Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

for people who love the littlest dairy goats

I was just speaking with a lady that has nigerians. She said that her nigies give 1 quart each a day. Is this average? I thought it was 2 quarts a day? We are a family of five and can only afford two goats. We are wanting to make sour cream, cream cheese, kefir, motzarella, chevre', brie, and have milk for cereal. Maybe I need a mini breed? 

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When people say that NDs average a quart a day, that means over the course of the lactation. A lot of them will peak at 2 quarts a day, but that is also when they have kids nursing. Better milkers will peak at 3 quarts a day.

If you are saying that you can only afford to feed two NDs, then you probably should not get a bigger goat because they're more expensive to feed. Keep in mind that any goat needs about a pound of grain (or equivalent protein) to produce 3 pounds of milk -- in addition to the food they need for body maintenance. Doesn't matter whether it's a ND, a mini, or a standard goat. So, although a bigger goat gives more milk (usually), it also eats more. I added "usually" in quotes because there are plenty of big goats that don't even produce as much as a ND. If you look at ADGA DHI records, there are standard goats that produce less than some of my NDs, and they eat more because they have a bigger body to support. This is why it's really important to buy from someone who milks their goats and keeps records.

The main thing that NDs have going for them is their butterfat. I got rid of my la manchas because they were not producing much more butterfat than my NDs, and they were eating twice as much. Because we use almost all of our milk to make cheese, the la mancha milk wasn't worth much to me because it was essentially "watered down," which meant it had a much lower cheese yield -- typically 1/2 as much cheese as I'd get from the same amount of ND milk.

by afford i don't mean that we wouldn't be able to get mini breeds if it is true that they eat half of what a full size would. I'm finding it hard to make an informed decision with all of the conflicting information.  I want to do things right the first time.  How much milk do you use compared to your families size?


Just making sure you caught what Deb mentioned at the end of her post above.

Because of their high butter fat content, ND will produce up to twice as much butter, cheese, etc. for every pound of milk they produce than their other goat counterparts. So in a very generalized nutshell, if you had a nubian that produced 2Q of milk, and an ND that produced 2Q of milk, you would get more cheese, etc. from the ND's same 2Q of milk, and have only paid for 1/2 as much feed.

When you're talking about living creatures (people and goats), there is not one right answer. If you buy a cheap standard goat at the sale barn, it might produce less milk than a well-bred ND, but if you're buying kids, which most people do, then you are buying genetic potential. You look at the mother's milk record and the father's mother's milk record, and if they both look good, then you hope the kid got those genetics and not some weird throw-back from three generations ago that could barely produce enough to feed two kids. And then you have to remember that first fresheners do not produce as much as they will during their second or third lactations, so milk production varies from year to year. It's great that you want to do things right the first time, but very few people wind up happy with the first goats they buy, mostly because they don't buy very good quality goats. If you want milk goats, you need to buy from someone who milks their goats and has milk records. You will get a much better idea of what to buy if you do that because breed averages and ranges can be huge and not at all representative of a single goat in that breed.

Also, unless you are willing to have goats shipped or drive a long distance, you need to know what is available in your area. You may only have one or two choices of breed or herd.

As for humans ... I'm sure your family is unique, so you can't decide what to do based upon what works for another family. We usually milk about 10 NDs, and although we drink very little milk, we make 100% of our cheeses, yogurt, and buttermilk.

Yes Rachel, I guess I did overlook the last part, thank you! That helps alot.


Deborah, I understand that I can't go off of what another family does, but I do believe that it might give me a good insight that I don't already have. My goal is to make all of my own dairy products as well. However, I can't afford ten goats. How big is your family? I might be able to strech to three.

You're right about there not being any right answer about living things. Because they are living things I want to make sure that once i get them I will keep them and wont have to start over. I've done my research over and over again. Every time I think I get it figured out it seems like something contradicts what I learned in a major way. 

As far as what is in my area, it's very limited as we are in a remote area (Alaska). Shipping is always an option when you live in Alaska, lol! There are some nigerian breeders up here. There aren't any mini breeds that I can find! The search engine brought two up, but they don't breed anymore. I've serched through the associations and local goat groups.

I believe that things will work themselves out. I am just a little frustrated. I really appreciate you imput. Thank you, both of you, for answering my questions.

