About Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Some of the reasons people love this breed….
- Small and easy to handle (16” to 23” at shoulder, 40 to 90 pounds)
- Gentle nature, with individual personalities
- Wonderful pet quality
- As an approved livestock dairy breed, they are eligible for 4H and FFA projects
- A perfect fit for a small family farm
- Excellent source of dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.)
- High butterfat content compared to other breeds (valuable in cheese making and other dairy products), and milk is sweet….clean tasting and not “goaty”
- Colorful and entertaining
There is a lot of good information already out there regarding the Nigerian Dwarf goat breed and what makes them special. In order to not “reinvent the wheel” you can visit the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association website at www.ndga.org.
FAQ: Where do I begin?
First of all….decide on your goals. Your first goal should always be healthy animals and that is reason number one to find a reputable breeder. Ask questions and be sure they’re able to mentor you in the future for any goat related questions.
“I’m just looking for pets” Wethers (neutered males) make wonderful pets and are more affordable than breeding stock. Must have at least two . Goats are herd animals and need a buddy, preferably another goat.
“I’d like to be able to have milk for my family and make cheese, yogurt, ice-cream, soap, etc.” There are a few choices I would recommend if these are your first goats:
- Purchase a “starter herd”. Two doelings and two bucklings. This may seem to be a big investment but each sex needs a buddy and you can’t keep a buck and doe together (bucklings can breed as early as 7 weeks of age). It also isn’t fair to keep them next to each other divided by a fence because goat buddies need to interact and snuggle at night. It is not a good idea to keep a buckling next to a doe. He will keep your doe cycling and he will not eat like he should, being distracted with hormones. Instead, find a separate area to keep your does from your bucks. Our bucks are kept on the opposite side of the barn from the does. If you want to have milk, you have to have bucks. Having two gives you more breeding options. If you don’t want to keep a buck, find out before you purchase your goats if there is someone who will lease a buck to you during breeding season. The problem with this route is bio-security. You can also consider AI but I’ve found it is not as reliable and not all areas have someone trained to do it. My opinion…..if you’re going to commit to this new adventure, keep your own bucks. I love my bucks! Sweet and easy to handle in this breed.
- Starter herd option #2. If you just can’t bring yourself to invest as much money, you can purchase a doeling and a wether. Next year when the doe is a year old, purchase another doe and a breeding buck. Your breeding buck, if purchased early enough in the spring will be able to breed your does in fall for spring kids and you can begin to milk then.
- Starter herd option #3. Purchase two doelings, a buck and a wether. Just a little variation from the other plans but saves you the price of a second buck. Only one problem…this doesn’t give you as many breeding options as having two bucks if you choose to keep any kids. No problem if you plan on selling all the kids.
- Starter herd option #4. Purchase two adult does in milk and get your buck the following year. If you purchase the does bred and in milk, you can keep a buck kid from one of your bred does when she kids to be a buddy to your newly purchased buck (genetic diversity).
- This is not another option but I just want to emphasize that a goat buddy is important. Many people think goats are fine alone as long as they have you for company or if they have another animal like a rabbit or chicken or horse but if you want a happy goat and want to do what’s best for the goat, then get a goat buddy please.
If your goals are to purchase show quality or animals with milk records, then pay attention to the symbols you see on goat pedigrees (see article about symbols on the more about goats page) and talk to your breeder regarding specific traits you are looking for in your new herd.
FAQ: What will I need for my new goats?
For anyone who is a first time goat owner, this question is a good one to ask before the new kids come home so you are prepared! This is a big question because it includes supplies, feed, and shelter set up. Below are lists of things you should have for various situations. For example, if you plan to keep two pets, you wouldn’t need many of the things you would need for two doelings who are future milkers. You also don’t feed males the same as females and females are fed differently depending on if they’re getting ready to breed, are bred, where they are in their gestation and after they kid.
Here on our farm, we believe in preventative care and raising our animals as organically as possible. That being said, to prevent health issues, there are times when using chemical wormers, antibiotics and other medications is a must and it is important to be well supplied so you aren’t left without the tools you need to care for your beloved goat. So, here is a list of things I recommend you keep for the well being of your goat.
Before I start listing, the number one thing I recommend is a great resource book. Yes, the internet is full of information but there is a lot of bad information out there too. I own many books on goat care but one I most highly recommend is pictured here. It is well worth the investment and you will save yourself a lot of time, money and peace of mind in the long run having it. This is a complete book of information with sections including natural goat remedies. A must have!!!
The author of this book, Cheryl K.Smith, is a breeder of Nigerian Dwarf goats who was the publisher for Ruminations: the Nigerian Dwarf and Mini Dairy Goat magazine. It is one of the most complete resources I’ve found and includes information on natural remedies too.
- Hay rack (keeping hay off of the ground to prevent worm load and waste)
- Hay (good quality grass mix-no mold or dust)
- Loose goat mineral /baking soda feeder (can get two compartment holder). I use Sweetlix Meat Maker loose goat minerals.
