Introduction to Nigerians
The Nigerian Dwarf is a small colorful dairy goat. Affectionately called Nigies, these small goats are perfect for someone who wants a milk for a small family or a charming pet.
This is an introduction to the history and care of the Nigerian Dwarf. There are probably as many ways to care for goats as there are goat owners. This is what works for me here at Spiritwind. Other breeders will have other methods.
The Nigerian Dwarf originated in Africa along with the pygmy. Both breeds were first brought to America by zoos. Some of the zoos sold off the extra kids to breeders. At this time all the minature goats were considered pygmies. Soon, some breeders began to realize that some of the animals they called pygmies looked different from the others. They began calling these animals Nigerian Dwarfs.
Nigies were accepted for registration with IDGR in 1982. A few years later AGS also began registering Nigerians. AGS is now the largest registry of Nigerian Dwarfs.
The original registrations were approved by a committee of breeders. They examined the goat to decide if it met breed standards. These foundation animals had an f added to their AGS registrations number. So if your Nigerianís pedigree shows an animal whose registration number ends in f it is one of the foundations of our breed in America.
The Nigerian is a small dairy goat similar in style to the Alpine. The AGS maximum height for a doe is 22.4 inches, for a buck 23.6 inches.
Nigerians are often very colorful, Colors range from white to black with markings such as spots, freckles, belts and patches. There are several popular colors and patterns. Buckskins are dark in the front, usually black or dark brown. The rear is lighter brown, tan, red, or cream. Buckskins often have facial stripes that match the lighter color in the rear. A tricolor is often a buckskin with white masking some of the brown/black pattern. This makes for a white goat with spots or patches of black and tan. Nigerians can also be white, black, red, cream, tan, and orange with or without white. Some common white markings are white caps on the top of the head, freckles or frosting on the nose or at the base of the ears, blazes on the face and sides.
Milk and milking
Nigerians are very good milkers for their size, giving about 1 to 1 ½ quarts daily over a ten month period. Their butterfat and protein percentages are quite high, usually running between 5-8% fat and 4-6% protein. The highest amount of milk given in one day by a single doe is 6.3 pounds, the highest butterfat count is 11.3%.
If you are interested in a doe for milk production look for a well-attached udder with plenty of room for milk. Nigerians can be hand or machine milked. A doe with good udder texture will allow easy milking even if her teats are smaller than full-sized does.
If you plan to milk your doe you must breed her first. Nigerians breed year round, but most breeders seem to prefer spring kids. Nigies can have from one to six kids, but two or three is the usual litter. Nigerians tend to kid easily, usually having no problems, but if a problem arises, there is enough room inside to maneuver.
Bucks can breed at anytime, but during the late summer, into early winter they go into rut. This is the strongest breeding season and it is when their sex drive is at its strongest. A buck in rut stinks. He also has some very objectionable personal habits. Bucks can also be noisy and more aggressive during rut. Since Nigerians are year around breeders you will need a separate place for your bucks so a newly fresh doe doesnít immediately rebreed.
Breed your doeling at any age from seven months on if she is well grown, if she is small it is better to wait a few more months. A good rule of thumb is 7 months and 35 pounds. Does in heat will often wag their tails, vocalize, ride other does, and will sometimes have a slight discharge. Does usually cycle every 3 weeks and are fertile for about 24 hours.
The gestation period for goats is 145-155 days but my Nigerians kid at about 149 days.
Most Nigerians are good mothers and the kids can be raised on their dam. However, bottle raised kids are usually friendlier and easier to handle. It takes a lot of time to socialize dam raised kids.
If you choose to breed do some planning ahead. You will need to find a good buck. You also need to plan what to do with the kids if you arenít going to keep them.
Kids will need to be disbudded sometime between one and two weeks of age. They will also need to be tattooed before they are registered. Most breeders tattoo in the ears. The herd letters go in the right ear and the year sequence goes in the left ear. Some breeders tattoo tails instead of ears.
Nigerians as Pets
The Nigerian Dwarf is ideal for the suburban homestead. Nigies take up relatively little space, and can easily be transported by car in a dog kennel.
If you are looking for a pet try a wether (neutered male). Wethers make excellent pets. They have several advantages over does. Not worrying about heat cycles is one of the advantages. Some does become very noisy during their cycle which can be a problem in more crowded areas. You also donít have to worry about mastitis (udder infection) or uterine infections. Price is another advantage. Wethers are usually much cheaper than does. The other advantage is they don't have the obnoxious odor or habits of bucks. The only real drawback to wethers is the possibility of urinary stones. The risk can be minimized by careful feeding. There also may be some advantage to wethering after eight weeks or so.
