Nigerian Dwarf Goats: a great goat in a small package
Sometimes, great things come in small packages. This can be said about Nigerian Dwarf Goats – a unique goat breed known for it’s compact size and the value it can offer to their owner regardless of their size.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats origins: from Africa all around the world
The predecessors of Nigerian Dwarf Goats originated in Central and West Africa and have been bred for centuries for milk and meat. Many households would have these cute little goats as a significant dairy provider for the family. Almost every household would have 6-7 Dwarf goats. Because they are so small, the farmers would often just let them roam free around the farm or village. Nigerian Dwarf Goats were particularly popular in Cameroon and Nigeria. In the early 19th century, some of these goats were imported to Europe and the US by whalers and sailors, who appreciated these miniature goats for their compact size, good adaptability to various environments as well as milk and meat they provide.
The miniature goats were perfect for traveling on board the ship. In Europe and the US, these tiny goats have first been used as Zoo exhibits, and also entertainment for royalty, who loved keeping these cute goats around their palaces. That is, until they took their place as one of the unique and valuable farm goat breeds which they are now. This is how their journey across the world began.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats appearance
One of the most unique features of these goats is, of course, their miniature size. An average Nigerian Dwarf Goat stands up to 50 cm tall and is about 70 cm long. Male Nigerian Dwarfs weigh around 24 kg, while females are a little lighter at 15 kg. Some animals are quite a bit larger at around 28-30 kg, but that’s not very common. Nigerian Dwarf Goat coats are short, although not as short as that of Saanen goats. The coat colors vary from brown or black to gray, or a combination of those (white is always present in some amount as well!). The body of the goat is very compact and round in shape, with small bushy tail. Nigerian Dwarfs usually have horns, which are not very large and usually rounded. Males have a “goatee”. The ears of Nigerian Dwarf Goats are usually perked up on their cute little heads.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats Milk and meat productivity
Nigerian Dwarf Goats are smaller, so of course they don’t have as robust of dairy productivity as some other goats. These are definitely not Saanen goats. But they do provide around 2 L of milk every day during their lactation period which lasts around 150 days. The milk is quite fatty at around 6% of fat content, which makes it a great option for making cheese. The milk can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks without going bad! Another great thing about Nigerian Dwarf Goats milk is that it has a mild, attractive flavor and doesn’t usually have any goat taste or smell to it.
Although you won’t get too much meat from this compact goat, the meat that you will get will have excellent taste qualities, and, just like Nigerian Dwarf Goat milk, it doesn’t have goaty taste or smell. It is usually also very lean and suitable for people on a diet or just watching their fat intake.
Nigerian Dwarf Goat adaptability and climate requirements
Being from Africa, Nigerian Dwarf Goats love warm climates and to quite well in the heat. Surprisingly, they also don’t mind cold all that much and have adapted quite well to winters even in the Northern climates. However, they do not like being wet. To keep your goats comfortable, you will need to have (or built) a proper shelter for them. the shelter needs to be heated, insulated from the outside environment, well aired-out but not drafty. It should also be spacious enough to comfortable house your herd. Each goat needs at least 1 sq meter of space. If the goats are too crowded, they can get stressed and even sick. At the same time, like any other breed, Nigerian Dwarf Goats are herd animals and can’t live alone away from other goats. Never get just one goat!
Nigerian Dwarf Goats don’t like sleeping on the ground, so you will need to have some type of elevated bedding for them in their shelter. You can build special “shelves” or “benches” along the walls of the shelter – and don’t forget to put lots of straw for bedding. You will have to clean it out and change it regularly to avoid moisture: Nigerian Dwarf Goats hate moisture! And for good reason: they can get sick if they get cold and wet. This is especially true for young kids.
Apart from sleeping area in the barn, your goats should also have some space to roam. It can be inside for the winter months when it’s cold and wet, and outdoors enclosure for summer months. In any case, you need at least 3-5 sq meters of walking area for each goat. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are very active and love to explore. To satisfy their explorer needs, you will want to make sure the enclosure has trees, maybe some artificial hills and mounds for your goats to play on. Needless to say that the enclosure needs to be well fenced in so that your mischievous goats don’t go exploring away from your property.
Feeding and watering your Nigerian Dwarf Goat
Unless you have a large pasture with shrubs and bushes and trees suitable for your goats’ consumption, you will need to feed your goats “manually”. Nigerian Dwarf Goats do well on hay, especially alfalfa or other legume-based types of hay. A Nigerian Dwarf Goat needs about 1.5 kg of hay per day. In addition to that, you will need to feed 100-200g of grain and up to 1 kg of vegetables such as cabbage leaves, apples, carrots, beets and others, as well as some brush weeds. This is a good way to make sure your goat gets everything it needs nutritionally.
Breeding Nigerian Dwarf Goats
As a smaller goat breeds, Nigerian Dwarf Goats mature quite early on. Females reach maturity at around 6 months of age! However, they are definitely not ready for breeding at such a young age: it can cause severe health issues for both mom and the babies! It is recommended to consider breeding your Nigerian Dwarf Goats when they are no younger than 12-14 months of age. After successful breeding, the gestation period lasts around 150 days, and usually results in 2-3 kids per doe. The births are usually easy and don’t often require human intervention, although, of course, you will need to watch your does closely to make sure everything is going well. Nigerian Dwarf Goats can sometimes bring to litters a year. To avoid accidental breeding, bucks and does should be separated from each other as soon as they stop eating their mother’s milk.
The kids are usually born quite tiny: just under 400g! They are usually strong enough to latch onto the mom right away, and will be running around within a couple days.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats health
Despite their compact size, Nigerian Dwarf Goats are quite hardy and are actually different from other breeds in that they rarely get sick. Diseases common for most types of goats, such as brucellosis, are quite rare in Nigerian Dwarfs. This is due to their strong immunity and natural resistance to pathogens. Of course, they can still get parasites as many other goat breeds, so parasite prevention is important. Some homesteaders/farmers deworm their goats up to 3 times a year. Whether you should do it so often or not really depends on your goats worm load.
If well-taken care of, Nigerian Dwarf Goats can live for up to 20 years!
Nigerian Dwarf Goats Pros and cons
These adorable goats can be an excellent choice for your farm or homestead. But of course, there are some downsides to them too. Lets recap:
Nigerian Dwarf Goat Pros
- Nigerian Dwarf Goats are not very demanding in terms of care and environment (apart from wanting to be dry and warm!)
- Miniature size makes them easier to manage: they are easy to lift and transport, and can be great goats for a first-time owner. If you are intimidated by goats, a Nigerian Dwarf Goat will help you with that in no time 🙂
- Nigerian Dwarf Goats are well adapted to heat and cold!
- Despite their size, Nigerian Dwarf Goats are very fertile. Each doe can bring 2-4 kids per litter, with 1-2 litters per year
- Nigerian Dwarf Goat don’t make too much milk, but the milk they do produce has wonderful mild taste and does not taste or smell goaty!
- Nigerian Dwarf Goats are very healthy and resistant to pathogens and diseases common for other goats.
- Nigerian Dwarf goats are friendly and outgoing. They are also very intelligent! You can even train them to do tricks. This doesn’t mean you can get a single goat and raise it as a pet. Goats are herd animals and they need a herd! They also can’t really live in a house. Pet goats is rarely a good idea, even with such cute tiny goats as Nigerian Dwarf Goat.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats cons:
- Nigerian Dwarf Goats are very sensitive to moisture and hate being wet. Being wet can make them stressed and even sick!
- Although you wouldn’t expect it from them, Nigerian Dwarf Goats can become aggressive when stressed or frightened.