- Water bucket (I like the 2 gallon so I can keep them clean and fresh). Heated buckets for winter in cold climates.
- Probios (incase of rumen imbalance-adds good bacteria)
- Nutri-drench (livestock supply company)
- Pepto Bismol (for loose stool- be sure to find out what is causing the loose stool …This is a treatment not a cure if caused by stress or change in diet, for example) Use Pepto Bismol as some other brands do not have the same ingredients.
- Raw apple cider vinegar (Braggs brand is good) for prevention of urinary calculi in male goats. This is so important! You can mix in the goat water when you clean the pail…just a splash is all you need to prevent a very painful and sometime deadly condition.
- You do not need grain for pets but treats like animal crackers and fruits and some vegetables are great.
- CD/T vaccine (booster given once a year. Recommend Colorado Serum /Essential 3+T )
- Veterinary thermometer
- Penicillin (broad spectrum Pen-G ) or Biomycin. Keep on hand in case of infection but do not use without a vet’s recommendation or unless you are a seasoned goat owner.
- Needles and syringes (20 gauge 1/2 inch needles are a good size for needles, and 1cc (for small kids), 3 cc, 6cc and 10 cc syringes)
- Dewormer (this a a topic in itself but for the sake of this list, Ivomec Injectable for cattle given orally at a dose of 1 cc per 30 pounds works well) We also use an herbal wormer year round from Fiasco Farm (Molly’s herbal wormer)
- Hoof trimmer (I like the orange handle ones from Jeffers or Hoeggers)
- Collar (I like the dog collars without the buckle for quick release)
- Blood stop powder. Nice to have in case you get a little close when trimming hooves.
There are other supplies you may find yourself needing but this is basic list to get you started. Most can be found at Fleet Farm, or in livestock supply companies which I have listed on the Resources page.
Doelings (females under one year of age)
The list of supplies for young does is almost exactly the same as what you would have for wethers but if you plan to raise does who will one day be used for dairy or show you would want them to have a different diet to aid in their development. We feed our does a grain mix every day, twice a day, until a year old.
Our grain mix recipe is the following:
- 2 parts oats
- 1 part barley or wheat
- 1 part rolled corn
- 1 part black oil sunflower seed
We use this same grain mix to feed our does in milk. Dry does and bucks are not fed grain. Bucks are given a very small amount of grain (about 1/2 cup a day) during breeding season to help keep their weight on. Most farmer’s co-ops or feed stores may be able to mix this for you. My main objection to “goat chow” is the high amount of molasses, but if it is the only source of feed available, keep an eye on the weight and condition of your goats and increase or decrease the amount fed accordingly.
- Drying towels
- 7% Iodine for dipping navels (I use old prescription drug canisters to put iodine in)
- “Save a kid” syringe (incase you have a weak kid who needs to be tube fed)
- Nutri-drench (if needed for weak and tired doe or weak kid)
- bulb syringe (if needed for removing fluid from nose or throat)
- Bovi-sera (some inject this to get kids off to a good start but I just keep it incase I have a weak kid)
- Surgical scrub, Betadine antiseptic and J-lube (in case you need to help deliver kids)
- Diagrams of various presentations of kids in case you need it as a resource in the event you need to help difficult delivery *(Resources page has several links to articles with diagrams of dystocia (difficult deliveries) and how to correct them).
- Safe heat lamp (Premier Livestock supply has a great one). Only need this if you’re kidding season is during a cold time of year
- Blow dryer to dry newborns (optional but, again, nice to have if you’re in a cold climate)
- Bucket of warm water with molasses in it for dam after delivery and a treat for a job well done:). The will be very tired and thirsty. Molasses for energy and the warm water encourages uterine contractions to expel the placenta.
Disbudding And Tattooing
- Disbudding iron with a goat tip
- Tattoo kit (alphabet and numbers and green ink included)
- Blue-cote (spray on area that’s been disbudded)
- Trimmer (to shave the horn bud area before disbudding and also inside ears if needed before tattooing)
- Mentor to show you how to do this the first time
Here is where I (again) highly recommend the purchase of the Goat Health Care book I endorsed above. In this book you will find information on how to disbud and tattoo using a vet prescribed sedative. I have been using this method for many years and have used this procedure on hundreds of kids with no ill effects. The basic idea is to sedate the kid, wrap securely in a blanket (no need for box), shave the top of head, apply iron, scrape off horn buds, and apply Blue-cote. I also tattoo kids at the same time while they’re sleepy. After they’re done, I put them in a pen until they are alert enough to go back to the herd. It works GREAT!
- Milking stand with head restraint and feed dish for grain.
- Stainless steel milk pail
- Stainless steel strainer and milk filters
- Udder wash (I use 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide. 3-4 teaspoons and a few drops of dish soap in 2 quarts warm water)
- Teat dip (same as above)
- drying towels
- dairy soap
- Mastitis testing kit
Once you start milking, you will want equipment for making cheese, yogurt, and all the other wonderful products you can now make with your amazing milk! Some sources listed on Resources page.