If you think you might want to breed or milk your Nigerian some day you need a doe. Does are usually smaller than wethers, but they can be noisy and obnoxious when they are in heat. The other disadvantage is the cost. Does tend to run between $150-$500 depending on the quality.
Do not choose a buck for a pet. Bucks go into rut during the breeding season. They have a very strong odor during this time. They also have some behavioral characteristics that are less than pleasant during this time of year.
Milk should be fed for two months, and then, to assure proper rumen development, the kid should be weaned. Bottle feed 6 oz. of warm pasteurized goat milk three times daily until one month of age. Then, if desired, eliminate the noon feeding and increase the other feedings one ounce per feeding until the kid is getting 9 oz at a time. Do not feed more than 18 oz. daily. If allowed baby goats will drink to bursting! Eighteen ounces daily seems to be just the right amount for fast growth and good health.
Milk, though necessary, is a temporary food, to be given only until the kid is able to eat enough solid food to ensure good growth and development. At two months of age gradually decrease the amount of milk each feeding until the kid is getting about 4 oz. twice a day. The next day only give one bottle of 6 oz. Then decrease the 6 oz. by one ounce each feeding. Usually when I reach 4 oz. that is the last bottle.
The best food for a kid is goat milk. If you do not have access to goat milk you can substitute whole cows milk or a commercial milk replacer. If you use replacer be sue to use a replacer that is powdered milk, not soy powder. If you switch from milk to replacer be sure to do it gradually. Substitute about 1 oz more each day.
Feed good quality alfalfa or mixed grass/alfalfa hay, free choice starting at about two weeks. They hay should be nice and green, soft and leafy, with a nice fresh smell.
Roughage should make up most of your goatís diet. Feed high quality hay and place it in a hay rack to prevent waste and contamination. Provide just enough so that they clean up all you give them, including the stems, but aren't still hungry. An alternate method is free feeding. Set up a feeder so the does can eat what they want, when they want. Make sure the hay will not be contaminated with urine or feces. If you free feed, watch the weight of the does. If they start to gain too much weight you might need to use the first method.
Grain should only be fed if necessary. Usually only milking/nursing does need grain. If the animals is well filled out, roughage should be enough. If the animals is thin feed enough grain to condition her. Start with a handful of grain twice a day, and work up to the amount that your animal seems to need. A milking doe usually needs only about ½ to 2 cups daily depending on her condition, milk production and size. Always increase or decrease the amount of grain slowly. You can use a mixed goat ration or COB (corn, oats, barley with molasses).
Make sure your goat has clean water at all times. While not strictly necessary they do appreciate a bucket of warm water on those cold winter days. If it freezes at your location make sure you break the ice so the goats can get to the water.
Provide a salt block with trace minerals and/or loose mineralized salt. Goats also love to lick baking soda, which helps them digest their grain better.
Special care for bucks and wethers
Because of their different "plumbing", wethers and bucks are prone to bladder stones. These are tiny crystals form in the bladder and are unable to pass through the urethra with the urine. To help prevent the formation of stones, provide a constant supply of water. Some breeders mix about 1/8 cup of cider vinegar per gallon of water. Feed little or no grain. If you must feed grain to help a breeding buck stay in condition add a small amount of ammonium chloride. There is also some research that suggests castrating after 6-8 weeks helps give the urethral process time to develop fully. This may help prevent blockages. There is also some indication that blockages tend to happen more often in some lines than others so check on the history of the line you are purchasing from.
Parasites: Goats can have both internal and external parasites. They arenít usually bothered by fleas, but ticks are an occasional problem. Lice are probably the most common external parasite. These tiny pests are easily controlled by annual clipping, dusting with louse powder, or bathing with flea shampoo. (If you are milking the doe use only an accepted dairy dust and follow the directions carefully.) Internal parasites (worms) are harder to control. Goats can have many kinds of worms, so have the vet do a fecal check, and follow his advice as to type of wormer to use. Most breeders use Panacur, Ivermectin, Safeguard or similar horse wormer, but they are not approved for use on goats. The type of wormer and frequency you need to use it will depend on the conditions in your area. Symptoms of a heavy worm infestation are a rough coat, failure to thrive, pale eyelids, and worms in the stool.
Vaccinations: The most common vaccinations for goats are Clostridium perfringens type C and D (commonly referred to as just C & D.) and tetanus. You can usually get a single shot containing all three called CD&T. Kids are usually inoculated at three weeks with a booster four weeks later. Adults are given annual boosters in the fall, or one month before kidding.
Shots are usually given just behind the elbow over the rib cage. C & D often causes a small shot abscess so donít worry if one appears.
