About Nigerian Dwarf Goats

Below is some information about Nigerian Dwarf Goats and some care tips.


The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a miniature goat of West African origin. Nigerian Dwarf goats are enjoying a rise in popularity due to their small size and colorful markings. Their small stature means they do not require as much space as larger dairy goat breeds, and their gentle and friendly personalities make them good companion pets. Goats in general are browsers not grazers so they are more like deer in they are selective in what they eat and move around a lot.

A Nigerian Dwarf goat’s conformation is similar to that of the larger dairy goat breeds. The parts of the body are in balanced proportion. The nose is straight, although there may be a small break or stop at the level of the eyes. The ears are upright. The coat is soft with short to medium hair. Any color or combination of colors is acceptable, although the silver agouti pattern and color is a moderate fault (pygmy goat-specific markings).

Ideal height of Nigerian Dwarf goats is 17″ to 19″ for does with does up to 22 1/2″ allowed in the breed standard. Ideal height for bucks is 19″ to 21″ with bucks up to 23 1/2″ allowed in the breed standard. Ideal weight is suggested to be about 75 lbs. Animals are disqualified from the show ring for being oversized for the breed standard and/or for other faults: having a curly coat, roman nose, pendulous ears or evidence of myotonic (a breed characteristic of fainting goats).

A healthy Nigerian Dwarf doe can produce a surprising amount of sweet milk for her small size – up to two quarts per day. The Nigerian Dwarf goat milk benefit is that it is higher in butterfat (6-10 percent) and higher in protein than milk from most dairy goat breeds.

Dwarf goats breed year round. Many owners breed their does three times in two years, giving the doe at least a 6-month break. Of course, this is a personal choice for each breeder. The gestation period for a doe is 145 to 153 days. For the most part, Nigerian Dwarfs are a hearty breed with few kidding problems. New babies average about 2 pounds at birth but grow quickly. Watch out for those little bucks! Bucklings can be fertile at as young as 7 weeks of age. Make sure you wean does and bucks separately to help you avoid unintentional breeding.

Does can be bred at 7-8 months of age if they have reached a mature size. Some breeders prefer to wait until they are at least 1 year or older. Dwarfs does can have several kids at a time, 3 and 4 being common with some quintuplet births occurring. Dwarfs are generally good mothers able to take care of their babies should you leave them to do the raising of the kids.

Goats are sociable, playful creatures. They enjoy gentle attention; do not allow “play” with them that will develop into bad habits because to a goat it means something different (if you push on their head playing butting games they will butt you unpredictably or that cute 2lb goat that paws/jumps on you won’t be so cute when they weigh close to 100lbs). They especially enjoy a neck or chest rub. They enjoy climbing and jumping on rocks, stumps, and platforms made for their pleasure (and your entertainment).

When you bring your goat home, expect that it will be frightened and nervous until it gets used to it’s new home. It will probably be a bit noisy, may act shy, and will need TLC and reassurance that it’s new home is a safe, comfortable, happy place. It usually takes about a week to settle in. Don’t chase your goat, let him/her come to you; it helps to offer a treat (handful of grain or treat).

A healthy goat appears contented, alert, has an appetite and chews its cud. Its coat is smooth and glossy, skin is clean and pliable. The manure consists of formed, slightly moist pellets which, with the urine should be passed without effort. The normal body temperature of a goat is 102-103F. The normal pulse is 70-80/minute.

Housing:

The care of your Nigerian is similar to the care of other goats. Good management (selection, nutrition, parasite control, health care, housing and responsible breeding) is the foundation af your herd and this will determine the ultimate condition of your stock. Goats are herd animals, so depend on the companionship of other goats. Two goats make a herd, as do a goat and a sheep, if raised together. A single goat is a miserable goat and will make you a miserable goat owner.

