Nigerian Dwarf Goat

Nigerian Dwarf Goats were bred to be a hardy goat that could thrive in harsh conditions. It is likely that the small size is more a reflection of the conditions under which they developed - I've noticed that goats in Texas end up being much smaller than goats in northern states when left to breed without selectivity being taken into consideration.

Nigerian Dwarfs are different than Pygmy goats. They have a more proportional frame, without the potbellied appearance of the Pygmy. They give significantly more milk than a Pygmy also, and are considered to be a separate breed, though many careless breeders will cross them.

They've gained popularity as a small dairy animal, and this is, I am sure, in part due to nothing other than the overwhelming cuteness of the kids. Baby goats are amazingly adorable anyway, and the dimminutive size of the Nigerian babies just amplifies the cuteness factor. Frankly, I find the prospect of milking a goat with two fingers to be more trouble than I want to deal with, but many people are enthusiastic about the ability to keep these goats where they cannot keep full sized goats, because of their classification in many instances as a pet.

You won't find a goat that is more prolific - what they lack in size, they make up for in numbers! Does produce multiples more often than singletons, and quadruplets are not uncommon, and they generally manage to feed them all.

They give about 1/3 the amount of milk over a production season compared to a full sized goat. They have the highest percentage of butterfat of any goat, and a high protein content as well. 

Nigerians have fun personalities, they are hardy and long lived, and they breed througout the year. They have been used to breed down by crossing with other breeds, to produce miniatures of other breeds.

  • Type - Dairy, pet
  • Size - Small
  • Production Capacity - Small goat, reduced production, but high for their size.
  • Special Features - Small size makes them suitable where larger goats are not.
  • Best for Farms - Great when microfarm conditions demand a tiny animal for dairy, but also good when you need a livestock type that has a good demand for breeding stock or milkers.
  • Eggs, Milk, Meat Features - Highest butterfat of all milk goats - 6.5% and higher
  • Other Products - Some market as pets, so even the Wethers may be salable.
  • Historic or Contemporary Significance - Relatively new to the US, but very important for the proliferation of microfarms and urban farms.
  • Housing and Space Requirement - About half the space required compared to full sized goats.
  • Regional Adaptations - Well adapted to a range of conditions.
  • Feed Requirement - Less feed per animal required, but good feed required for strong milk production. Fresh fodder feed is excellent for this.
  • Other Considerations - It is a good idea to know the physical differences between Nigerian Dwarf goats and Pygmy goats if you want quality stock. This breed is one of the highest demand breeds of goats currently.



Dairy goats and meat goats are two very different things in most cases, though the kids from dairy goats are often wethered and used for meat. 

Meat goats have a heavier carcass, but do not produce much milk. They will produce enough to nurse twins or triplets, but do not produce for an extended period of time and will dry up quickly.

Generally dairy goats require some extra feed - either grain, or sprouted grain - to produce well. All breeds are not equal in this, and higher producing breeds are often fairly feed inefficient, requiring a LOT more grain to produce a little more milk.

There is no such thing as a true dual purpose goat, they always tend to be stronger in dairy when they are classed as dual purpose.

For the purposes of listing here, weed eating is not sufficient reason to warrant a listing. Wethers are not classed here as utility animals, except for meat production, because keeping an animal just so it can eat is kind of silly, when keeping a milker or regularly replacing the wether so you can produce meat is a much wiser use of resources (yes, even scrub brush is a resource).

I am not a fan of meat goats, though many people are. Goat meat must be aged prior to consumption, to break down the muscle fibers or it is fairly tough. My sister, who raised meat goats, recommended freezing the meat for at least a month, and stated that this will work in lieu of aging the meat.

When comparing breeds, remember that top producing breeds rarely produce that heavily. They generally produce much less than they are advertised to produce. A few quarts of milk per day is considered to be good average output for a milk goat, and 1-2 is more realistic, because they do not produce heavily for an extended period of time, and their milk production will wax and wane as they go into heat, breed, and then building up again after they kid. 

To keep good milk production through the year, you need more than one goat, and they need to be bred at different times. Those breeds that are NOT seasonal have an advantage here, because you can stagger the breeding more, and maintain a more consistent production through the year. The disadvantage to breeds that are not seasonal breeders is that they will go into heat a few months after they birth (or sooner), and plague you once a month or so with a heat cycle that will slightly reduce their milk supply for a day or two and set them to bawling. 

Mini breeds usually give only 1-2 cups per milking, and while they can fit into smaller spaces, they are also much more difficult to milk - they are so small that hand milking is extremely difficult. Some full sized breeds are more difficult to milk for the same reasons.

Milking machines have attachments that are available for standard size, and miniature goats. But a milking maching is a significant investment, and they do not tend to strip out the animals well. Milk production tends to decline more than it does with hand milking, unless they are stripped out manually after using the machine.

Many sources for care of goats will recommend birthing kits, and suggest that goats require a lot of intervention for successful birthing. This is not so. Only those breeds that have been sloppily bred, or breeds like Lamanchas that have more birthing problems than other breeds will require intervention on a regular basis. NEVER EVER assist a goat with a birth (do NOT try to "pull" the kid), unless the goat is obviously in trouble, and has been laboring without progress  for more than a couple of hours. Forcing a birth can cause damage to the uterus and connective tissues in a doe, increases the likelihood of uterine prolapse, and can compromise her ability to birth naturally in the future.

I grew up with goats, and know the routines with trimming hooves, disbudding, milking, and birthing. I have also milked cows, and given the choice, prefer a cow to several goats to supply the need for milk in our home. This in part because of the nature of goat's milk, because I really like to make butter! But in a small space situation, I'd do goats again in a heartbeat.

If a farm has sufficient space for a cow, they are much easier to care for to produce larger amounts of milk. But in small spaces, goats can be kept on less than an acre of land without stressing the land as much.

We have listed only those breeds which we feel have strong utility function, no outstanding issues with birthing or genetic problems, and which can actually be obtained (some types of goat are in closed herds and are not able to be purchased by small farmers).

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