Nigerian Dwarf Goats best known for being friendly, hardy, playful and strong milk producers (dairy goats). This versatile breed is great for dairy production or just plain happiness. It is no wonder why these small and easy going goats are so popular.
We will take a look at their history, characteristics, health, and so much more in the complete guide. This breed is low maintenance and makes for great pet goats!
Table of Contents
Nigerian Dwarf goats came to America in the early to mid 1900's from Western Africa. This once exotic breed was initially kept in zoos, quickly spread across the United States and Canada once sold to private homesteaders and breeders.
Since then, they have become a regular staple in homesteads and backyards across America.
Nigerian dwarf goats will have some variation in their appearance between long and short haired goats. But there are common characteristics that they exhibit.
A few common features of this breed include:
Black, White, Gold, Red and Brown Coloring
Heavy Beard for Males
Height & Weight
Nigerian Dwarf goats are aptly named for their small stature. This breed weighs between 40 to 60 pounds on average. This is significantly smaller than the average size of dairy goats, which is 125 pounds.
Similarly, Nigerian Dwarfs are 24 to 30 inches in length and stand between 16 and 23 inches tall. To keep this in perspective the average dairy goat is a minimum of 30 inches tall (28 for females).
Goats reach maturity and full weight and size at about 24 months of age (2 years).
Don't let their small stature fool you, they may be small but they can still jump a six foot fence.
Nigerian Dwarf Goats live about 10+ years on average. This is average for dairy goat which are expected to live to 11 to 12 years.
If a female is retire (no longer breeding) she will likely live a longer life. Similarly, wethers (neutered males) live 11 to 16 years on average.
Nigerian dwarfs are able to breed naturally and prolifically without any sort of human intervention.
We have found conflicting information for the age that males and females become mature and are able to start breeding at. For males we have seen some sources site as young as 2 months for males, and 4 months for females. On the flip side we have seen 6 months for males and 9 months for females.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are able to breed year round. This is unique from other dairy goats that go into heat every 21 days from August to January.
Once pregnant, the gestation period ranges from 145 to 153 days. A typical kidding will produce 3 to 4 kids each weighing 2 pounds.
Once the kids have been born, a doe will produce 1 to 2 quarts/liters of milk a day for up to 10 months. As a dairy breed, more milk is produced than the kids require, which allows homesteaders to utilize it in unique ways such as cheese or soap.
The versatility of goat milk coupled with the high demand can make it a profitable source of income. For more information and other creative ways to make money from your goats, check out our comprehensive article.
This goat milk is known for having a high fat content and being very sweet. It is an excellent milk for butters and cheeses.
Goat milk contains less lactose than cow milk and can be a great alternative for individuals with a lactose sensitivity.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are considered to be a versatile and hardy breed as they can thrive in nearly any climate.
A nearby farmer noted that goats can withstand temperatures down to 32 degrees (F). While I'm sure this is a more comfortable temperature for them, our goats managed a day when it was 0 degrees, and -22 degrees with wind chill. We checked on them regularly and provided warm water and a secure shelter with the essential features, and did not experience any issues.
While we did consider providing them coats to keep them warm, dramatic changes to temperature are very dangerous so we opted not to do so. The most important factor on cold days is that they have a sheltered area to get out of the elements and they are not wet.
Wet goats have a much harder time keeping warm in extreme weather.
As far as warm days we have not had any difficulties up to 90 degrees and sunny. We always ensure they have fresh water and a shady place to lie down. For other tips to keeping your goats cool in extreme heat to avoid heat stroke, read our comprehensive article.
Due to their hardiness and general resilience, Nigerian Dwarf goats are not ailed by any notable illnesses.
The biggest health risk they are prone to, is like many goats they are social creatures. They can become lonely if they do not have at least one companion. If you are unable to keep your goats together, we suggest adding other forms of stimulation and enrichment.
Of course, it is still possible for them to get parasites (dewormer can cure this at home) and other general illnesses such as bloat or eating poisonous plants so it is always good to keep a watchful eye on your herd.
As a smaller than average sized breed and primarily a dairy goat, they are not considered ideal for an abundance meat production. However, some would consider them to be dual purpose.
Many attest to them being a very delicious source of meat. Not to mention it can sell for $20 a pound!
Nigerian Dwarf goats are considered a quiet breed as far as noise is concerned. This makes them a good candidate for more urban farms in populated neighborhoods.
In our experience, our goats make a decent amount of noise when it's feeding time. As long as you keep to a regular feeding schedule I would see no issue with these goats in a more urban setting.
I will note that when Groot was young (2 months) he was very vocal. I expect this is typical of goat kids.
Many refer to Nigerian Dwarfs as friendly, calm, and even quiet goats.
Our goats have become very friendly with us and would do well with children or elders with consistent exposure. Our goats are so used to the two of us that they become shy and skittish around newcomers.
However, they are very friendly and when friends and family crouch down with a handful of treats they all happily walk over for a snack.
In our experience, our Nigerian Dwarfs have never been aggressive towards us. In fact they do exceptionally well with our cattle dog as she learned to herd them into the barn.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are recommended to have 135 square feet of space to run and play each day for a happy and healthy goat.
In our experience, we have a 110 foot x 55 foot pen for our 3 goats and it is a large space. They very much enjoy running around and our favorite past time is watching them have the zoomies after din.
As far as shelter space, being in a colder climate and with smaller goats we have 30 square feet, and we feel we could comfortably fit an additional goat in there as they often snuggle and we are utilizing vertical space for their sleeping accommodations.
Our small barn is secure from predator's and limited drafts, but still is unheated. We did not have any issues with this, even in extreme weather.
Goats need enough space for shelter, grazing, enrichment, and a feeding station for supplementary food.
The generally accepted guideline is that one acre can sustain 6 to 8 goats. By the same ratio, this means 3 to 4 goats on half an acre, and up to 12 to 16 goats for two acres.
If you have limited acreage then supplementing feed become increasingly important. The less area you have for them to graze, the more hay and pellets are needed to meet their daily food requirements. See below how we have handled this on our own farm.
Are They Right For You?
Nigerian Dwarf goats can be a suitable option for beginners due to their hardiness, friendly personalities, and general ease to raise.
Ultimately the purpose of the goat is a key factor in this decision. Nigerian Dwarf Goats are strong milk producers and can breed year round, but and they are not optimal for meat production.
If you are looking to add a goat that produces an abundance of milk and kids, or is great for children and elders then Nigerian Dwarf goats may be for you!
On the other hand, if you are looking for a meat goats or a standard sized goat, it may be worth considering other breeds.
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