Hoof Trimming: Trim hooves about every six weeks. The most common type of hoof trimmer is the orange handled variety sold at Caprine Supply and several other livestock suppy houses, but any trimmer that is comfortable for you will work. Trim the hoof so it is flat on the bottom. Take off a little at a time until you get used to the procedure. If you go too deep the hoof will bleed. This can be painful and may cause temporary lameness. If it does bleed, use a blood stop powder to control the bleeding.
Problems to watch for
Scours - Loose bowels is probably the most common ailment in young goats, especially while they are being fed milk. There are many things that cause scouring, including changes in management, stress, feeding too much milk, grain or grass, worms, and coccidiosis (a type of parasite).
There are several things you can do to prevent scours:
· Follow feeding directions given by the breeder, and try to feed the same type of feed the kid has been used to. If you have to make changes do it slowly.
· Keep kids away from older animals, since coccidiosis is passed through the manure. Cocci likes warm damp weather, so if you live in an area like that check with your vet for a preventitive that can go in the milk.
· Feed in racks or pans situated so that the kids canít put their feet in them.
· Make changes gradually.
· Worm regularly.
If your goat has loose bowels, you can try human remedies such as Pepto-Bismol or Kayopectate. You can also try live culture yogurt or acidophilus or Probios. If there is no improvement, and/or the scours are bad, you can try Liquid Sulmet, which treats both bacterial infections and coccidiosis. Many breeders use a preventative/treatment like Albon. I donít treat unless the symptoms are severe, persist for more than a couple of days, or if the kid seems to feel sick. I prefer to allow the body to build up its own immunities and heal itself.
Upper respiratory disease: This ailment looks like a cold. Very young kids will often have a slight nasal discharge from the fluids inhaled during birth, which is harmless. If the discharge is thick, or if the animal acts ill, or refuses to eat or drink, or breathes rapidly, you must do something about it quickly. Antibiotics may be needed if the goat is acting sick. Seek professional help, the sooner the better. Again if the animal is acting fine and eating fine I will keep a closer watch, but I usually donít treat if the goat seems to feel fine and is eating well. However, respirtory infections can turn into pnemonia and kill very quickly. Unless you have lots of experience a trip to the veterinarian is your best course of action.
Upper respiratory disease can often be prevented by providing lots of ventilation in the barn and limiting contact with goats from other herds.
Usually goats are very healthy and donít often have anything wrong with them. Feed them correctly, house them adequately, an give them lots of attention, and youíll be rewarded by years of love and fun.
Registering your new Nigerian Dwarf
Many breeders register before the kids are sold so they can control the official name. If your kid has already been registered you will get a full sized certificate and a bill of sale. You will need to send the papers along with the bill of sale to: American Goat Society P O Box 330 Broad Run, VA 20137-0330. Enclose a transfer fee of $2.50 if you are a member, or $10.00 if you are not a member.
If you are not a member, and you plan on registering kids, it is highly recommended that you join AGS. To join, enclose a fee of $15.00 (annual fee), your chosen herd name ($10.00 one-time fee), and your chosen tattoo letters.
If your goat has not yet been registered, you will receive a registration application with her/him. Send this and the bill of sale to AGS with a fee of $4.50 ($10.00 if you are not a member), which covers the registration and the transfer. Make sure you fill out any information required on the application and bill of sale. Also double check for the breeder's signature. You can fill out the rest if you need to, but the breeder must sign the bill of sale and application.
Caprine Supply PO Box Y, 33001 West 83rd St. DeSoto, KS 66018 1-800-646-7736
Hoegger Supply Co. PO Box 331 Fayetteville, GA 30214 1-800-221-GOAT
Farm Supplies, Vaccines, Misc. Equipment
Jeffers PO Box 948 West Plains, MO 65775 1-800-533-3377
Omaha Vaccine PO Box 7228 Omaha, NE 68107 1-800-367-4444
Ruminations 22705 Hwy 36 Cheshire, OR 97419. Phone (541) 998-6081 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org $20.00 per year for 6 issues. Rums is the only magazine dedicated to Nigerian Dwarfs.
United Caprine News PO Box 365 Granbury, TX 76048-0365 Subscription is $17.00 per year for 12 issues. UCN is an all breed newspaper format publication. It covers mostly ADGA news but has some Nigerian ads and one issue per year is dedicated to the miniature breeds.It is increasing coverage of the miniature breeds all the time. This is my favorite general purpose goat publication.
American Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Association. 8090 Mercury Flagstaff, AZ 86004 520-526-8956 Membership $30 per year. ANDDA covers all aspects of milk production in Nigerians. ANDDA is the organization in the forefront of the push to get Nigerians recognized by ADGA.
American Goat Society P O Box 330 Broad Run, VA 20137-0330 AGS is the largest registry of Nigerians. Look under "Registering Your New Nigerian" for more information.