Nigerian Dwarf Goats: Why We Still Love Them After 20 Years!

Nigerian dwarf goat

We started raising Nigerian dwarf goats in 2002. I was familiar with the Conservation Priority List of the Livestock Conservancy, and I wanted all of our animals to come from that list because I wanted to help preserve rare breeds. The Nigerian and Oberhasli were the only two dairy goats on the list back then, so I didn’t have much to choose from.

I can’t honestly say I remember all of my original reasons for choosing the Nigerian dwarf goat, but it’s a decision I have never regretted. In fact, after we started showing goats, and we were exposed to other breeds, my daughters and I considered adding just about every other dairy breed out there at one time or another, and we did have LaManchas for about seven years. So, why do we still have Nigerian dwarf goats after all these years?

Nigerian dwarf goats are the smallest dairy goat

When I realized I needed to downsize after my daughters left home, there were two reasons that I kept the Nigerian dwarf goats and sold off the LaManchas. Size played a huge role in my decision to sell the LMs. Although they are the sweetest goats, we don’t always agree, and when there is a disagreement, it’s tough to win when the goat weighs almost as much as I do.

I am able to pick up almost every full-grown Nigerian dwarf goat on the farm, if needed. Female goats (does) weigh about 60 pounds with male goats (bucks and wethers) weighing about 70 pounds. And if I can’t lift them, then my son or husband can. They’ve even picked up a fully pregnant goat and put her in my car to take to the vet hospital for a c-section.

Because of their small size, they can easily be transported in large or extra large dog crates, which fit in SUVs and mini-vans. My LMs were on the smaller side, so they could also fit into extra large crates, but some breeds would require the giant size, which is expensive and doesn’t fit inside most vehicles.

Over the years I’ve sold many Nigerian dwarf goats to people who had small children and felt the smaller goats would be easier for them to handle. I’ve also sold some to older people who had a larger breed and were downsizing to the Nigerians for that reason.

Two or three wethers also make great pet goats or pasture ornaments. 

Nigerian dwarf goats have the highest butterfat

Standard-size goats have a butterfat around 3% to 3.5%, except Nubians, which average 4.5%, and Nigerians, which average 6.5%. We were on milk test when we had both Nigerians and LaManchas, and the butterfat of the NDs was usually almost twice as high as the LMs.

In fact, we only made cheese with the LM milk a few times because we realized the yield was almost always about half as much as what we would get when making cheese with ND milk.

One year I had a LM doe and a ND doe give birth on exactly the same day. On one of the early milk tests, I noticed that the two does had produced exactly the same number of pounds of butterfat so far, but the LM had produced 200 pounds more milk.

The first thing that popped into my head was that the LM milk was “watered down.” The LM was definitely producing a lot more milk, but if your goal was to make cheese, the extra fluid milk was really not helpful.

If your goal is maximum fluid milk production, and you prefer the taste and texture of skim milk, then you may view the Nigerian’s high butterfat as a disadvantage.

How much milk do Nigerian dwarf goats produce?

You will find a lot of sources quote a quart a day as the average, but there is a lot more to the story! Goats produce milk on a curve. Their production starts out pretty low and increases gradually over the course of 6-8 weeks, plateaus for a bit then starts to very gradually go down. At their peak, excellent milkers make about 3 quarts a day, and I expect at least half a gallon a day, which is what is required for a doe to feed twins successfully. Many goats will plateau at about a quart a day around three to four months and stay there for a year or more, if they are not rebred. 

How does Nigerian dwarf goats milk taste?

None of us was ever a big fan of the LaMancha milk or any other goat milk that we tasted other than Nigerian dwarf goat milk. In all my years of selling goats, I’ve never lost a goat sale because someone didn’t like the taste of the milk. In fact, most people are surprised and excited about how much they love the taste.

Some have said it tastes just like store-bought milk, while some say that it tastes even better. I personally prefer Nigerian dwarf goat milk to cow milk. People hypothesize that the high butterfat makes the milk taste sweeter than other goat milk, but whatever the reason, it’s definitely my favorite.

Although I didn’t think the LaMancha milk tasted bad, one of my daughters strongly disliked it, and I could not even trick her into consuming it when it was used in a gravy or other foods. She’d catch me every time! Obviously taste is a personal preference, and there are people who prefer the milk of other breeds.

If your goat milks tastes great sometimes but funky at other times, check out my podcast episode where we discuss goaty-tasting milk, as well as does that seem to be holding back their milk.

Are Nigerian dwarf goats hard to milk?

Some people look at the Nigerian’s small size and just assume that it would be difficult to milk them, but that’s not true. I admit I spent at least a year complaining about the short teats, but that’s because I just had not perfected my technique.

