Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Argument for Small Goats?

Hey there readers, this isn't so much a post as it is a question? What is the argument for dwarf breeds of goats? I know that sounds aggressive, but please do not take it as a challenge. I want to know the advantages of Nigerian or Pygmy goats vs full sized goats? I understand Nigerians have a higher butterfat concentration and take up less space. I know some people just want a pet goat. But as someone who has kept a breeding pair of full-sized Alpines for years I can't imagine being all set up goat, dairy, and breeding work for a third of the milk? Just this morning I got a gallon and a half from my girls. I kept a pail for the house (strain and chill for soap making and drinking) and the rest want to pour over the pig chow and add fat and flavor to their meal. I'll milk again later and get roughly 2/3rd that amount of milk and maybe make some cheese? That adds up to a lot of payback from just two animals. From what I understand Nigerians offer very little milk and have very small teats? So unlike the comfy full-hand fast milking of a large goat you have to have a dog grooming table and three fingers to milk them?

So small goat people, explain yourselves. Drop some knowledge!


Blogger Preciouspeas said...

I just purchased two Nigerian Dwarf goats, a buck and a doe in milk. While her teats are considerably smaller and harder to milk and her milk production is only 2 lbs. a day, she is perfect for our farm. Her milk is absolutely creamy and for a family who won't drink goat milk, it's perfect for my soaps and lotions I make. I have a full size Nubian and she is pushing 120 lbs. This is hard for me to handle when she doesn't follow the routine. I had difficulty breeding her last year also and the numerous trips to the breeder wore on me. My little Nigerian buck should work out nicely this year, possibly for the Nubian and the Nigerian. Size was a big consideration. I wanted something smaller that I could pop in the back part of my mini van if I needed to get it to the breeders or vet in a hurry. Can't do that with a Nubian. I think if you are looking for quantity in milk, then a full size goat is the way to go.

May 24, 2017 at 10:19 AM  
Blogger ApplethornFarm said...

Poor quality Nigerians (which unfortunately abound) do indeed give a pathetic amount of milk, as well as having very small teats. However, high quality, well-bred Nigerians consistently milk 1/2 to 3/4 a gallon a day, and have decently sized teats. So having a well bred Dwarf becomes worth it when you can keep them in such small spaces, you get a fair amount of milk for something that size, and you get a butterfat content that peaks at 10% (Alpines average 3% - 4%).

May 24, 2017 at 10:36 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I started out with two Nigerian Dwarfs. The high butterfat content appealed to me most. I had also never worked around "larger" livestock (just chickens and ducks) so I felt less intimidated by the smaller goats to start. I also wasn't sure if we needed TOO much goat milk (I don't have pigs to feed the excess too, etc.). So I bought a Nigerian mama in milk along with her doeling. She wasn't trained to a milk stand, and I had never milked before so needless to say our first year was quite a learning curve! She just freshened again on May 1st and this year is going MUCH better for us. Milking her is challenging -- I have to use only my thumb, forefinger, and middle finger and tuck my ring and pinkie fingers back out of the way so they don't get in the milk. I'm getting about 1.25 to 1.5 quarts out of her daily now (this is her 3rd freshening).

After my first year (last year) milking a Nigerian, and after my kids joined 4-H and I got more exposure to other goat breeds, we decided to expand our flock with two LaManchas. They'll be bred this fall for the first time to freshen next year. I'm anxious to taste the difference (or lack thereof) in their milk, and to see how much easier it will be to milk a full size dairy goat.

For us, the smaller goats were kind of a baby step into larger livestock. I talk about selling the Nigerians sometimes but our girls do have such sweet personalities that I'm kind of attached. So I suppose we're stuck with 3 of them, haha. (We're retaining one of the does born this year, as well as the doeling from last year, and our original mama.)

I will say when we just had 2 Nigerians, one square bale of hay could last us FOREVER. Now with 2 full grown LaManchas and 2 full grown Nigerians, I go through hay like crazy. I never worked out the hay/grain to milk ratio though (because my LaManchas haven't freshened yet).

Now pygmies on the other hand ... our 4-H leader has a whole bunch of them, and I just don't see what she likes about them! They're cute but their teats seem even tinier than the Nigerians! Hers are just pets, but I guess they make descent small meat goats? I don't know. I've had to help her wrangle her pygmies at the fair before, and they are feisty little things too!! Wouldn't be on my list of breeds I'd want, personally.

- Amanda at

May 24, 2017 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Guys thank you so much for this information!

May 24, 2017 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger sash said...

But your first statement is not a question.

May 24, 2017 at 1:37 PM  
Blogger elsie said...

