The Nigerian Dwarf is a miniature goat of West African origin. Nigerian Swarf 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 and friendly personalities make them good companion pets. They are easy to handle; even small children can be at ease with these little goats. Nigerian Dwarfs are considered rare by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has also approved the Nigerian Dwarf Goat as a livestock dairy goat, which makes them eligible for youth 4H and FFA projects.
The Nigerian Dwarf is a Miniature Dairy Goat
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 than milk from most dairy goat breeds. However, many Nigerian Dwarf owners do not raise their goats for milk but for the pleasure and companionship these little caprines bring to their lives.
Nigerian Dwarf Conformation
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, although the silver agouti pattern and color is a moderate fault (pygmy goat-specific markings).
Ideal height of Nigerian Dwarf goats is 17″ to 19″ for does with does up to 21″ allowed in the breed standard. Ideal height for bucks is 19″ to 21″ with bucks up to 23″ 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 for other faults: having a curly coat, roman nose, pendulous ears or evidence of myatonia (a breed characteristic of fainting goats.)
Nigerian Dwarf Temperament
Dwarfs goats are gentle, loveable and playful. 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 fending 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 (including weeds) 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 just a few goats, many owners find that an oversized dog house 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 the goats provides them with hours of caprine entertainment. Tree stumps, rocks or large cable spools are great for “king of the mountain” games and jumping. Just be sure to keep them away from the fence to avoid giving herd escape artists means to roam your neighborhood!
Breeding Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Dwarf goats breed year round. Many owners breed their does three times in two years, giving the doe at least a 6-month break. Of course, this is a personal choice for each breeders. 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 pounds at birth but grow quickly. Watch out for those little bucks! Bucklings can be fertile at as young as 7 weeks of age. Make sure you wean does and bucks separately to help you avoid unintentional breeding.
Does can be bred at 7-8 months of age if they have reached a mature size. Some breeders prefer to wait until they are at least 1 year or older. Dwarfs does can have several kids at a time, 3 and 4 being common with some quintuplet births occurring. Dwarfs are generally good 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 or cheese.
Bucks are able to 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 (contained) or pasture breeding where one buck is available for several does as they come into estrus. Both methods are used successfully.
Feeding Dwarf Goats
Most breeders feed a 12% – 18% protein goat feed or dairy ration. It most 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 provided in abundant supply. Fresh water in clean containers should also be available at all times.
Dwarf goats, like all other breeds, need some basic care for good health and long life. Hooves should be trimmed regularly, about every 4-8 weeks or more often if needed. A properly trimmed and shaped hoof should resemble those of a kid goat’s hoof. Vaccinations for tetanus and types C&D centermost are the basis types given. Check with your local vet for other vaccinations recommended for your area. Some experienced breeders may immunize their own goats; new owners and breeders should take their goats to the local vet for vaccines. Worming should be done several times a year. Your vet can suggest any special supplements (such as selenium), additional immunizations and a recommended wormer and worming schedule for your particular herd based on your area and known preventative health measures.
Nigerian Dwarf Registries and Shows
Dwarf goats are registered in 5 registries: four in the United States (NDGA, AGS, IDGR & ADGA) and one in Canada (CGS). Dwarf shows are growing in popularity and are becoming more readily available all over the country. Shows are fun, educational and a great way to meet other breeders and owners. They are a place to sell your goats or obtain superior stock for breeding. Shows or event information can be obtained through registries, local goat clubs and organizations, including NDGA.
What’s the difference between a Nigerian Dwarf and a Pygmy goat?
Although they have similar origins, Nigerian Dwarfs and African Pygmies are separate and distinct breeds, with recognized differences. Pygmies are bred to be “cobby” and heavy boned. Dwarfs are bred to have the length of body and more elegant structure that’s similar to their larger dairy goat counterparts. Pygmies are also primarily “agouti” patterned, with black, silver and caramel being the most common colors.
Nigerian Dwarf 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 the most common; however, dwarfs with china blue eyes are becoming increasingly popular and available.
How Much Do They Cost?
Average cost for registered breeding stock is between $200 and $500 per head, with champion pedigrees, milk production recorded animals and unusual coloring at premium prices. Pet quality stock often costs much less with wethers (neutered males) generally available for $50 to $100.
Reprinted with permission of the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association (NDGA). The
NDGA is a not-for-profit registry, show sanctioning and breeder support organization that is dedicated to the development and promotion of the Nigerian Dwarf Goat. NDGA was formed in 1996 and is the only registry and show sanctioning organization dedicated exclusively to the Nigerian Dwarf breed. NDGA is funded through goat registrations and transfers, annual membership dues, and fundraising activities. They also publish a quarterly journal, called “Dwarf Digest”, in additional to an annual membership directory and calendar for members. All of these publications are included with membership.