After learning how to milk my Nigerian dwarf goats, I actually found them easier to milk than the LMs. And it is not always true that every Nigerian has smaller teats than standard size goats. We have had some goats with excellent teats. It is also important to note that orifice size, udder texture, and shape of the teat are just as important, if not more important, than the length of the teat.

Yes, you can eat Nigerian dwarf goat meat

If people want milk and meat, they are not likely to consider NDs, but Nigerian dwarf goat meat is delicious! If you wanted to start a goat meat business, you should probably consider a larger breed, but if you simply want to have some goat meat for your family, you can butcher extra males.

The other side of Nigerian dwarf goats

Kids

quintuplet goatsOne of the things I don’t like about Nigerian dwarf goats is something that many people love, and that’s their tendency to have litters of kids rather than simply twins like other breeds. We have had three does that have given birth to quintuplets a total of eight times, and we’ve had more quadruplets than I can remember at this point. I’ve also sold two does that went on to have six at their new home.

This is highly genetic, however, and it is possible to select for or against this trait. A few years ago, I said I was going to sell off or retire the lines that throw the high multiples because it was too stressful for me, but I haven’t had the nerve to actually do it. Of course, some of my favorite does had quints after I said that! 

Does only have two teats, so in addition to her production, you also have to consider her personality and the personality of the kids. Mom will have to spend a lot of time standing, and those kids will fight for the two teats, sometimes leaving a smaller or less aggressive kid to starve. This is why I rarely let a doe try to raise more than three kids now. (Here’s a post where you can learn more about how many kids a doe can feed.)

Popularity

Although Nigerian dwarf goats were rare when I got started in 2002, today they are the fastest growing breed for all of the reasons I’ve mentioned so far. The high kid count has also made them a prime target for people who want to make a fast buck, leading to goat versions of puppy mills where people breed the does twice a year rather than once, and they never milk them, which means their ability to be a good milk goat is unknown.

This means there are many low-quality Nigerian dwarf goats on the market today. This makes it challenging for those buying their first goats. It’s really important that buyers looking for milk goats ask about milk production of does and stay away from buying kids whose dams have not been milked. Here are more tips on buying goats.

Which breed is best?

Just as people have different taste in food, wine, music, dogs, and everything else imaginable, people have different tastes in goats. I’ve avoided writing a post about Nigerian dwarf goats until now because I felt like I was obviously biased. But, who better than a true lover of the breed to explain why they’re so awesome!

Regardless of which breed you choose, keep in mind that this is a long term commitment. Nigerian goat lifespan is about as long as dogs. Female goats live about 12-14 years, although I’ve had one live to 15 and another live to 16 years. Intact male goats (bucks) usually only live about 9 or 10 years, whereas I’ve heard of castrated males (wethers) living into their upper teens. 

If you’d like to know more about our goats, visit our Nigerian dwarf goat website here!

For more information on other goat breeds:

Want to see a comparison of all of the goat breeds side by side in a spreadsheet, from milk production averages to appearance?

Compare Dairy Goat Breeds button to get spreadsheet

Nigerian dwarf goats

 

 

28 thoughts on “Nigerian Dwarf Goats: Why We Still Love Them After 20 Years!”

  1. How much milk does your best doe give at peak lactation? How much is average?

    I went with Alpines because I didn’t want a lot of fat in the milk, and they are larger and supposedly give more milk. I avoided Nigerian dwarfs for the reason you mentioned above about some ND breeders being essentially the equivalent of a goat puppy mill, and selling surplus possibly low quality animals to make them some profits as fast as possible.

    Reply
    • I knew I was forgetting something! My best does peak at 3 quarts. Most peak at 2 quarts. The breed average is 1 quart a day over the course of a 10-month lactation. I don’t really think about the fluid milk production much because our main goal is cheese — and I can make as much cheese from a ND as I could from a bigger goat. If you want fluid milk, then definitely a bigger goat is a better fit.

      Just because there are some puppy-mill-type breeders out there does not mean that you can’t find excellent NDs. You just have to be a smart consumer. But this is the case with all breeds. I have a friend who had an Alpine that produced less than my best NDs, and if you look at the range of production on the ADGA breed averages, that’s not unusual. The bottom of the range for all of the standard breeds is worse than my best NDs.

      Reply
  2. I 100% agree with everything you’ve written! We have 3 milking does on our small hobby farm, and the milk is the best tasting milk out there – even compared to cow’s milk. We have made wonderful cheese with this milk and the time spent with these friendly little goats has been so rewarding for our children, my husband (who was reluctant to own goats at first, but now spends time holding the babies often!), and myself. I love the quiet time sitting and milking them, and the ability to handle their small size is one of their best features!
    Great article spreading the love of NDG’s!!!!