For their housing you must provide a barn, shed, or a large dog house so they can get out of rain, snow, wind and sun. They should not be housed in airtight buildings; ventilation is required for optimum health. Pens or houses should be kept clean with fresh hay, water, and bedding. Many owners find that providing a few “toys” for the goats provides them with hours of entertainment. Tree stumps, rocks or large cable spools are great for “king of the mountain” games and jumping. Just be sure to keep them away from the fence to avoid giving herd escape artists means to roam your neighborhood!

You must provide a sturdy fence; the BEST fencing is four-foot high woven wire 2×4 squares( commonly called Non-Climb fencing), rather than welded wire, is ideal and will last. As you think about fencing, remember that your goal is twofold: to keep your goats where you want them, and to protect them from dogs and coyotes who are their greatest threat.

Feeding:

The feeding requirements of your goats depends on their age and gender. As ruminants, they depend on a diet primarily of hay or pasture, we always provide both. Sweet smelling, non dusty, mixed grass or Grass/Alfalfa mix hay is ideal for all and should be fed free choice. Many goat breeders use a 12% – 18% protein goat feed or dairy ration, however on our farm only milkers and bucks in rut get grain, everyone else gets feed Lespadeza pellets which is similar in nutrition as alfalfa but has the added benefit of high tannins to help with worm control. If you do feed grain it must not contain urea as this is toxic to goats. When providing pasture learn about the grasses and plants growing in your area as there are some plants that are deadly if even one leaf is eaten. In TN we have a plant called  ‘Beef steak plant’ and it is technically a mint. It is the number one cow killer in TN and is highly toxic to all animals. Perilla Mint Toxicity , Rhododendron, azalea, yew(looks like spruce but no scent), laurel, cherry… these can also kill in very small doses. Never change the diet suddenly, always introduce new or extras in small quantities. If your goat over eats (gorges on grain) that which it is not accustomed, watch it carefully for signs of illness(bloat) and be prepared to call the vet.

Males are prone to developing kidney/urinary tract stones (calculi) so it is crucial to make sure that what you feed maintains a proper Calcium to Phosphorus ratio of 2:1 or 4:1. If you have wethers(neutered males) they really do not need grain and will do just fine with occasional treats and free choice hay and pasture/browse. If you do feed a grain to wethers I would recommend not more than 1/8-1/4 cup per day and of course this also depends on condition of the animal as well. You should be able to feel the ribs of the animal. Here is a link as well to judge condition of your goat Dairy Goat Body Scoring

They should have free choice minerals and water available at all times.

Health Care:

Nigerian goats, like all other breeds, need some basic care for good health and long life. Hooves should be trimmed regularly, about every 4-8 weeks or more often if needed. A properly trimmed and shaped hoof should resemble those of a kid goat’s hoof. There are basic types of vaccinations that should be given yearly, CDT. It is best to check with your local vet for any other vaccinations recommended for your area. Some experienced breeders may immunize their own goats; new owners and breeders should take their goats to the local vet for vaccines. Tip: Have multiple thermometers on hand cause that is an immediate way to verify if you have a sick goat. You should never offer food to a goat that has a body temp less than 101 degrees as their rumen isn’t working properly at that time. You will need to always warm your goat up first.

Worming should be done as needed, you should learn how to do a FAMACHA check and you should always have fecals run prior to worming to know what you are worming for. Your goat vet can also suggest any special supplements (such as selenium), additional immunizations and a recommended wormer for your particular herd based on your area and known preventative health measures.

What’s the Difference Between a Nigerian Dwarf and a Pygmy Goat?

Although they have similar origins, Nigerian Dwarfs and African Pygmies are separate and distinct breeds, with recognized differences. Pygmies are bred to be “cobby” and heavy boned, they are a miniature meat goat. Nigerians are bred to have the length of body and more elegant structure that’s similar to their larger dairy goat counterparts. Pygmies are also primarily “agouti” patterned, with black, silver and caramel being the most common colors. Registered Pygmies can not have blue eyes.

(The above information was pieced from multiple sources and added too by myself in other places. Here are the main sites this information was pulled from NDGA and CountrySide Daily)

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