About…Nigerian Dwarf Goats
The Nigerian Dwarf 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 their larger dairy goat counterparts and their gentle, friendly personalities make them good companion pets and easy to handle – even small children can be at ease with these little goats. Nigerian Dwarfs are still considered “rare” by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also approved Nigerian Dwarfs as a livestock dairy goat, which makes them eligible for youth 4H and FFA projects.
“Miniature Dairy Goats”
A healthy Nigerian Dwarf doe can produce a surprising amount of sweet milk for her small size – up to two quarts per day. In addition, Nigerian Dwarf milk is higher in butterfat (6-10%) and higher in protein content than most other dairy goat breeds.
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, though a pygmy breed specific marking is considered a moderate fault.
Ideal height of Nigerian Dwarf goats is 17” to 19” for does (adult females) with does up to 21” allowed in breed standard. Ideal height for bucks (adult males) is 19”-20” with bucks up to23 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 having a curly coat, roman nose, pendulous ears or evidence of myatonia (this is associated with fainting goats.)
Dwarf goats are gentle and loveable. Their calm, even temperament and engaging personalities make them suitable companions for all, including children, the disabled and the elderly. Even breeding bucks are handled easily. They make wonderful pets and great animal projects for young children in 4H or FFA. Breeders of other types of goats find their Dwarfs blend in with the rest of their herd and do not need special quarters; just adequate fencing to contain them because of their small size. Many Nigerian Dwarf goats share pastures peacefully with other livestock such as cattle, horses, Llamas, and donkeys. In fact, they will often improve a pasture by removing brambles, undergrowth and ivy (even poison ivy) that other livestock won’t eat.
Goats should be kept in clean pens free of dampness, drafts and pests like flies and rodents. They also require adequate fencing due to their small size. Nigerian Dwarf goats should not be housed in airtight buildings; they need to have ventilation for optimum health. For one to house just a few goats, many owners find that an oversized doghouse or two does the job. Pens or houses should be kept clean with fresh hay or straw for bedding. Many owners find that providing a few toys for their goats provides them with hours of caprine entertainment. Tree stumps, rocks, picnic table, or cable spools are great for a “king of the mountain” games and jumping. Just be sure to keep them away form the fence unless you want renegade escapes from your herd loose in your neighborhood.
Most breeders feed a 12-18% protein goat feed dairy ration. It must not contain urea, as this is toxic to goats. Many breeders give less grain if good pasture and browse are available. Hay or pasture should always be available free choice. Fresh water in clean buckets should also be available at all times.
Nigerian Dwarf Goat Coloring
Color is one of the factors that makes breeding Dwarfs so popular. You can never be sure what color the babies will be until they are born; even then you can’t be sure because many times their color may change. Main color families are black, chocolate and gold with virtually every color combination imaginable being produced. Dwarfs can be Dalmatian-spotted, pinto-patterned, tri-colored or just classy shades of solid jet-black, white, chocolate or gold. Buckskin patters are also popular, described by contrasting facial stripes, a “cape” around the shoulders with a coordinating dorsal stripe and leg markings. Brown eyes are most common; however, dwarfs with china blue eyes are becoming increasingly available.
Breeding Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Dwarf goats breed year round. Many breeders breed their does three times in two years, giving the doe at least a six-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 lbs at birth but grow quickly. Watch out for those little bucks!!! Those little guys have been known to breed and be fertile as young as 7 weeks of age. Make sure you wean does and bucks separately so this does not happen.
Does can be bred at 7-8 months of age if they have reached a good size. Some breeders prefer to wait until they are at least 1 year or older. A dwarf does can have several kids at a time, 3 and 4 being common and sometimes even 6. Dwarfs are generally excellent mothers able to take care of their babies should you leave them to do the raising of the kids. They can also provide a surprising amount of milk for their size if you decide you want your own delicious goat milk.
Bucks can be used for service as young as 3 months of age and easily by the time they are 7 or 8 months old. Dwarf bucks are vigorous breeders but are gentle enough to be used for hand breeding or pasture breeding. Both methods are used successfully.
How Much Do They Cost?
Average cost for registered breeding stock is $200 to $500, with champion pedigrees, milk production record animals and unusual coloring such as blue eyes receiving premium prices. Pet quality stock often costs much less, and wethers (neutered Males) can be purchased for around $50 to $100.
Dwarf goats like all other breeds, need some basic care for good health and long life. Hooves should be trimmed regularly, about 4-8 weeks or as needed. A properly trimmed hoof should be shaped the same as a kid goats’ hoof. Vaccinations for tetanus and types C & D enterotoxemia are the basic types given. Check with you local vet for further information or other vaccinations recommended for your area. Worming should be done several times a year. Your vet can suggest a good schedule for your particular herd’s needs.
The Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association (NDGA) is a not-for-profit Registry, Show Sanction and Breed Support organization that is dedicated to development and promotion of the Nigerian Dwarf breed of goat. NDGA was formed in January of 1997 and it is the only Registry and Show Sanctioning organization exclusively for the Nigerian Dwarf breed. NDGA is funded through goat registrations, annual membership directory and fundraising activities. They also publish a quarterly journal, Dwarf Digest, in addition to an annual membership directory and an annual Breeder’s Calendar. All of these publications are included with membership. Please call, write or email for current membership fees and other available materials. Additional educational information is also available on their web site www.ndga.org.
The wild-guinea fowl of West Africa is regarded as the original of the domestic stock. There are two common varieties, the Pearl and the White. Variations in the color do occasionally appear, and sometimes guineas are found which are plainly the cross-bred offspring of the Pearl and White varieties; however, these two varieties, as a rule, breed very true to color, type and size. The birds rarely weigh over 3 1/2 lbs., although appearing larger than this alive. The bones are quite small, and the carcass produces a relatively large amount of meat. There is good demand for Guinea fowls in the large markets, and because of their wild game flavor the birds are served extensively in the larger hotels and higher priced restaurants. The eggs are small, of dark color and fine flavor, and are apt to be laid in secluded places in the grass and weeds. The cocks are pugnacious, but Guineas are often kept with other poultry on the farm, as they segregate from chickens when on the range and cause no particular trouble to the other fowls. They are usually looked upon as a protection from hawks and a night guard against thieves, as they set up their peculiar screaming when disturbed. No strange person or noise seems to escape their notice.
The chicks are small, as would be expected from the rather small eggs. They are susceptible to the dangers of dampness. The hens begin to lay in April or May, but do not become broody early in the season. They are indifferent mother, and for early hatching chickens should be used. They lay from three to five dozen eggs. They seldom lay in the chickens nests in the hen house. Hunting the Guinea hens' nests is usually a pastime, or chore for farm boys and girls.
It is not easy to distinguish the sex of Guineas. The male has slightly larger head appendages. The female seldom screeches like the male. One student of their language has stated that the "patrack, buckwheat or too quick is uttered by the female only." The male selects his mate and they remain steadfast companions. The chicks when hatched are very active, with bright eyes, and like the pheasant there is an indescribable timidity about them.