    Reply
  3. Well Deborah, though you say something to the effect of “I made all the mistakes so you don’t have to”….todays email came and I have realized I have made a big mistake! I wanted Nigerian Dwarfs from the start, however, my journey started me off with a ND/pygmy male and the woman let me “borrow” two Nubian wethers to show little one how to be a goat. Not only did the three become the “Mod Squad”, lol, but I fell in love with the wethers and asked if I could buy them. She was thrilled that they were on large acreage and their coats had turned beautiful and their bellys were full that she gave them to me. Then I found Kikos and fell in love with them, then a friend asked if I would be willing to bottle feed to male lambs (had no plans to have sheep) because they had been rejected so I thought I’d get that skill underneath my belt. The lambs lived in my home, wearing diapers, because it was freezing winter and I had nothing set up for them outside and everyone said it was hard to keep a lamb alive. They both made it and they are the friendliest lambs ever. So now it was time to get Nigerian goats. But wait! I bought someone a special gift and she broke down crying. She gave me 3 baby goats as a gift back (Alpine/Nubian). I fell in love….however, they are so full of energy I have been knocked over, stepped on, whacked in the face and had my legs attacked (all for milk bottles) that I am bruised up and down my body. So now it was time for Nigerian Dwarfs. Went to buy my first one and brought him home to bottle feed. He drank contentedly (slowly, very slowly) and slept alot. He wasn’t acting anything like the lambs or goats I had bottle fed. Took him to vet and he was anemic and had an upper respiratory infection. First question vet asked was “Was he a singleton?” I didn’t even know that term. He was a quad and had not been able to get enough milk. Now reading your article today I realize that I bought him from someone who only raises to sell. None of her dams are milked. Just.Never.Occurred.To.Me.To.Look.For.That. I have since purchased 6 more and am waiting for them to be weaned and will be bringing them home. I am going to go read the websites to see if they even talk about “milking”. Cannot believe I didn’t even think of it as my number one reason for getting ND was to milk and make cheese and soap! Oh.My.Word! I will love everyone and give them the best life ever but there is a very real possibility I will have to wait for kidding season next year to purchase actual ND’s bred for milking. Incredibly expensive mistake. Still glad you wrote the article and now I know. I love all my animals, but as they grow old (and from here on out) I will only look for NG milkers and will warn people who eventually buy from me that my goats ARE for milking, I am not running a goat mill farm. I apologize this post was so long. Just shocked I didn’t think of this…..

    Reply
  4. Well, just figured out second mistake I made. I’ve traveled 4-6 hrs from me for some goats but the ND’s I found closer to home (which sounded great). Now having gone to look at the two websites, I see where they have been sharing a sire. Near as I can tell the two generations back (on the ones I’m purchasing) don’t share same dams and sires but I did see where some being sold on both websites are sharing a sire, so not sure how far back I will be able to see. But definitely need to go out much further to purchase. Hadn’t thought of all that. Both sites show dams udders however reading sites they both “show” goats and enjoy raising them….nothing about milking. I’m still too new to know what “good/great udders” are of if they are great milkers. Did find someone in the state next to me who literally writes “her dam has udders that are like butter to milk”…..so guessing they do milk and udders are important to them. May see if I can make appt. with them to go visit and try to understand what I am looking for and possibly get on a list for next years kids. I sure hope somebody learns from my mistakes…..

    Reply
    • If they show goats older than a year, then they have to milk them because they have to be shown in milk — assuming these are ADGA or AGS sanctioned shows.

      If they say that a goat has an udder that’s like butter to milk, that’s a very good thing, and they are milking too. So it sounds like you found some better options! Yay!

      Reply
  5. BTW Deborah, just want to say thank you for all the time you put into your website and the information you put out. I read every one of your emails and go read the articles. I’ve also purchased items from you. I’ve never written until now but wanted you to know I go to your website for my other goats health and to check to see if something is normal or not, or if you recommend it….ie: copper.

    Reply
  6. Hi, I was hoping you could suggest where I could go to sale my Nigerian drawfs? I have five goats I’m trying to find homes for. I don’t have the time for them anymore because babysitting grand baby. My goats are friendly and I’ve raised them from babies. Thanks for your help.

