Nigerian Dwarf: The Little Workhorse of the Goat World
The Nigerian dwarf dairy goat is quickly becoming a part of the American farm family
By Colleen Creamer
While videos of pygmy goats bouncing off tree stumps and cable spools continue to circulate on the internet, another little goat is getting attention from people in and outside the farming world alike: Nigerian dwarf goats.
Like pygmy goats, Nigerian dwarfs are pint-sized and charming, but they can also work triple duty: They not only provide milk and make compost for gardens; they’re also perfect candidates for family-friendly agritourism and other interactions with children.
Like pygmies, Nigerian dwarf goats can be kept on smaller plots and require less food than regular-sized goats. This makes them less expensive to keep and breed. But, unlike pygmy goats, Nigerian dwarves are categorized as milking goats.
NIGERIAN DWARF GOATS ON THE RISE
According to the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA), the Nigerian dwarf is a miniature dairy goat that originated in West Africa and developed in the United States. It stands no more than 22.5 inches tall and bucks no more than 23.5 inches tall.
Lisa Gregory, who owns Digging Deeper Farm outside Milford, Ohio, says she’s seen the increase in interest in the goat species firsthand.
“The ADGA national show has had around 600 entries for Nigerians the last couple of years, and that’s about 200 more each year than any other dairy breed,” says Lisa, who has been breeding Nigerian dwarf goats since 2013.
And it’s not just the breed’s good looks that are catching people’s attention: Female Nigerian dwarf goats produce a substantial amount of milk for their size.
“Just a couple of does could provide an average family with plenty of fresh milk,” Lisa says. “Some use excess milk to raise their calves or pigs, and goat’s milk can be used for almost any orphaned animal as well.”
Nigerian dwarf goats’ milk can also be turned into products like yogurt, cheese, and soap.
As dairy goats, Nigerian dwarves can be kept successfully in all climates, according to ADGA protocols on weather and housing. Their shelters don’t need to be elaborate, but they do need to be clean, dry, well-ventilated, and draft-free. The outside exercise lot, the ADGA states, should provide at least 25 square feet per goat. Like most goats, Nigerian dwarves have a strong herd instinct and prefer the companionship of at least one other goat.
A VERSATILE, FRIENDLY GOAT
Another benefit of Nigerian dwarf goats is their manure can be used as natural compost for gardens. Goat manure is virtually odorless and very beneficial for soil.
In addition, this breed is a popular choice for farms that frequently welcome children. Ginny Harris, of Sun Valley Pygmy Goats and Nigerian Dwarfs in Peoria, Arizona, says mini dairy goats are ideal candidates for use in 4-H activities.
“My kids had to learn animal and herd management, watering, feeding, trimming,” Ginny says. “They also had to teach their goats to lead, walk, and stand.”
Just a few inches taller than pygmy goats and equally as playful, Nigerian dwarf goats make good pets because of their size and temperaments.
“They have an advantage of being just adorable,” Lisa says. “They are a combination of everything in one package: They have the most delicious milk and are beautiful to look at with such sweet personalities.”
Want to learn more about Nigerian dwarf goats? Visit the ADGA’s website.
Colleen Creamer writes about travel, farming, and health and wellness from her home in Nashville, Tennessee.