I haven't had full sized goats, so I am no expert. My Nigerians will produce a half gallon a day and I get about two pounds of cheese per gallon of milk. IN addition to the benefits listed above, I would add that Nigerians cycle for a longer time than larger breeds, so if you want a more consistent supply you have more options for breeding. Mine cycle through the winter and in to spring so if I wanted fall babies and milk that is an option. They also have multiple births. The five pregnancies here have produced seventeen babies. Which is good if you have a market for them. Also, I live in the city and our ordinance says that goats must be under a hundred pounds. I wouldn't bother with pygmies for production, but well bred Nigerians could fill a gap in your production year that is worth your while.

May 24, 2017 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger Juniper said...

The argument for smaller animals generally is thriftiness from a certain perspective. As in you get a high (or higher depending on who you ask) milk to feed ratio than with a larger animal, you just need to own more goats to achieve the numbers you want.

I have Nigerians and Oberhaslis. The little does are charming, and easier to manage with respect to not being as able to leap fences and you can easily just pick them up when you need to. Visitors are not intimidated by them and they have really sweet personalities. Some people find them easier on the hands to milk. Like any smaller animal their hooves cause less damage if you dealing with delicate ground. And they seem very hardy, ours appear hardier than the Obers.

Of course from a financial perspective, locally they actually cost more than full size goats, so a start up of several Nigerian Dwarfs would not be practical for many. But with the money to invest you can make more from breeding them as demand is high (at least where I live) and the wethers can be sold for pets and thus retain a higher value. Around here you might struggle to even give away your full size breed bucklings as demand for breeding bucks is limited and goat meat is unpopular. Nigerians also seem to have bigger kiddings. Whereas Ober breeders typically expect 1-2 kids, ND breeders can often expect 2-4 kids per doe, I have even known of them have 5.

Personally I love miniature livestock breeds. I don't think they are better or worse than full size, the trade offs are just different ones, but I definitely don't think they are the useless lawn ornaments some people dismiss them as.

May 24, 2017 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Justine said...

If you purchase well bred goats you get more milk to feed ration and yes the fat content is usually higher... I have a mini saneen and a mini lamancha they are easily handled and require less space and smaller fences.... having had a cow and large dairy goats and medium to small goats I perfer the miniature breeds... but it's all about temperament too.... if you are happy with what you have then awesome stick with it! But I like feeding half the amount t to my goats and getting a bit less milk... plus higher fat means more butter when separating out the cream 😉

May 25, 2017 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Pamela said...

I have 2 Nigerian does but I grew up with full size Nubians so I have experience with large and small goats. Mine come from great milking lines and they produce all that I would need. (Milk for myself, cheese and soap making) I don't have a surplus to deal with and I don't have pigs to feed, but the chickens love the whey. I am small boned with small hands so they are a perfect match for me plus I'm older and my bones are not what they once were so the smaller size is safer for me to deal with. They eat less, take up less space although space is not an issue for me with 12 acres, they are less destructive and they are much quieter that the Nubians I grew up with. The milk is outstanding, I will take quality over quantity any day when it come to milk, it never goes to waste! The only thing they seem to produce in quantity is kids!!!! Now, pygmy goats I have no clue, not great milkers and not much meat if you go that way. I always think of those as pets rather than livestock. Maybe someone can clue me in on those. And then there are the beautiful Pygora fiber goats for the spinners and weavers among us, a great match for the mini livestock crowd. I keep Mille Fleur D’uccles Bantams too...... go figure! I think I just like smaller food portions. LOL The down side is they are crazy expensive to buy in some areas, the up side is that you can make your money back on the purchase with the kids. I'm in the same camp as Juniper, I personally love miniature livestock breeds :)

May 25, 2017 at 9:33 AM  
Blogger Pamela said...

Two more things since I just did this is hoof trimming and bolusing. Much easier with the little ones.

May 25, 2017 at 10:06 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I agree with you Jenna, on my homestead I have Lamancha does....i have been breeding them for many years and get roughly 2 quarts a day. I milk only 1 time a day. With training and lots of attention my girls are let out of their pens and head straight fornthr milk barn, they load up on their own and patiently wait for me to get there (I don't run as fast as they do) I also take the opportunity to groom them after the milking. I have had the smaller breeds here before a long time ago, I choose not to have them again fornthr simple reason.....1 their teets are to small for me to handle.....2 not enough milk.....

May 29, 2017 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Rosie said...

I recently purchased three mini nubian wethers for brush clearing, but hope to get a mini nubian doe for dairy purposes later this year (my first! and definitely all encouraged by this blog). The boys are sweethearts and I am really enjoying the breed.

From what I understand, this "mini" breed will consume about half the feed of full-sized nubians, but produce about 3/4 of the milk making them a very economical option and a great choice for a homesteader. However I can't speak to all of that for certain until I get a milker myself :) And although they are "minis" they are still a good deal bigger than nigerians and I imagine a little easier to maneuver for milking purposes.

July 15, 2017 at 6:03 PM  

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