Have you ever heard the term ‘pygmy goat' or ‘dwarf goat' and wondered what people were talking about?
Well, you’ll want to be in the know on this topic because pygmy goats and Nigerian dwarf goats are becoming a very popular type of goat.
As a matter of fact, they have so many different purposes that people can’t help but draw to them.
So if you have been curious about smaller goat breeds, then you’ll want to read on because there is so much to learn.
Mini Goat Breeds – What You Need to Know
Here is what you need to know about pygmy and Nigerian dwarf goats:
What is a pygmy goat?
I love pygmy goats. I’ll just let that cat out of the bag right up front. I think they are sweet natured and absolutely precious.
But what am I talking about here?
Well, for starters, a pygmy goat is just a smaller breed of goat. They grow to be between 16 and 23 inches high.
So basically, they are the size of a medium to large breed dog. I kid you not when I first got my pygmy goat, I’d carry her around our yard like a little dog. She had no idea she was a goat.
But I digress, pygmy goats are usually limited in color combinations. For instance, my pygmy goat is actually solid white. She doesn’t have a mixed color coat like some other breeds of goat, and they usually only have brown eyes.
So why would you want a pygmy goat?
Well, I got mine in the beginning thinking I would milk her. A pygmy is not really a dairy breed because they have smaller teats.
Actually, they are stockier and therefore considered a breed perfect as a pet, or for meat. My goat is definitely more of a pet because I’m just not sure I could bring myself to eat her outside of a true emergency situation.
But you can still milk pygmy goats, though they are less popular for that purpose. Our goat is actually a great mother and puts off plenty of milk for her babies.
So if you are looking for a friendly goat that will help eat your grass clippings and add some joy to your life, then you’d love a pygmy. If you are a homesteader looking for a small meat source, then you should consider the pygmy breed as well.
What is a Nigerian dwarf goat?
When we decided to invest in Nigerian dwarf goats, I have to be honest, it took a lot of serious thought. The reason is that pygmy goats are usually much less expensive.
But since Nigerian dwarfs are considered a miniature dairy breed, they go for much higher prices. We actually got a small herd of them because we came across a lady who simply needed the money.
Otherwise, I’m not sure I would’ve ever invested in them just because of how high of a price they go for in my area. This may vary depending on your area so definitely check this out for yourself.
But now that we have them, I’m so glad! I absolutely love my Nigerian dwarf goats. The differences between a Nigerian dwarf and a pygmy are many.
Though the goats are very similar in size (though Nigerian dwarfs are just a tad smaller) and personality, the Nigerian dwarfs usually have different color combinations than pygmy goats. They also can have pretty blue eyes too.
Now, these are definitely milk goats because of their build. They have longer, leaner necks and legs. Their slim physique makes milking them so much easier.
Plus, Nigerian dwarfs can give you anywhere from 1-3 quarts of milk per day. Their milk is even said to be the sweetest and creamiest milk of any goat breed. Some people say you can even pass it off as cow’s milk.
So they are equally as cute and useful as pygmy goats.
Kidding Around with Goats
There are some things you need to know if you decide to raise miniature goats. Miniature goats need to be bred with other miniature goats. We have 3 larger goats that are a part of our herd.
Thankfully, our little goats are actually too small for our billy goat to breed with now that he is full grown. He has bred our pygmy once in the past when he was still young.
However, it worked out just fine and our pygmy was a great mother.
But just for safety sake, small goats have a hard time birthing big babies. Therefore, breed them with other smaller goats, if at all possible.
After the breeding process, it usually takes miniature goats about 151 days to birth their kids (baby goats.)
Though they are small, do not let them fool you. They can easily birth anywhere from 1-3 kids at a time. When we got our Nigerian dwarfs, they had already been bred. They each only had one, but it was their first time being bred.
Now, our pygmy goat has been bred 3 times and has delivered twins or triplets each time. Both breeds of goats have been good mothers in my experience.
Once the babies have been born, they will get their milk from their mothers. They will be up and walk within a few minutes, and she will clean them and nurture them. The mother will play with the baby/babies, and will usually have them weaned by around 8 weeks.
