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Nigerian Dwarf Goat Information

Breed Basics

The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a miniature dairy goat breed of West African origin. They were originally brought to the United States on ships as food for large cats such as lions, the survivors originally lived in zoos. Their conformation is similar to that of larger dairy goat breeds. The parts of the body are in balanced proportion. The ideal height for does is 17 to 19 inches and bucks 19 to 20 inches. Their weight can range from 50 to 80 pounds with 75 pounds being the ideal weight. Their hair is soft and short to medium in length.

Nigerian Dwarf goats are rare, according to the American Livestock Breeds Conservatory. While the Nigerian Dwarf's numbers are still very small, they have a bright and profitable future ahead. The U.S. Department Of Agriculture has approved them as a livestock dairy goat, which makes them eligible for youth 4H and FFA projects.

Nigerian Dwarf goats are enjoying a rise in popularity due to their small size and colorful markings. Their small size means they do not require as much space as the larger goats. Their easy maintenance and gentle, friendly personalities are making them popular as hobby goats and good companion pets. They are easy to handle and even small children can be at ease with them.

Breed Registration

Nigerian Dwarf goats are registered in 5 registries with 4 being in the United States and 1 in Canada. Nigerian Dwarf goat shows are growing in popularity and becoming more readily available all over the country. The shows are educational and a fun way to meet other owners and breeders. They are sanctioned by AGS and NDGA.

United States:

NDGA - Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association

AGS- American Goat Society

IDGR- International Dairy Goat Registry

ADGA- American Dairy Goat Association

Canada:

CGR- Canadian Goat Registry

Breed Standards

AGS Breed Standard

The Nigerian Dwarf is a miniature breed of dairy goat originating from West Africa and developed in the United States. The balanced proportions of the Nigerian Dwarf give it an appearance similar to the larger, Swiss breeds of dairy goats. Shorter height is the primary breed characteristic of the Nigerian Dwarf, with does measuring no more than 22 1/2" at the withers, and bucks measuring no more than 23 1/2" at the withers. They are known for their high quality milk, often with exceptionally high butterfat content. Nigerian Dwarfs are gregarious, friendly, hardy animals that thrive in almost any climate. The medium length ears are erect and alert. The face is either straight or slightly dished. The coat is of medium length and straight. The Nigerian Dwarf is the only dairy breed known to occasionally have blue eyes. Both brown and blue eyed animals are encountered, with no preference being given to either eye color. Any pattern, color, or combination of colors is acceptable.

ADGA Breed Standard

The Nigerian Dwarf is a miniature breed of dairy goat originating in West Africa and developed in the United States. The balanced proportions of the Nigerian Dwarf give it the appearance of the larger breeds of dairy goats, but does stand no more than 22.5" (57cm) and bucks no more than 23.5" (60cm). Any color or combination of colors is acceptable. The medium length ears are erect and alert. The face is either straight or dished, and the hair is short and fine.

CGS Breed Standard

Nigerian Dwarf goats have been developed as miniature dairy goats in North America. The mature buck is a maximum of 23 inches high at the withers; does can be no taller than 22 inches. Ears are erect, the facial profile is straight, and all colors and combinations are allowed, although the pygmy "agouti" pattern is seriously faulted.

Breed Color

Nigerian Dwarf goats come in many colors. You can never be sure what color the babies will be until they are born. Even after they are born you still can't be sure because many times their color will change. The main color families are black, white, chocolate and gold with many different color combinations and patterns. Nigerian Dwarfs can be classy solid colors such jet black or other solid colors. Random white markings on the solid colors are commonly seen. They can also be dalmation spotted or moon spotted, tri-colored and pinto patterned. Other popular patterns include cou clair and buckskin patterns. The most common eye color of a Nigerian Dwarf is brown, although Dwarfs with china blue eyes are becoming more popular and increasingly available.  

Temperament and Behavior

Nigerian Dwarf goats are gentle, loveable, playful and easily trainable. Their calm and even temperament makes them wonderful companions. This, along with their small size and colorful markings, are making them popular as pets. They can be trained to walk on a leash and some enjoy coming into the house with their owners. Their small size even makes them excellent "visitor" animals for nursing homes and hospitals. Even breeding bucks can be easily handled. As with all goats, does and wethers (neutered males) make the best pets, as bucks can have an objectionable odor.  

Nigerian Dwarf goats love to climb and play "king of the mountain". Many Nigerian owners will supply their goats with rocks or wooden "play stations". Some people use toddler toys or climbers, old tires and even wooden cable spools. Let your mind get creative! As kids, the Nigerian Dwarf's, are usually very active and love to run, skip, race, butt, climb, bounce and jump around.  Many owners find that providing "toys" for their goats provides the goats and the owners with hours of entertainment. 

