around in, or if they do not have adequate shelter, the aggressive behavior becomes more dangerous.
Male goats tend to be very territorial, especially when getting food or securing a mate.
In crowded goat pens, the dominant goats are more likely to eat most of the feed.
When mother goats give birth, the buck may see the baby goat as a threat to their food supply or breeding partner.
This territorial behavior may be very dangerous for a baby goat who is too small or weak to defend itself properly.
A buck will sometimes chase a smaller kid away from its mother to claim the doe as his own.
Headbutting and ramming often do not inflict serious injury, although you may see blood on a goat’s head.
Even if goats do not have horns, they may have scurs on their head, which will cause cuts and other injuries.
If a smaller baby goat is rammed in the head or the side, it could result in a broken neck or ribs.
How To Keep Baby Goats Safe
While it does require a bit of extra work, there are several ways to keep your baby goats safe until they are ready to be introduced to the herd.
Shortly after a goat is born, the mother and baby must be separated from the rest of the herd for several weeks.
It is best to have a separate area of the goat pen for the does and their babies to keep them safe.
The separation also prevents accidental breeding between a buck and a young female.
Ensure the Doe is Not Rejecting Her Baby
Even after the goats have been separated, it is crucial to observe the behavior between the doe and her baby.
It is not uncommon for a doe to reject her newborn and refuse to feed it.
A mother refusing to feed her baby creates a dangerous problem for the newborn.
Baby goats have very fragile bodies in their first few weeks of life, and without proper nutrition, they will develop a condition known as “floppy kid syndrome,” which is often fatal.
The kid must receive at least one feeding from its mother to get enough colostrum.
Colostrum is produced from a doe’s milk shortly after giving birth, and it is essential for providing the baby goat with the antioxidants needed for proper immune development.
Bottle-Feeding a Baby Goat
If the doe refuses to feed her kid, you will need a colostrum supplement for bottle feeding.
You will then have to bottle feed the baby goat with goat milk for around 6-8 weeks before slowly transitioning it to grains and hay.
Baby goat milk replacer is sometimes used to bottle feed, but it may be difficult to mix to the proper ratios, so fresh goat milk is best.
Weaning a Baby Goat
Once the baby goat has been receiving milk for 6-8 weeks, it is time to transition to grains and hay.
The food transition must be done slowly to prevent bloating, a serious and sometimes fatal issue for goats.
Baking soda is often added as a feed supplement to prevent bloating issues.
Once the kid is eating grains and hay and has become strong enough to defend itself, you will be able to introduce it to the rest of the adult goats.
Further reading: When can you start feeding baby goats grain?
Introducing a New Goat to the Herd
A proper introduction to the herd is essential for keeping the kid safe and ensuring the other goats do not bully it.
There is no way to prevent goats from headbutting or fighting with each other, so the only option is to keep babies and newly purchased goats away from the rest of the herd for at least 30 days.
Once this quarantine period has ended, it is safe to introduce the new goat to the herd.
Goats are herd animals, and they thrive on social interaction.
It is best not to separate goats for more than 30 days, or the isolated goat may become depressed or lonely and be more susceptible to illness from a lowered immune system response.
Let the Goats See Each Other
Once the initial quarantine period is over, start slowly by placing the new goats in a pen where the rest of the herd can see them.
The herd needs to be able to see and smell the new goat, but there should not be any physical contact just yet.
This allows the individual goats to become familiar without worrying about territorial disputes or food.
Allow the Goats to Meet on Neutral Territory
An established herd is more likely to defend their usual territories, such as their pen or a pasture they usually graze in.
For this reason, it is best to make the introduction of a new goat to a place the rest of the herd is not as familiar with.
Place the new goat in the new pasture or pen and allow the rest of the herd to come to it to reduce territorial aggression.
Observe the Herd’s Behavior Closely
Carefully observe the herd’s behavior toward the new goat for any signs of aggression or bullying.
The critical thing to remember here is knowing when you need to interfere.
There will always be some fighting when the new goat is introduced, which is a normal part of establishing the hierarchy.
It is best not to interfere with the process unless the goats are bleeding or the fighting has lasted more than one hour without a break.
There will usually be one goat from the herd, the primary aggressor, and it may be necessary to remove the aggressive one until it has calmed down.
Removing the aggressive goat rather than the one being bullied allows the rest of the herd to get to know the new member of the herd and become more accepting of it.
Feed All of the Goats Equally
Since most bullying and aggressive behaviors occur during feeding time, ensuring the entire herd is being fed equally is crucial.
Provide your goats with plenty of space in the pen and the feeding trough.
Having enough space during feeding time ensures the more subordinate goats in the herd can get away from the dominant goats and eat.