In West Africa, the pygmy goat was part of daily life ..providing meat and milk. It was called a West African Dwarf (WAD). In the 1930’s to the 1950’s and later, these goats were captured and sold as feed for large cats in US zoos. Some survived and became added attractions at some zoos.
Goat breeders started noticing the ones who survived, especially those that developed stronger characteristics of dairy goats. A few dedicated goat breeders subsequently developed a new breed of dairy goat, the Nigerian Dwarf.
The Nigerian Dwarf goat has also been enjoying a rise in popularity in the past 10 years or so due to their small size (no more than 75 pounds and 21″ in height), colorful markings (a Kaleidoscope of browns, whites and blacks), dairy characteristics (these little guys produce excellent tasting milk) and their calm, friendly temperament.
Many backyard or urban goat owners choose Nigerian Dwarves because of their small size. Their gentle nature and friendly personalities make them a natural as pets, 4H projects and micro dairies.
Healthy Nigerian Dwarf goats can live up to 15 years. However, Does in production may only live about 10 years due to complications in birthing. Bucks used to breed the Does, often live an average of 10 years, due to the stress of not being able to have free access to those pretty little does in heat.
If you are thinking about breeding, Nigerian Dwarf Goats go into heat, on average, every 21 to 28 days. The heat cycle lasts 1-3 days. Unlike many animals, they can get pregnant all year round. With an average gestation time of 5 months, Therefore they can be bred all year round. A word of caution, however. If you don’t want to be a midwife in January, plan accordingly. Most owners separate the does and bucks until they want them to breed (hence the shortened life span of the buck).
Nigerian Dwarf does produce one to two quarts of milk a day and can produce milk for up to 2 years if she does not get pregnant again. The milk is high in butterfat (6-10%) and makes excellent cheese (we make feta cheese), and Kefir (a drinkable yoghurt).
How smart are these lovelies? They are the smartest of the ruminants.
- Follow a person’s gaze or pointed finger to a hidden treat
- Differentiate between me with a hat or without
- Learn simple tricks with hand gestures
- Wear a pack and follow without a lease
- Respond to their names individually
- Remember a certain plant made them sick and not eat it in future years.
- Self plan routes to get to food that first take them away from that food
- Open a doorknob with their mouth
- Open a carabiner clip
- Show a fascination with mirrors