Nigerian Dwarf Goats are our personal favorite type of goats. There are plenty of over types of goats that you can choose from depending on what you are looking for in a goat, but we just love everything about them.
They are a perfect size; around that of a Golden Retriever. They have wonderful personalities. And they have milk that is sweeter than even cow's milk.
If you share our love for everything Nigerian Dwarf Goats, then please read along and enjoy this Ultimate Guide!
Now that you know the lay of the land, let's get started.
General Information on Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Just to make sure we are starting on a level playing field, I wanted to include some general goat information. The rest of this guide will focus solely on Nigerian Dwarf Goats but here is some general goat terminology.
We also think it's really important that you have a good understanding of what goat supplies you will need prior to bringing home your new favorite pets.
History and Origin
These little guys and gals have a globe spanning history. They and the American Pygmy Goat are both descendants of the West African Dwarf Goat. Sometime between 1930 and 1960 West African Dwarf Goats were brought into the US for various zoo exhibits.
Initially, the Nigerian Dwarf Goat was bred as a show goat and companion animal. It was only later they were developed to be a smaller dairy goat.
A breed registry was made in 1980. They continued to slowly grow in popularity over the next few decades. They were finally accepted into the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) in 2005.
We all know these goats are adorable. You can see that just by looking at them. Let's go into a little more detail about their appearance.
The first thing you're going to notice about a Nigerian Dwarf Goat is their small size, especially compared to a full size goat. This breed, both males and females, stand less than 2 feet tall at the shoulders!
The average weight in our herd is usually between 45 and 55 lbs. However, we have had some that were as large as 90 lbs
Nigerian Dwarf Goats come in a variety of colors, patterns, and markings. They can also have a combination of any of these colors, patterns, or markings. They do not have to show just one. This is one of these reasons that this breed is so much fun!
Here's a small samples of some of the color, pattern, and marking possibilities:
- chocolate brown
- cou clair/cou blanc
- white overlay/frosting
- blue or brown eyes
- polled or horned
Need some help to keep your goats healthy and maintained? The G.O.A.T Herd Management Binder has you covered from supplies to routine care reminders.
How do I choose my Nigerian Dwarf Goat?
There are several things that can come into play when choosing your first goats. Do you have a budget you need to stick to? Are you looking for pets? Are you thinking of showing your goats competitively?
The only rule that is steadfast no matter your goal is to always have more than one goat. Goats are herd animals and can get lonely and actually become ill with sadness. I know it sound ridiculous, but it is an awful sight to behold. Plus, you will have double the fun.
The cost of growing your herd can vary depending on your goals. Here are our recommendations for how to buy your first goat.
If the price of buying a goat has you concerned, we have created a handy guide to help you figure out how much your goat will cost.
And if you dream of owning a national grand champion, you will want to know all about reading and understanding your goat pedigree. This skill will also help you out a lot when it come time for breeding your goats.
There are many areas in which your goat needs care. Their food, shelter, and physical well-being are some of the most important.
Now that you have your new goats, it's really important to know how to care for them. That means making sure they stay warm, dry, healthy, and comfortable.
The life expectancy of a Nigerian Dwarf Goat is typically 8 to 12 years old. There are zoo studies that reports a happy, healthy, and well cared for goat can live to be between 15 and 20 years.
One of the areas in which health and comfort overlap is keeping your goat's hooves trimmed regularly. If you have your goats on a dry lot, this is not as much of an issue because they will naturally wear their hooves down on the rough terrain. However, in a typical pasture environment, their hooves will grow quickly.
Ignoring their hooves, especially in a wetter environment, can lead to issues, like hoof rot, founder, general discomfort, and a lessening of quality of life. Trimming hooves is pretty easy. You can learn how to trim your goat's hooves from our easy to follow tutorial.
Goat Care Supplies
Another way to keep your goats healthy is to be prepared. A great way to be prepared is to have your goat medical kid well stocked and ready to go at a moment's notice. You never know when your goat is going to get it's head stuck in a fence, pop off a scur while headbutting, develop a larger than normal wormload, or any other malady they can find themselves in.
You can always add and adjust your goat medical kit according to your own needs, but we HIGHLY recommend starting out with this list of 5 critical goat medical supplies.
Dealing With Parasites
Caring for your goats throughout the different seasons also requires changing your strategy a bit. Typically, Spring and Autumn are low maintenance.
Year round, it's good to keep an eye on your goat's eyelids to make sure they are not getting a dangerous wormload. Some seasons are worse than others, but ALWAYS keep parasite maintenance in the forefront of your mind.
Typically, Spring is wetter and starting to get warmer which is a perfect environment for parasite eggs to start hatching. It sounds scary but is manageable as long as you are practicing good parasite control techniques (e.g. checking eyelids regularly using the Famacha scale, providing a copper supplement every 6-8 weeks, and ONLY de-worming when they need it).
