If you'd like some caprine company but don't want full-size goats, consider raising Nigerian dwarf goats. Because these small goats generally have good temperaments, they're fine in mixed herd situations, living with larger goats or sheep. They're also compatible turned out with bovines and equines, including donkeys. If you have a llama or alpaca on your farm, Nigerian dwarf goats make suitable companions.
Nigerian Dwarf Goat Feeding
Grass hay forms the basis of goats' diets. If you have access to pasture, it can make up the bulk of your goat's nutrition. The Nigerian Dairy Goat Association recommends contacting your county agricultural extension office to determine whether your pasture soil has any mineral deficiencies or excesses, which will be reflected in the grass' nutritional content. On the basis of any deficiencies, you can provide your goats appropriate commercial goat feed containing the lacking minerals, or you can administer specific supplements. Nursing does, in particular, require commercial feed. Your goats must always have access to clean, fresh water.
Nigerian Dwarf Goat Housing
Because these goats are so small, you don't need a barn or shed to keep them if you only have a few. A large dog house will do the trick for a buck, a whether or a doe without kids. A doe with kids will need a larger shelter that's draft-proof. Nigerian dwarf goats usually give birth to multiple kids; three, four or even five kids per pregnancy are not uncommon. Bed down the houses or goat pens with straw, cleaning them daily.
If you breed a Nigerian dwarf for dairy production, you'll have to hand-feed the kids rather than allow them to nurse from the doe. Make sure the kids receive the doe's colostrum within 24 hours after birth, or provide them with commercial colostrum from a bottle. After that, feed commercial milk replacer at least four times daily until they are approximately 1 month old.
At a week of age, start giving your kids commercial starter grain to aid in rumen development. Goats have three forestomachs, with the rumen the largest, and one "real" stomach. The rumen converts food into nutrients, but it is underdeveloped in the first few weeks of a specimen's life. By the age of 3 weeks, you can start giving Nigerian dwarf kids grass hay or you can allow them to graze.
Because Nigerian dwarf goats mature early, you'll have to keep male and female kids apart early on. Males can reach sexual maturity as early as age 7 weeks; females are ready to breed by the age of 4 months.
Goat Fencing, Fixtures and Fun Time
Even though Nigerian dwarf goats are small, they are still goats. That means they are natural-born escape artists. You'll need fencing they can't slip under or climb over. To keep them safe from predators, install wire-mesh fencing designed with goats in mind. For extra safety, install electric wire along the inside of the fence, keeping the voltage at a minimum of 4,500 volts.
Provide your goats fixtures to climb and jump on, and caprine toys. While an old picnic table, a cable spool or a small outbuilding can make a fine climbing apparatus, too near the fence it can become accomplice to your Nigerian's escape. Large balls marketed for ponies, or tubes big enough for a Nigerian dwarf to pass through, are good choices for entertainment and stimulation.
Goats require regular hoof trimming. Trimming frequency varies from goat to goat, but those living in pastures usually need trimming less often than goats kept in small pens. Figure on arranging a trimming at least every two months. Have an experienced trimmer do the actual trimming. Handle your Nigerian dwarf goats' feet regularly, so the occasional trims aren't traumatic and so you'll notice any hoof issues or diseases right away.
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