If you want fresh milk but have limited space for goats, consider one of the smaller or dwarf breeds. Both Nigerian dwarf goats and African pygmy goats have been used for milk production, although the pygmy isn't usually considered a dairy breed.
Nigerian dwarf goats produce around two quarts of milk a day. Pygmies can produce anywhere from a quart to two-thirds of a gallon, with the average being one to two quarts. Both goat breeds produce high-butterfat milk. Nigerian milk typically ranges from 6 to 10 percent butterfat. Pygmy milk ranges from 4.5 to more than 11 percent butterfat. The high butterfat makes the milk taste sweet and not likely to taste "goaty" as soon.
Nigerians generally produce milk for more than 305 days. Pygmies produce milk for a shorter period -- only 120 to 180 days.
Nigerian dwarf does weigh about 75 pounds, compared to an African pygmy doe at around 55 pounds. They're shorter than other breeds, with Nigerians standing 17 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder and Pygmies standing 16 to 23 inches tall at the shoulder. They're both easier to handle than the larger dairy breeds that stand more than 28 inches at the shoulder and weighing well over 100 pounds. Both smaller breeds are easy to handle, even by children.
The Nigerian dwarf and African pygmy are capable of being bred year round, instead of in the fall when most dairy goats come into estrus. This enables the kids to be born and milk production to start -- called freshening -- at different times. If you stagger the breeding of several does, you can ensure a constant milk supply. However, pygmies have shorter lactation times, so you will need more pygmies than Nigerians.
If you're planning on obtaining dwarf milk goats, both the Nigerian dwarf and the African pygmy are good choices. They're both friendly, easy to handle and capable of producing a good quantity of creamy milk while they lactate. Nigerians are lighter boned and come in a variety of colors. Many have blue eyes. Pygmies tend toward agouti, brown (caramel) and black coloring. While these superficial traits don't affect milk production, many people are drawn to one or the other breed.
- Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats; Jerry Belanger.
- Purdue.edu: Common Breeds of Dairy Goats in the US
- National Pygmy Goat Association: Pygmies for all Reasons
- National Pygmy Goat Association: Color Choices for Registration
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