For the Love of Goats
If you think a Nigerian dwarf goat is too small and standard sized dairy goats are too big, then mini dairy goats will meet your needs perfectly.
Miniature dairy goats are a hybrid that starts with a Nigerian dwarf buck and a standard size dairy goat, such as a Nubian, LaMancha, Saanen, or any of the standard dairy goat breeds.
In today’s episode, Dee Daniels, president of the Miniature Dairy Goat Association and the Milk Committee Chairperson, talks about these little powerhouse milk goats. We talk about the breed standards for the various mini dairy goats, including how you get those famous little LaMancha ears and Nubian ears, as well as the best miniature milk goat.
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Transcript – Mini Dairy Goats
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.
Deborah Niemann 0:18
Today’s episode is brought to you by Goats 365, my membership program for people who are living with, learning about, and loving goats, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Basic members get access to six courses covering housing, fencing, parasites, nutrition, and health, as well as things like composting goat manure and the basics of starting a goat-based business. Premium members also have the opportunity to attend live online meetings via Zoom to talk about goats every month. Visit Goats365.com to learn more.
Deborah Niemann 0:53
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. Today we are venturing more into different breeds of goats, and in fact, this is not just a breed, but it’s a whole subsection of breeds. And, that is miniature dairy goats. And, we are joined today by Dee Daniels, who is the current president of the Miniature Dairy Goat Association, and she’s also the milk committee chairperson. Welcome to the show, Dee!
Dee Daniels 1:21
Thank you, Deborah. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Deborah Niemann 1:24
It’s so much fun to have you, and especially knowing that you’re the milk committee chairperson, because we were on milk test for eight years. And, I just love all the kinds of data that you can get from milk testing. So, I think we’re gonna have a really fun conversation.
Deborah Niemann 1:37
So, before we dive too far into all the specifics, can you just tell us, like, what is a miniature dairy goat?
Dee Daniels 1:44
A miniature dairy goat is a cross between a Nigerian Dwarf and one of your standard dairy goat breeds. So, we could have mini Nubian, mini LaMancha, mini Saanen, mini Toggenburg, mini Alpine, and mini Guernsey.
Deborah Niemann 2:04
Basically, any of the dairy goat breeds that are registered with ADGA can be crossed with a Nigerian buck to make a miniature version of that standard breed.
Dee Daniels 2:14
Deborah Niemann 2:15
And so, why would people want to do that instead of just getting one of the standard breeds, or maybe just going with Nigerians?
Dee Daniels 2:23
Probably the Number One reason is because they’re more of a mid-size goat. I hear a lot of people that say they like the minis because they’re easier to handle. They have a better hybrid vigor, you know, when you get that cross. They’re easier to manage on smaller acreage. They have the advantage of having the high butterfat of the Nigerian and the production of the standard, you know, with maybe a little bit of reduction. But, it’s just a good cross. And, a lot of people like them.
Deborah Niemann 2:58
So, a lot of people wonder, like, what is the difference, then, between a mini Nubian and a Kinder goat, which also uses a Nubian as one of the parents.
Dee Daniels 3:10
I’m not as familiar with the Kinders, except I know that they’re crossed with a Pygmy, which is considered a meat breed. So, for our breeds, we are strictly dairy; we do not recognize any breed that is a meat breed in the Miniature Dairy Goat Association.
Deborah Niemann 3:27
And, one of the things that I think is really important for people to know is that this is not just necessarily a crossbreed goat that you picked up at the sale barn, and you’re like, “Well, it kind of looks like this breed, but it’s a little smaller.” And, I know you said that you have a lot different levels of registration, but can you just kind of give an overview of the different registration options with the Miniature Dairy Goat Association?
Dee Daniels 3:52
Well, let’s talk about the most common. The most common cross is your first generation of a standard dairy goat crossed with a Nigerian. So, you have what we call the “first generation” is a 50/50—half-Nigerian, half-standard. And then, you can take that F1 and breed it back to either another standard—whether it would be the full-size standard or the Nigerian—or you can breed them back to another F1. And, that would create an F2 generation—a second generation. So, you always go up one generation higher than the lowest generation of animal that you’re breeding. And, we always consider the standard breeds as an F0—that’s a zero generation.
Deborah Niemann 4:42
And so, the first three generations then away from those standard breeds and the Nigerians are the experimental levels. F1, F2, and F3 are “Experimentals.”
Dee Daniels 4:54
Your F1 and your F2s are considered experimental, and F3 can be an experimental if it doesn’t meet the criteria of the breed standards to be considered American. So, your F1 and your F2 are typically in the “Experimental” handbook, and then your F3, your F4, and your F5 would be considered “American” in the American handbook if they meet all the breed standard requirements for their breed. And then, F6 and above, again, if they meet the purebred standards, they would be considered in the purebred herd book.
Deborah Niemann 5:32
So, when you talk about purebred standards, you’re talking about, like, the LaMancha ears, the Nubian ears, the fact that Saanens are all white, and Toggenburg and Oberhaslis have those specific colors.