One of the nice things about Nigerians, is that space wise, they don't take a lot of space. If shipping is an option for you, here's what I would do.

I would save my money, and purchase the best bloodlines I could. If I could get my hands on one, I'd buy a bred doe from those lines, and hope to be able to keep a doeling from that pregnancy. It's a cost effective way to get the kind of lines you want, and to get a good start by having a doe that is in milk right off the bat, rather than having to wait until your babies are old enough to breed.

Speaking of breeding, keep in mind, that you will need access to bucks for that. If Nigerians are available for breeding, you might be wise to ship unrelated bloodlines in, so that your options for buck services are good. Be sure too, that you can actually USE the bucks near you.

I see what your saying, and it sounds like a good idea but wouldn't it be bad for the goat if I bought just one doe? Or do you think she'd be okay until she kids? She'd also have to fly, would she be okay flying while pregnant?

Being a single goat isn't ideal, but if it were only for a month or two, I don't think it would make such an impact that it would hurt a goat. Especially if you must stick to two goats. If you can get three, you might purchase a pregnant goat with a companion, and keep one kid. Talk to the breeder you end up choosing about bundling. There are breeders that will reduce the total cost when you "bundle" your purchase.

I have a doe that would be fine being moved/shipped while she was pregnant. I would avoid it when she got within 3 weeks or so of her due date. I think it depends on the goat, so trust the breeder you choose to be able to help you with that. If you get a bred doe a couple months into a pregnancy, and their personality is good for such a move, I think it can be done with minimal risk.

One last thing about NDs and milk quantity-  because their milk is SO rich, we have in the past watered it down significantly in the fridge for cereal type purposes and found it was almost like normal milk that way.  Not something most people do, but it will get you more milk for your buck :)  When we did that we boiled the water, chilled it and then added it to be sure we weren't adding anything wanky to the milk since it was raw.

My breeder would *not* sell me a single doe who was going to be kidding.  I thought two or three weeks wouldn't matter but after being around them, I totally understand why she would not.  She felt so strongly about it she practically gave me the second goat because I just could not afford full price for two.

As for breeds, once you understand what NDs  can do for you milkwise, I don't think you will ever be happy with any other breed.  I used to make ice cream with goat milk, then after the first batch with ND milk, I did *not* ever buy the regular goat milk again.  Until I found a source to purchase, I would save my doe's milk for enough.  The past few months, I have driven 70 miles round trip each week for ND milk when I could have bought other right here in town; I did this so I could go cheese crazy.<g>  The cheese is incredible as well.  I saw what someone made from a gallon of goat milk as compared to what I made with ND milk; I got at least 30 percent more cheese.  I cannot imagine if you have two NDs from good lines milking, you would not have enough milk for your family.  Even at the gallon or two a week I have been buying, I keep me and my son's family supplied with ice cream and cream cheese and ricotta as well as a close friend.

Watching my girls, I will say never, ever have a single goat for even a day or two.  It is just horribly stressful on them.  I can even imagine a pregnant doe might lose her baby(ies).

Now that I have been around them and see how they behave when separated, I feel strongly enough about it that I would never sell a single and have told my sister to *not* buy a single.  I told her no responsible breeder would sell a single goat to someone who did not already have some.

As for milk richness, I'm willing to bet I could add 10-15 percent water to my ND milk and have as much milk as a full-size breed; it's that much richer and you would never know water was added by tasting it.

A friend had NDs and decided she could get more milk from full-size.  She makes lots of cheese, etc.  After two years, by pure luck, she was able to buy a small herd of NDs and is re-homing her others.  I think that is telling.  She has many acres so space is not an issue but production mattered to her.

I think there is a huge difference between owning only a single, (which I would never do, or allow when I sell goats) and housing one as a single short term. It isn't ideal, and it would definitely require input from your breeder. I have does that would not be happy as a single for even a day, and others that wouldn't like it, but would live with it alright for a short time. Especially with daily human interaction. Dasha's situation is different too, because of her location. That makes for some creative herd planning.

Dasha, if you're not opposed to using a ND for meat, you might also consider purchasing a wether as a companion for a pregnant doe, and then butchering him once you have babies.

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