How to keep dwarf goats: tips and best practices

Nigerian Dwarf Goats: Tips and Best Practices

The goat was one of the first animals that man became interested in when he began to domesticate and raise animals. Whether it is for its milk, which can be used to make delicious cheeses or its meat, the goat has always found its place among men. Over time, it has also become an ornamental animal.

Today, many varieties of goats exist, with different colors, sizes, and morphologies. The dwarf goat is one of these varieties, and it is quite possible if you wish, to be able to breed one or more of them at home, provided you are able to take care of them properly, and that of course starts with finding information on how to properly raise dwarf goats in your home.

How to keep dwarf goats: tips and best practices

All about the Nigerian dwarf goats

Before we talk about the dwarf goat, let’s talk briefly about goats. The goat is a herbivorous, diurnal (which comes to life) mammal, part of the Bovidae family, just like cows. It descends directly from its cousins, the chamois, and the ibex. It is also from the chamois that the goat derives its agility, a quality which is quite surprising when we observe the morphology of this animal.

Over time, through breeding and more or less difficult living conditions, goats have gradually evolved to adapt to their environment, in all countries of the world. The goat has become so popular all over the world that at the beginning of the 20th century, we began to classify goats by breed, according to size, morphology, and many other criteria, to such an extent that today we can count hui more than 200 races.

The dwarf goat that interests us here is one of them. This particular breed comes to us from two very distant countries, namely Senegal in Africa, and Tibet in West Asia. The difficult living conditions of these countries, namely the lack of food and the rather harsh climate, influenced the evolution of the goats which became smaller and smaller over the ages.

The dwarf goat is recognized mainly by its particular physical attributes:

  • a small size: between 45 and 50 cm at the withers, which is 2 times less than a European dairy goat,
  • low weight: females weigh between 13 and 25kg and males between 15 and 30kg.

The coat of dwarf goats is very variable depending on the individual, ranging from black to white through brown.

This breed of goat however only lives between 10 and 15 years, which is a slightly shorter lifespan than its larger cousins, who live between 15 and 20 years.

How to keep dwarf goats: tips and best practices

Welcoming the Nigerian dwarf goats at home

Now that you know the characteristics of this species and still want to welcome them into your home, it is important to know what conditions they need.

Adapting your land for dwarf goats

First of all, it is important to know that even if it is possible to welcome only one dwarf goat at home, it will be necessary to plan to spend a little time with it or to have other animals like dogs that could play with it, because the goat is a social animal; it will therefore be happier surrounded by at least one or two of its congeners.

However, avoid taking males and females together if you want to avoid the gestation of the female, as well as several males together as they might fight over territory conflicts. Prefer a group of two or three females for cohabitation without any stress.

At surface level, it is necessary to count at least 1000m² per goat, with a lot of vegetation. Needless to say, it is unthinkable to raise goats in an apartment.

In order to secure your land from potential threats to your goats, or even that they do not escape, surround it with a fence at least 1.50m high (don’t forget that the goat is a very agile animal, such height is therefore recommended). You can also if you wish, have an electrified wire mesh installed.

The enclosure of the Nigerian dwarf goats

Goats will of course need a small house of their own, a shelter in which they can protect themselves from the cold and bad weather. This shelter can be constructed preferably in wood or concrete, otherwise. You will have to plan a minimum of 2m² per goat, the best still being between 4 and 6m² so that they can have space and move easily. The ground should be covered with straw to absorb the needs of the goats, but also to serve as insulation against the cold in winter, especially if the shelter is concrete.

The enclosure of a goat must be made up of several essential elements:

  • a drinker: so that they can have water at will; the best is still an automatic drinker.
  • a rack: at the height of the goat’s head, to distribute its food.
  • a brush: made of hard bristles and attached to a wall, goats love to rub and scratch on this type of brush.
  • enough to perch them: goats love to jump and stand high. Small blocks of wood for example will make them happy.

How to keep dwarf goats: tips and best practices

Feeding dwarf goats

Main power

Since Nigerian dwarf goats are exclusively herbivorous animals, their diet is based on 95% grass and hay. Be careful not to overpopulate your land because the goats spend most of the day grazing, you can quickly find yourself running out of lawn, a problem that quickly becomes unmanageable.

In addition to the grass they will graze, you will need to feed them hay which will cover a large part of their nutritional needs. It will be necessary to give them in large quantities, at the rate of one kilo of hay per day and per goat. You can get them in a specialized store or from a farmer.

Finally, a little straw will also please them for its crunchiness, which helps them to ruminate.

Food supplements and sweets

You can find pellets for goats in some shops. It might be tempting to feed them only with these, but this is not advisable, since these pellets are made up largely of cereals, which are far too rich for goats. These granules are however very effective as food supplements, during gestation or in periods of extreme cold, for example.

To please your goats, you can occasionally give them small treats, such as grape, chestnut or rose leaves. Certain vegetables such as cabbage or leek, as well as fruit without stones (apples, pears, etc.) will fill them with happiness.

Mineral stone

Goats need a daily intake of salt and minerals, which is why you should provide them with mineral stones, in their enclosure for example. These stones can be found, like hay and pellets, in specialized stores.

You are now ready to welcome dwarf goats into your home. These animals are certainly not for everyone, their maintenance requires time, money, and especially space. But for the few who may be lucky enough to experience it, cohabitation with these nimble and curious little bovids will be a fascinating experience.