    Reply
  7. I had two Nigerian dwarf goats. Sadly we lost one this week. Are neighbors dog killed one of them. The dog was put to sleep and no longer an issue. We are thinking of getting a kid for are other goat. Are goat is a one year old. Would we need to separate are goat from the new baby? Are goat is very socially and is super sweet. He is follows my kids around and goes for walks daily. I know they are heard animals. Help

    Reply
    • It’s inevitable that when you put two goats together, they will butt heads, and a goat that is friendly with humans can often be really aggressive with other goats. Goats are prey animals, so if they are confident around humans, it usually means they have a lot of self confidence, which can correlate with “bossy” around other goats. https://thriftyhomesteader.com/when-goats-attackeach-other/

      It’s tough to say whether a baby or another yearling would be the best choice. Sometimes when two goats are equally matched they wind up fighting more because it’s tougher to figure out who the winner is — and therefore who the boss is. When they are so poorly matched the smaller one usually gives up quickly and the larger one is just happy to be accepted as the boss. But there are no guarantees. Keeping them separated is just avoiding the inevitable. You can try letting them share a fenceline for a day or two before actually letting them be together, but there will be some head butting. It’s best if they are outside for the first few hours at least so that the bigger one can’t slam the little one against a wall. Here is a video of what happened when we put two mamas and their babies together last month —
      facebook.com/ThriftyHomesteader/videos/2172305022861756/
      and here is what they were acting like 24 hours later —
      facebook.com/ThriftyHomesteader/videos/2643653525651337/

      Reply
  8. I’m sorry I am a total city person but plan to retire out in the country in a few years. We want to have a couple of dwarf goats one day, I would not want them for milk or cheese, just a pet, so is it best to get a male vs a female? Does a female only have to be milked, once she has had a litter? Maybe this is a stupid question but I am just starting to look into this.

    Reply
    • If you want a couple of pets, wethers (castrated males) are best. They are less expensive and are very easy keepers because they just need pasture and grass hay — no grain. A reputable breeder should castrate them for you before you pick them up.

      Does (female goats) do not produce milk until they give birth, but if you are not breeding them, they will be coming into heat every 3 weeks for several months, if not all year. Sometimes they’re quiet, sometimes not.

      Reply
  9. I would like to get into raising goats for milk, and cheese.I know nothing about it.I always wanted to own and my wife is really wanting them.How much do they cost?

    Reply
    • If you want goats for producing milk for your personal consumption, I’d suggest that you stay away from the sale barn goats at $50 each because they could come with health problems that don’t have obvious symptoms to novices. I’d also suggest that you buy from someone who milks their goats and can tell you how much their produce. Definitely do not buy from someone who is just breeding for pets. Good quality goats will start at about $350 for registered animals, which I prefer because it costs just as much as to feed and care for unregistered as registered, and registered kids are worth more.

      Reply
  10. We have on registered Nigerian and several Nigerians that aren’t. They are a year and a half and we are getting ready to breed. Excited!

    Reply
  11. We are just getting started with Nigerian dwarfs. Right now we have four does and one buck. Do we need to get another weathered buck so that he’s not in a pin by himself?

    Reply
    • Yes, definitely! I made that mistake 19 years ago, and I spent months trying to keep the buck out of the does’ pen. He was the most unbelievable escape artist! He even learned how to open a slide-bolt latch! And it was mostly because he was lonely. Goats are herd animals and should never be alone. It’s actually quite stressful for them.

      If you want to keep any of your baby does, I’d suggest just getting a second buck so that you can breed him to the first buck’s daughters.

      Reply
  12. We are new to goats, we have Nigerian Dwarf kid and a one year old wether. I have read so many things and they never say the same thing. Should you feed medicated grain, sweet feed or strictly just hay? Also, how often should you deworm as a preventative measure? And is there anything we should be doing to prevent coccidius?

    Reply
    • The reason you see so many different answers is because conditions vary from farm to farm, so what works on one farm doesn’t work on other farms, and unfortunately most people don’t realize that, so they think they are doing it right. The answer to most of your questions is, “It depends!”

      You didn’t say whether your kid is a doe, buck, or wether, and the answer is different for each one. Here are all of the various answers to “What do goats eat?”
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/what-do-goats-eat-it-depends/

      Medicated grain should only be fed during times of stress, such as moving or weaning. When people buy goats from me, I tell them buy one bag, and when it’s gone, they should never need to buy another. Medicated grain ONLY prevents coccidia — nothing else. And all goats have coccidia, but it’s not a problem unless they get stressed and if they don’t have an immune system that’s top notch.

      You should never give a dewormer as a preventative. All goats have worms, but they are only a problem when goats are under stress or malnourished or being managed incorrectly. There are only 3 classes of dewormers, and over-use has caused a problem with resistance so that they may not always kill worms like they should. As with antibiotics, it’s a drug that you only give when an animal is sick — not to prevent sickness. Here is an article on preventing worm problems:
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/internal-parasite-in-goats-preventing/

      And here is an article about preventing coccidiosis:
      https://thriftyhomesteader.com/internal-parasite-in-goats-preventing/

      Hope this helps!

      Reply

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