Dee Daniels 5:45
It’s usually, you know, the ears—specifically the ears for the ear breeds. Height is a big thing. You know, you have to meet your height, and your ears, your level of generation, qnd, for the Miniature Dairy Goat Association, we still have a percentage-based registry, too. So, we have to make sure that either breed is not more than 70% of the standard breed.
Deborah Niemann 6:15
Okay. So, how does color play into the breed standards and getting recognized as a purebred?
Dee Daniels 6:22
Well, in order to be considered a purebred, the certain breeds have their color standards, but then they also have, you know, their height standards, and they also have to meet breed character. So, for the color breeds, that color is part of their breed character.
Deborah Niemann 6:39
Okay. What kind of milk production can people expect to get from miniature dairy goats?
Dee Daniels 6:45
Now you’re on my favorite topic! Because, we are raising dairy goats; we want to talk about milk, right?
Deborah Niemann 6:51
Dee Daniels 6:52
I’ve been very fortunate to be part of the the milk committee for the last several years. Not only have I been a participant since 2014, but now I’m on the other end and getting to see the records and help people get started with milk testing. I just did a very small analysis for one of our girls regarding one particular breed—and I’m not gonna say what breed it is, because I don’t want to ruin it for her. But, over 79 lactations for this one particular breed, the average was 1,256 pounds of an average of 242 days.
Dee Daniels 7:33
So, when you look at an average does lactation, you know, we always want to say 305 days, but that’s just a number. You know, some does are milked longer and extended; some does are milked shorter. So, on an average of 242 days, and mini dairy goats can produce anywhere from 1,256 pounds up to… We have some that actually go over 2,000. So, it just depends a lot on the genetics. And, we haven’t delved down into a lot of the specifics as far as, you know, whether we, you know, take the generations into factor or the heights into factor, but we’re gathering data. And, I hope that that’s one of the things that we can do in the future, the more data that we get. But, the milk records are really exciting to see. There’s a lot of data in there to pull out—and you yourself know, if you were on milk test.
Deborah Niemann 8:29
Yeah, it is. It is fascinating. And, it’s wonderful to know that people who are raising these goats are on milk test.
Deborah Niemann 8:36
So, since these all go back to 50% Nigerians, which have famously high butterfat, how does that filter down into the minis’ butter fat?
Dee Daniels 8:48
Well, I don’t have any standards to compare it to. But, our average butterfat is anywhere from 5 to 6% on the minis, and then we have some that are 8 and 9%. We have a Top 10 list that we put out every year that you can find on our website and our newsletter, and it’s really fascinating to see some of the numbers on that Top 10 list.
Deborah Niemann 9:12
That’s wonderful that people have that available to them to be able to look at that. And also, when somebody’s on milk test, I imagine they would probably have those results on their own website, too, if people are, like, searching for goats to buy.
Dee Daniels 9:25
Oh, some do. I don’t know that a lot of the people that are participating have published their results yet. I don’t go out there and look at that. I do know that the CDCB has just recently—like, January—recognized our breed code as “MN”—for miniature—and going forward, if you have your miniature dairy goat on milk test, and you use the breed code, you’ll be able to see it; it’ll be public, just like for our standard dairy goats that are on milk test.
Deborah Niemann 10:01
Oh, that’s awesome!
Dee Daniels 10:02
Yeah. Some labs, actually, were using the breed code a couple of years ago, but we just got notification in January that DRMS, which is one of the major reporting facilities, has got it where the programming is recognizing the MN code.
Deborah Niemann 10:21
Deborah Niemann 10:23
Let’s talk a little bit about some of the individual breeds and standards. Earlier, before we started recording, you mentioned that the two breeds that are most on milk test are the mini Nubians and the mini LaManchas, right?
Dee Daniels 10:37
Deborah Niemann 10:38
And, those are the two ear breeds. The LaManchas, which most people look at them and say, “What happened to their ears?” Because, it looks like they have none. And, the Nubians with the long, floppy ears that always remind me of a cute little girl with a bob haircut. So, can you talk a little bit about… Like, if you’re starting with a Nigerian buck and a doe that is either a LaMancha or a Nubian, talk a little bit about how you get those ears to come through in later generations.
Dee Daniels 11:08
Well, since I breed the mini LaManchas, I’m gonna have a lot more experience with their ears, and they seem to be a lot easier to get to that breed standard than the Nubians. If you have a gopher ear, and you breed it to a gopher ear, you’re going to get a gopher-eared kid. If you’re starting with a Nigerian—you have an upright ear—and you breed it to a gopher ear, you’re gonna get 100% elf ear every time. And, if you breed an elf ear to an elf ear, you could get any kind of ear—upright, elf, gopher.
Dee Daniels 11:43
There’s a great resource; it’s called Ear Math. You can find it on several people’s websites that breed the LaManchas or mini LaManchas. And, it’s a Punnett square. So, you can see really easily, you know, if you’ve got a true elf ear and a true gopher ear. You can see, you know, the results of that, you know, in your Punnett Square. And, we call it Ear Math.