Autumn is much like Spring only colder and dryer and not usually too difficult to keep your goats healthy and comfortable.
There are some parasites that like the cold (lice and mites tend to thrive this time of year). But generally, Autumn is a great time to just enjoy your herd with little stress.
The Summer can be a beast on your herd. Parasites are still pretty abundant and, depending on your geographic location, the heat can be a huge threat. Parasites aside, the two key components to a comfortable Summer are water and shelter.
Goat hair is insulated which is great for cold weather but does not offer a lot of relief in the heat. So, make sure your goats have access to clean water and plenty of shade.
In our experience, Winter can be the roughest month for goat health care. Not always for the goats, they tend to do okay in cold weather because of their aforementioned insulating coat.
It's more difficult for you as it involves more time outside making sure your goats have plenty of hay to eat since pasture is sparse and keeping waters full and unfrozen. Winter is difficult enough that we wrote a separate entry just for goat care in the Winter.
If you have goats, it's important you have a place to keep them. It'd be great if we could sit down with our goats over a couple of drinks and politely agree on the areas in which they would agree to stay and graze.
But most likely the goats would end up standing on the table and pooping everywhere. Since we would all like to avoid this situation, we have to keep our goats in fenced in areas.
You'd think fencing is fencing, it can't be that hard to figure out. But there are as many different types of fencing as there are animals (not really, but there are a lot). We went through the fencing process and documented the whole thing. Here's how you can figure out your goat fencing needs.
And once you have your goats in their properly fenced environment, you don't want them to get bored. A bored goat is a curious goat and a curious goat is a mischievous goat. And a mischievous goat is...well, just look up "mischievous goat" on Youtube.
Goat toys are an easy way to give your goats a field full of boredom busters.
Spoiler alert: it's not tin cans and leftover garbage (I know, I know, your childhood cartoons lied to you). Goats are super curious and will chew on just about anything, which is likely how they gained the "garbage disposal on legs" reputation.
Browse & Grazing
But they actually have a pretty easy diet. They love to eat brush but not big fans of grazing. This makes them great for clearing overgrown vegetation but not so great for lawnmower replacements (another false goat reputation).
A staple in feeding your goats is hay. You will always want to have hay available for your goats. Sometimes of the year you will need to provide more than at other times but they should always have access to some free choice hay.
"But there are so many different types of hay" I can hear you say. No worries, we have you covered. Here's how you choose a good quality hay to meet your goat needs.
Alternatively, we also provide our goats with Chaffahaye. It's all the benefits of hay but with less waste. if you think it is something you would be interested in learning more about, you can read about Chaffhaye here.
You can also supplement their hay and browse with things like compressed alfalfa pellets, sweet goat feed, or shredded beet pulp. You do not want to free feed any of these.
Too much of a specific type of supplemental feed can throw of their nutritional balance and lead to health problems. But, they make great treats, snacks, or supplemental calories if you have a sick or underweight goat.
It's also really important to know how many goats you can afford to feed. Buying goat after goat is really easy because of how adorable they are, but you don't want them to eat you out of house and home (or stall and barn, as the case may be).
Goats are really not too expensive to feed. In fact, we have done the math for you so it's easy to figure out how much it costs to feed a goat. And a bonus for them is that since they are a mini goat, they eat less.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats are primarily dairy goats. Typically, goat milk has a distinct flavor that has been described as musky. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are a bit different. They have been bred over time to have milk that is similar to cow milk.
In fact, the butter fat content of Nigerian Dwarf Goat milk is actually higher when compared to cow milk. The higher butter fat content makes Nigerian Dwarf Goat milk much sweeter.
That being said, obviously, you want to milk your goats. Milking your goats is easily broken down into 3 categories: Milking Supplies, Milking Technique, and Milking Problems.
In order to milk your goat, you will first need to know how to milk your goat. The concept is pretty simple but the technique definitely takes practice. Udder shape, teat shape, teat length, etc, all play a part in how easy or difficult it is to milk a goat.
Simply put, you can describe milking as similar to squeezing cake icing out of a tube but there is more to it. Here is our full 5 step tutorial on how to hand milk a goat.
Now that you know how to milk your goat, you'll likely want to save your milk. (unless you enjoy drinking it "from the tap"...eww). You don't need a ton of supplies, but it's nice to have a milk stand, milk pail, and a few others.
Our list of 5 essential supplies for milking a goat can be found here. Also, if you're not into raw milk and would like to pasteurize your milk (but please do so at your own risk).
Finally, there will be times where your goats milk production will start to wane. A variety of reasons can cause this. Sometimes they are weening their kids off so their bodies are not required to put out as much milk, other times, they may have a larger than normal parasite load and they are using their energy to stay healthy.
No matter that the reason, it can be pretty frustrating. Here are some causes (and solutions) to some common issues that can cause a decrease in milk production.