Now, if you are wanting a friendly miniature goat, some people say bottle feed them. I am actually not for this. I have tried it a few times, and I think it is just an extreme amount of work when the mother can do it just fine.
But realize that the baby is only going to be as friendly as the mother. That is why I treat my goats like large dogs. They are all spoiled, friendly, and happy. They will keep producing that too.
I can say from first-hand experience, I love when we have miniature baby goats around our farm. They are so cute and so much fun to watch.
Dominance in the Herd
Now, just because these goats are small does not mean that they will not still fight for dominance in the herd. If you have all females, they’ll play around and butt horns until one of them realize that the other is the boss of this operation.
But if there is a billy in the herd, he’ll automatically assume dominance. Usually, the girls submit rather easily.
However, if there are two boys, they’ll crack horns until one submits. This usually happens without one of them actually getting hurt. Unlike with larger breeds, where the males actually have bloody battles. That is not something that usually happens within the miniature breeds.
But I love keeping a billy in the herd because he is a great protector. This just gives me some added peace when our goats are out on pasture.
What do They Eat?
Miniature breeds are great little lawn mowers. They will roam around your yard and eat grass, weeds, and grass clippings.
Also, miniature goats will also eat hay. I have been known to feed my goats store-bought food and treats.
However, I no longer do this. They got pretty heavy when I was feeding them added grains.
So now my goats are on pasture, lean, healthy, and loving every minute. If you have a smaller farm, they can be kept in a pin that gives them enough room to roam and play. You can actually build them some exercise equipment, and they’ll have a blast.
As you can tell, miniature goats require very little as far as food goes. They have a big appetite so you’ll just want to make sure to give them plenty of hay and grass to munch on to keep them healthy and happy.
I realize I’ve painted miniature goats out like they are fabulous little creatures and they are.
However, like every animal, there are special things that you’ll need to take into consideration when adding miniature goats to your farm or family.
First, I personally recommend raising only miniature goats if you are going to add them to your farm. The reason is, as I mentioned earlier, if you have larger goats then you have to worry about cross breeding.
Again, our experience turned out okay, but I’ve heard of other stories that did not. I have multiple pastures right now that if I begin to see signs of our billy trying his luck again with my smaller girls, I’ll have to split up the herd.
Thankfully, I haven’t had to do that yet. Just be aware of this situation because if you have a billy, especially one in rut, then you know how hard it can be to keep him from any female during this time if it strikes his fancy to impress her.
Second, you need to consider fencing. Goats can be escape artists anyway, but miniature goats are true escape artists. They don’t stay anywhere except for where they want to be.
Now, the way around this is to spoil them rotten to where they are absolutely happy at their home. My girls are all spoiled so the few times they have escaped, they’ve never actually left.
Instead, they’ve stood outside the fence and cried until I let them back in. Let’s not forget that they grazed in my garden while they waited.
Anyway, definitely keep your goats happy with friends, love, attention, and lots of good food.
Then you’ll want to consider electric fencing. I never had it until we moved to this larger plot of land. We now have 10 acres and if my goats get out, they could easily get lost, and I’d never find them again.
Plus, on this larger plot of land, I have to worry about predators much more.
So I went with keeping our goats on pasture with an electric fence surrounding their area. They love it! Oddly enough, I found my larger goats were the ones that actually got zapped. My miniature goats stood back and watched them.
Watching them was enough for them to learn to not go near the boundary. Now, even if our power goes out, our goats don’t leave.
So I do highly recommend electric fencing. Not to mention, it gives them an extra layer of protection from predators because as much as it zaps the goats going out, it’ll zap whatever is trying to get in too.
Finally, always check your fencing for small holes. We put up a new gate the other day, and it had a gap that was just a little too big between the gate and the fence post. Our miniature goats went right through the hole.
Naturally, they grazed on some green beans while they waited for me to let them back in, but they saw the hole and went right through it.
So you have to always be on guard for even the smallest of holes in the fencing for them to fit through.
As you can tell, I love miniature goats. I think they are great little additions to any farm, even just as pets/ weed eaters.
But I’d like to know what you think. Do you have pygmy goats or Nigerian dwarf goats? Do you enjoy having them? Have any tips you’d like to share with others about raising them?
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