Dee Daniels 12:06
I’m not very experienced with the mini Nubian. But, I know that there’s always a lot of controversy over the difference between an airplane, and a drop, and a three-quarter drop. And, it can get kind of complicated. But, the ones that have that real nice dropped, with no lift, that just kind of hang, and they’re just gorgeous, beautiful, silky-looking, long ears… I mean, everybody falls in love with those. But, I don’t think that it’s as easy to get as a LaMancha ear.
Deborah Niemann 12:36
Yeah, that’s what I remember. I was raising mini LaManchas back in the early 2000s, and I remember reading about the Nubian ears and thinking, “Wow, that sounds really challenging.” Like you said, it’s very mathematical with the LaMancha ears in terms of, you know, if you breed this ear to this ear, you know, these are the chances of the other ears. But, with the Nubians, it just seems a matter of, like, “Just keep going until you’ve got the ears dropping,” and it’s not necessarily going to be, like, two generations or four generations; it seems more random.
Dee Daniels 13:10
Yeah, I agree. We’ve got a good resource on the MiniatureDairyGoats.net website. And, the one everybody’s looking for is called “pendulous.” You know, they’re just hanging straight alongside the face. The ones that are three-quarter or a drop, not as flat to the face, you know, not as nicely dropping, but they’re still just as cute as any of the others.
Deborah Niemann 13:39
Could you tell us a little bit about the Miniature Dairy Goat Association? I know it’s been around longer than any of the other associations that register mini dairy goats, because you’re the one I used back when I was raising mini LaManchas in the early 2000s.
Dee Daniels 13:53
Sure. The Miniature Dairy Goat Association was formed in 1996. And, it was a private organization at that time. In 2014, they incorporated and became a nonprofit. It’s a board run organization.
Deborah Niemann 14:12
Do you want to mention how many goats you register in a year? Or, how many goats you have registered?
Dee Daniels 14:17
Yes. We have over 17,000 mini Nubians that have been registered with us. Which, I think that’s a great number.
Deborah Niemann 14:24
Oh, yeah. It is!
Dee Daniels 14:25
So, let’s say, for example, you were talking about the popularity of the breeds. What mini breeds are people breeding? And, just as an example of the diversity in these numbers, we have registered over 17,000 mini Nubians, and the second breed even close to that, we have only registered about 6,500, and that’s the mini LaManchas. So, you can tell that the mini Nubians have absolutely taken over the world. I mean, they have shown out from a breed standpoint; everybody loves them.
Dee Daniels 15:04
So, on a yearly application level… I don’t have the breed specifics, or how many mini Nubians, or how many mini LaManchas we registered last year. But, I do have the number of applications that we brought in last year. Just from 2022, about 4,000 animals were registered with the Miniature Dairy Goat Association last year—just on applications. That’s not even counting the transfers that were processed.
Deborah Niemann 15:33
Oh, that’s awesome! It sounds like they really are getting very popular. And, it totally makes sense, for all the reasons that you’ve mentioned already about, you know, why people find them attractive. Is there anything else that people should know about miniature dairy goats that we haven’t already talked about?
Dee Daniels 15:49
Well, they’re kind of like potato chips. Isn’t that what people say? “You can’t have just one”?
Deborah Niemann 15:55
Dee Daniels 15:56
It’s a great hobby. You know, some people do it as a business, and that’s okay. But, it’s a great hobby. It’s a great stress reliever. For me, myself, I work in a corporate field. And, that’s my relaxation time, spending time with the goats, and meeting new people at shows, and doing functions—and education. I love to do education, you know, for people that have never seen a goat. You’d be surprised at how many people have never even seen a goat in person. I had a little boy call a goat a “camel.”
Deborah Niemann 16:32
Dee Daniels 16:33
Because, they didn’t have any ears. He’s like, “Look, Mom, it’s a camel!” And, it just breaks your heart, you know, to know that there’s actually people out there that have never seen a goat in person. And, for kids, miniature dairy goats—whether they’re true miniature in Nigerian form, or they’re mid-size in miniature dairy goat form—they’re perfect for kids. They’re the perfect size. And, a lot of people love them for their kids to show in 4-H. And, they’re just good to have all the way around.
Deborah Niemann 17:04
That’s awesome! This has been so much fun today talking about this. I know, I really loved having my mini LaManchas. And, it was really hard to stop breeding them. But, after my daughters grew up and left home, I realized I needed to focus on just one breed—and even that, I have too many goats. So, unfortunately, the minis had to go, mostly because. like I told you before we started, I kept losing the ear lottery, because I was trying to just keep going with my goats and my F2s, and I just kept getting Nigerian ears, which are definitely not going to meet that mini LaMancha standard.
Dee Daniels 17:43
It’s hard to go up into the American handbook. I don’t think you can get to American with upright ears.
Deborah Niemann 17:49
Yeah, exactly. Well, thank you! It has been so much fun chatting with you today, and I think a lot of people will find this really interesting.
Dee Daniels 17:57
Thank you, Deborah. I appreciate the opportunity for the mini breeders and for the Miniature Dairy Goat Association. Many thanks for inviting us onto your podcast.
Deborah Niemann 18:08
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!