Are you thinking about getting some Nigerian Dwarf goats as a homestead addition? I think new goat owners sometimes jump in and buy too many goats of the wrong kind when getting started. Then they quickly become overwhelmed or disappointed, and end up selling their goats rather than enjoying them.
A better approach is to carefully identify your main purpose for wanting Nigerian Dwarf goats, and then purchase a couple of high-quality goat kids that will allow you to ease into goat ownership. Typically, that means starting with doelings or young wethers, rather than does or bucks. If you have fun and enjoy those first goats as they grow, then you can always expand the herd later. The breed is very prolific.
Goats are herd creatures, so they always need a companion. I won’t sell a single animal unless they are going to a home where there are already companion goats or other animals. So, the first thing to realize is that you will need some combination of at least two, unless the goat is intended as a companion to another species (such as horse, lama, etc.).
If Nigerian Dwarves are wanted for pets, then purchasing a couple of young wethers (neutered males) makes a lot of sense. Wethers have none of the hormonal issues of does or bucks, and if well socialized, make the sweetest, friendliest goat pets around. Breeders typically have excess wethers every year, so they are very affordable (around $100 each). By picking them up young just after weaning or as bottle babies, you can ensure that they are well socialized as they grow up.
Child’s Livestock Project –
If the goats are wanted for a child’s livestock project (4H or Future Farmer’s of America (FFA)), then purchasing a doeling and a wether may be a good way to start. It depends on what area of the country you live in, and what registry regularly holds shows in your area. Many registries do not include shows for wethers (and there are very few shows for bucks), making it necessary to purchase a doe or doeling for a child’s livestock project. It’s important to check on the registries and rules in your area before deciding what to purchase. If you are planning to purchase a doeling and wether, it’s a good idea to get on a reservation list with a breeder rather than waiting until spring after goat kids are born. Each spring, I get calls and messages from parents looking for good quality doelings or wethers for children’s livestock projects, but I’m unable to help because our goat kids were reserved prior to birth (here’s our kidding schedule & reservation list for 2016).
Milk Production –
For those wanting the incredible milk produced by Nigerian Dwarves, then purchasing two good quality doelings might make sense. Again, by bringing them home just after weaning or as bottle babies, you can ensure that they are well socialized as they grow, and you will have time to learn to care for them before needing to learn about breeding, kidding, and milking. However, many of the quality doelings from great milking lines are reserved months before they are born, so it’s a good idea to get on a reservation list early. The downside of this approach is that you will have to wait at least a year and maybe two while they grow up before getting that terrific milk.
Another approach for those wanting the milk immediately, is to purchase a doe in milk and her doeling. This gives you the benefit of immediate milk without having to deal with breeding and kidding right away. You will have to learn how to milk and care for the mature doe, but you also get milk and the benefits that go with raising your own doeling. Finding a doe and doeling from great milking lines can be difficult, so this is an strategy that sometimes takes time to execute.
Bucks Later –
I don’t recommend starting with a buck. Bucks don’t make good pets, are very smelly during mating season, have some atrocious habits (as judged by humans), and don’t make milk. Unless you are absolutely sure that you want to breed Nigerian Dwarf goats, I wouldn’t start with a buck. Even if you do want to get into breeding, I would recommend getting a buckling – so that you can learn to love him as he grows and before he becomes fragrant.
There are obviously many other options and combinations for starting with Nigerian Dwarf goats other than those listed above, and the best option depends on each individual situation. However, the important thing to remember is start small and keep it manageable.