If you’re thinking about getting Nigerian Dwarf goats, then it’s a good idea to identify your purpose for getting goats first.
New goat owners sometimes jump in and buy too many goats of the wrong type or breed when getting started. Then, they 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 owning goats. Then, purchase a couple of high-quality goats that satisfy that purpose. This allows you to ease into goat ownership with less stress. If you have fun and enjoy your first goats, then you can always expand the herd later.
When choosing your first goats, there are a number of decisions to make before acquiring them. First, you need to decide what breed and sex of goat will meet your goals (continue reading for help on that) and then whether they will be registered or unregistered (see Registered or Unregistered). If choosing registered goats, it’s important to learn how to read a dairy goat pedigree (see How To Read A Dairy Goat Pedigree). Next, choices need to be made concerning horns (see Getting Dairy Goats – Disbudded, Horned, or Polled), feeding (see Getting Dairy Goats – Dam or Bottle Raised), milking (see Hand or Machine Milking), and more.
As a breed, Nigerian Dwarf goats (see HERE for a brief history) are becoming extremely popular because of their small size, terrific-tasting milk, easy-care, and friendly personalities. The table below, which is compiled from the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) registration numbers, clearly illustrates how quickly their popularity is growing. In just ten years, they have gone from being relatively unknown to the most popular dairy goat breed!
The Nigerian Dwarf goat has become the most popular dairy goat breed in recent years because of their many positive attributes. Still, it’s important to select the right type of goat when making your first selections so that they will meet your expectations. That typically means starting with does (female goats) or wethers (neutered male goats) rather than bucks (intact male goats).
The first thing to remember is to start small with high-quality goats and keep it manageable. Then, select the type of goats that will meet your goals. Whether your goal is to have a pet, a livestock project, milk, or eventually breed goats, the information below can help you decide whether to choose does, wethers, or maybe even bucks.
Goats are herd creatures, so they need a companion or they become quite unhappy. Therefore, you will need some combination of at least two unless the goat is intended as a companion to another species such as a horse or llama.
If you want Nigerian Dwarf goats for pets, then purchasing a couple of young wethers makes a lot of sense. Wethers do not experience the hormonal swings of does or bucks. If well socialized, they make the sweetest, friendliest goat pets around.
Even the best breeders have excess wethers available every year, so they are very affordable at around $100 each. By picking them up young 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 for a child’s livestock project (4H or Future Farmer’s of America [FFA]), then purchasing a doe or doeling (young female goat) and wether might be a good way to start. It depends on the area of the country in which you live and what registry 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 reserve them early rather than waiting until spring after goat kids are born because, by then, they are usually promised to another buyer. Each spring, we get calls and messages from parents looking for good quality doelings or wethers for children’s livestock projects but we are unable to help them because all our goat kids are reserved. I suggest beginning your search in fall since that is when breeders normally plan and publish their breeding schedules.
For those wanting the incredible milk produced by Nigerian Dwarf goats, then purchasing two good quality doelings might make sense. By bringing them home just after weaning or as bottle babies, you can ensure that they are well socialized as they grow. Additionally, you will have time to learn to care for them before needing to learn about breeding, freshening, and milking.
Many of the quality doelings from great milking lines are reserved months before they are born, so it’s important to reserve early. The downside of this approach is that you will have to wait at least a year and probably two while the doelings grow up before you can get that terrific milk.
For those wanting the milk immediately, one approach 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 freshening right away. You will still have to learn how to milk and care for the mature doe, but will enjoy the benefits that go along with raising your own doeling. Finding a doe and doeling for sale from great milking lines can be difficult, so this is a strategy that may take time to execute.
Another approach for those wanting milk is to buy two does in milk. Again, you get immediate access to the milk and finding great quality older does is sometimes easier than finding younger stock. Many breeders are trying to make room for their most promising doelings and make the decision to part with some older does. Often, these older does are of terrific quality, but because there is only so much room on each farm, some of them are sold.
I usually don’t recommend starting with a buck. Bucks don’t make milk, are not good pets, smell awful during mating season, and have some atrocious habits (as judged by humans). 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 recommend getting a buckling (young intact male goat); so that you can learn to love each other as he grows and before he becomes “fragrant.”
There are many reasons for getting goats other than those listed above and suitable combinations of does, wethers, and even bucks. Whatever the reasons, it’s usually best to start with just a couple of good goats to keep it enjoyable as you learn.