Many breeders and owners of other goats find that the Nigerians blend in well with the rest of their herd and do not need special quarters. They just need adequate fencing to contain them due to their small size and also some of them can be escape artists. Many Nigerians can also share pastures peacefully with other livestock such as horses, cattle, donkeys and llhamas.

Nigerian Dwarfs are very social goats and are herd animals. If you do not have a couple already than most breeders will not sell you one single goat. You would have to purchase 2 or more. They will get very lonely if alone. Besides, they have been known to become very addicting. You can never have just one!

Basic Care

Housing:

Nigerians need a clean and ventilated shelter free from dampness, drafts and pests like flies and rodents. They should not be housed in airtight buildings. The size of the shelter will depend on how many goats you have. For one to just a few goats, some owners find a large doghouse or two will do the trick. The shelter should be kept clean with fresh hay or straw for bedding. Due to their small size they will need proper fencing to help prevent escapes since some are known to be escape artists. The fencing will also help to protect them from predators.

Feeding:

Hay and pasture should be available free choice at all times along with fresh water in clean containers. Most owners feed 12% - 18% protein goat feed or dairy ration. The amount depends on how much pasture and browse are available.

Health:

Nigerian Dwarf goats just like other animals will need some basic health care. Hooves should be trimmed on a regular basis about every 4 to 8 weeks or more often as needed. Rock piles for them to climb and jump on will help to keep their hooves trimmed down so they may not need to be trimmed as often but you will still need to trim them regularly to keep their hooves healthy. Most owners will also vaccinate their Nigerians. The most common vaccinations given are tetanus, rabies and types of C&D. Nigerians should also be wormed several times a year. You should check with your local veterinarian on the recommended vaccines and a worming schedule for the area in which you live.

Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy of a Nigerian Dwarf goat is about 12 years. It's not uncommon to see them reach into their mid to later teens and some even up to 20.

Breeding

Unlike other goats, with the exception of the Pygmy goats, Nigerian Dwarf goats are capable of breeding year round. Does will have an estrus/heat cycle every 17 to 23 days with 21 days being the average. The length of the heat is about 12 to 48 hours each cycle. Once bred the gestation period is appoximately 155 days or 5 months. Many breeders will breed their does 3 times in a 2 year period giving the doe at least a 6 month break in between. Other breeders will breed annually. It is a personal choice of each individual breeder.

Nigerians are a hearty breed with few kidding problems. Does will usually have several kids at one time with triplets being the most common. Twins and quadruplets are also common. Nigerian Dwarf does are good mothers and able to care for their kids on their own. Newborn kids average about 2 pounds at birth but grow quickly. They reach sexual maturity at a young age so be sure to seperate the bucks and does. Bucks can be fertile and breed as young as 7 weeks of age and easily breed by the time they are 7 or 8 months old. Nigerian bucks are vigorous breeders but are gentle enough to be used for hand breeding or pasture breeding.  Does can be bred at 7 to 8 months of age if they have reached a good size. Some breeders prefer to wait until they are at least 1 year or older.

Kidding time is normally an exicting time for most breeders. The newborn kids are normally up and able to stand, walk and nurse within hours of birth. After a day or two they are usually trying to bounce, jump and play. Breeders differ in how they care for their Nigerian kids. Some breeders prefer to allow the kids to nurse from their mothers while others prefer to bottle raise them. Most kids are fully weaned by the time they reach about 2 months of age.

Milk Production

Nigerian Dwarf goats are a dairy breed and can produce a surprising amount of milk for their small size. A healthy Nigerian doe can produce up to 2 quarts of milk per day over her entire lactation period. Their milk is higher in butterfat (6% - 10%) and higher in protein content than milk from most other dairy goat breeds. Since Nigerian does can be bred year round, many breeders can stagger freshenings (births) so that their herd is never dry. Nigerian Dwarf goat milk is great for cheese or soap making due to the high butterfat content.

Average Cost

The average cost of a Nigerian Dwarf goat depends on if you are purchasing breeding stock or pet quality stock. The average price for breeding stock is between $200 and $500 per head. The price depends on champion pedigrees, milk production records and unusual coloring such as moon spots or blue eyes. Pet quality stock and wethers (neutered males) usually cost much less. They can normally be purchased for around $50 to $100.  

Nigerian Dwarfs vs. Pygmy Goats

When I first told people I was getting Nigerian Dwarf goats, many people would assume they were the Pygmy goats. Many people thought they were the same breed due to the Dwarf name. I would try to explain to them that they were not the same breed. Although they have similar origins, Nigerian Dwarfs and Pygmy goats are 2 seperate and distinct breeds. Pygmies are bred to be "cobby" and heavy boned. Nigerians have been bred to have the length of body and a more proportionate and elegant structure like the larger dairy goat breeds. Pygmies are also primarily "agouti" patterned, with black, silver and caramel being the most common colors. Nigerians come in many patterns and colors.