Breeding For Success
We quickly learned that buying a new goat whenever the "new goat itch" came around was pretty expensive. What better way to save money than to just make your own new goats? That's responsible, right? (**blink-blink**).
More importantly, we also found that there were certain attributes we wanted the goats in our herd to be known for. The only way to make sure your goats fit the specific needs of your herd is to do your own research and breed for certain qualities.
You can do this by learning how to read a goat pedigree. And, then, comparing the genetic lineage of your goat's pedigree to that of the pedigrees of potential sires or dams.
After making these comparisons, you can start to make a goat breeding plan based on qualities you would like to have and qualities you would like to breed out.
For example, we have a doe with a fantastic udder and a great family line, but is pretty susceptible to a heavy worm load. So we would breed her to a buck who is more parasite resistant.
Check out the Ultimate Planner for Breeding Goats which you can use as your quick start guide!
We also have another girl who has an okay lineage and an alright udder but has only needed de-worming once or twice over a period of 3 years.
First things first, in order to breed your goat your doe must be in heat. Not to worry, your doe will give you goat heat signs to know that they are ready.
Depending on what your herd needs, your time availability, and your regimen for parasite maintenance, you may decide to breed one of these does and retire the other. Someone else with the same does, but in a different position, could make the opposite choice and neither of you would be wrong.
When is it right to breed your goat? The general rule we go by is they must be at least 40 lbs. Any smaller and they risk having a problematic pregnancy.
Once your goat is bred but you'll need to know how long goats are pregnant. So that you know how long the little baby goats to bake in that great big goat belly (these are all scientific terms, trust me)?
It seems like forever but it's really only around 5 months.
But now that the time is getting near, how do you know when your goat is ready to kid? Some signs we look for are things like soft tail ligaments, their udder starting to fill, stiff teats, starting to separate themselves from the herd, etc.
Make sure that you have a goat birthing kit ready to go so that you have everything you need when the baby goats arrive.
Additional Goat Information
Maybe goats are your thing but not Nigerian Dwarf Goats (typing that sentence was hard). If that is the case, here are a few things you should think about when deciding how to buy a goat.
It helps to know what your goat goals are when deciding on what type of breed to get. (can that be a new hashtag?) Goats are primarily used for 3 purposes; dairy, fiber, and meat and there are specific goat breeds that serve each purpose.
As you can probably tell, we are partial to dairy goats. There are several reasons that dairy goats are our preferred type of production goat. If you need help deciding what type of dairy goat to get, here are 5 dairy goat breeds you can check out.
As much fun as goats can be, we couldn't have a herd the size we do if they weren't generating some form of income.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the more common questions we hear about Nigerian Dwarf Goats.
Q1. Are they good pets?
The answer is a resounding YES! They were originally bred as show and companion animals. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are sweet, gentle, and caring. If you have the opportunity to bottle raise a baby, it will love you well into their adulthood.
Q2. Can you keep them in the house?
They do much better outside where they can run, jump, and graze. But, they are small enough that it is possible for them to live inside. It's probably not a great idea though. They do tend to poop and pee (A LOT!) and may not be easy to house train.
Q3. Do they stink?
As a general rule, they do not stink. The bucks, however, can become quite fragrant when they are in rut. Once they sense that the does in their herd are in heat, they will begin to urinate on themselves. In the warmer months of the year, their odor can get pretty strong.
Q4. Are they easy to care for?
Like raising any livestock, they do require a good amount of physical labor. Their care is not too terribly complicated but does require knowledge and attention.
Q5. How big will they get?
- Males (Bucks and Wethers) will usually stand between 19 and 23.5 inches at the shoulders.
- Females (Does) are typically a little smaller; 17 to 22.5 inches at the shoulder.
On average they weigh between 45 and 55 lbs. However, they can be smaller or larger depending on their age, diet, and genetics.
Q6. How smart are they?
They are very smart. If you have ever tried to keep them in a fenced in area you klnow how easily they can find a way to escape.
Studies have shown that they have the intelligence and emotional capabilities on par with a dog. Meaning they are able to build a connection and attachment with you and their herd mates.
Q5. Do they get along with dogs?
Unfortunately, one of their leading causes of death is due to domesticated dogs, i.e. pets. These goats are pretty fragile and can go into shock fairly easily. Often times, a friendly dog is just playing but may injure the goat in the process.
However, you can have your goats cohabitate with a livestock, or herd protector, dog. We have a few Karakachans that are not too rough and work well to keep the herd safe.
Q6. Can you make money raising goats?
You absolutely can. In fact, here are several easy ways you can make money raising goats and have them actually pay for your goat habit.
If you need more help keeping your goats healthy and well taken care of, check out the G.O.A.T. Herd Management System - worksheets, calculators, supply management and more to keep your goats in tip top shape while cutting down on time.