Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

for people who love the littlest dairy goats

My husband and I live on an acreage and are going to be starting our first NDG verture. I have done a lot of reading up on them and am learning all I can.  We will be getting them for their milk to drink and make soap and such with.  We only want 2 or 3. 

What do you do with the babies you don't want to keep?  I know you have to breed them to keep the milk production going but I doubt we will keep all the babies.  Is the market for selling baby goats that big?  I am not interested in eating goat so meat is not an option. 

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Welcome to the group and to the wonderful world of goats! 

The market for pet goats or dairy goats varies from one area to another. Some areas are saturated, while people in other areas have no trouble selling kids. 

Some good news for you -- it is possible to milk a goat for 2-3 years without re-breeding. We've done it quite a few does over the years, and now we're trying to see if we can do it with all of our goats. So far, none of last year's does have dried up yet. In fact, they're all still around a quart a day, which is about average for a ND. 

In your case, I'd suggest starting with 2 does and 2 bucks because bucks and does have to be housed and penned separately. 

On second thought, if you only want two or three goats, I'd start with a doe in milk and her kid. The kid will keep up the milk supply while you're learning. That way you can milk her for a couple of years while you decide if you really want to keep doing this. If you do, then buy two bucks that are unrelated to each other so that if you keep a doeling, she can be bred to the other buck. 

Our experience and understanding is that for Nigerian Dwarf goats, they are only in milk for around 300 days, so slightly less than a year. Some of the standard breeds can be in milk for a couple of years and so maybe something like the mini-nubians would be in milk for a couple of years but I think you get a year from a nigerian.

As far as the market, we have been able to move along our goats in the PNW but this is the first year we did kidding. We have heard from the people that have been breeding for a while that it is a somewhat flooded market but we have felt fortunate to be able to sell what we wanted to sell. And we are definitely of the mindset that dairy goats are not meat goats so we don't sell them to people looking to stock the freezer.

We have been able to milk NDs for two or three years. We had one doe that only ever kidded three times in her entire life. We are now milking all of our does on extended lactations to basically prove it can be done. 

The only does we ever had that dried up early were first fresheners, but we also had first fresheners that we milked for 18 months to two years. We realized the ones that dried up early as first fresheners were not really great milkers in other ways, so they were eliminated from our herd -- usually sold as pets without papers. 

So, yes, there are NDs out there that can't be milked for extended lactations, but there are also NDs out there that can't produce enough milk to feed twins, which is really sad. We started our herd in 2002 when people were serious about them being milk goats, and we bought from herds that were on milk test, so all of our goats came from excellent milking lines, including does that were in the Top Ten milker list. All of my goats have long lines of milk stars on 305-day test. Sadly, now that NDs are the most popular goat out there, there is a lot of bad milking genetics that get passed on, especially with goats that are blue-eyed, spotted, or polled because people are just breeding pets. 

My advice is that if you want to milk your goats you need to buy from a herd that is being milked. The owner either needs to share barn records with you or be on milk test. If anyone says something vague about their goat's milking ability, then they aren't serious. Someone asked me to help them choose a goat once, and the seller said that this first freshener had been giving half a gallon a day for six months. Well, that's just not possible. Obviously they're not really weighing or measuring the milk in any way. 

The 305-day lactation is a commercial invention. It's what commercial dairies do for all of their cows and goats. It basically gives them two dry months per year (last two months of pregnancy). But it has nothing to do with a cow's or goat's ability to milk for an extended period of time. If you breed your goats to kid yearly, they will dry up two months before they're due to kid, so if you breed them to kid annually, then you've locked yourself into that 305-day lactation. 

Another myth based upon commercial dairies is that butterfat is only related to stage of lactation. We were on milk test for eight years and with our does on extended lactations we found that it is actually tied to season. It just so happens that most goats kid in the spring, and their butterfat goes up later in their lactation, which just happens to be in the fall and winter. When we had does freshening in September or October, their butterfat in November and December was just as high as the does that had freshened in the spring. Butterfat goes down in spring and summer and goes up again in the fall and winter when you milk through two or three years. 

If you want goats for milk, buy only registered does from proven dairy lines.
Regarding length of time milking, that will vary from goat to goat.  For first fresheners, I suggest breeding them again in the fall after drying them up early.  However, by the second pregnancy, strive for long term lactation.  All of mine have milked for at least two years.  One girl, who could never be bred again, was well into her third year, still producing nearly a quart a day when I started drying her up, only because my husband was ill and I was too stressed with all the trips back and forth to have the relaxed time with her.  Even then, it took well over a month for her to dry up and then it only happened because I started miking her only when her udder was overly full - her little body just wanted to keep producing milk.  Length of lactation will, of course, depend on the individual goat and her own milking lines.  I am lucky in that mine come from excellent dairy lines as do the bucks to whom they are bred.
Regarding butterfat, the butterfat for my girls ranges from 7 to 10+ percent, usually closer to 10.  Because of the high butterfat, I started sending samples to the lab weekly to see if it changed at different stages of lactation or time of year.  It did not.  Because I live in town, my girls have limited graze so their diet is primarily orchard grass hay (which my breeder had fed) and grain at the milking stand. I only give grain to lactating does.  They also get BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) as part of their bedtime snack. I am not on milk test but I do keep barn records and use a digital scale to weigh the milk.
I have read on one of the groups about a Nigerian Dwarf doe that was in her fifth year of milking.  Because of the performance of my own girls, I have no reason to doubt that.  I truly believe most does can have extended milkings.  Goat owners have bred annually because that was the way it was done - because it was does not mean it needs to be.  Unless you are breeding to sell goats, there is no reason to breed yearly.
Regarding selling the kids, that will depend on your area.  I have had all but one of the boys wethered so they are sold as pets.  The one I retained as a buck was sold to a farm in eastern Oregon.  This spring, I bought one of his daughters from that farm who delivered one doe almost three weeks ago.  Personally, I've not had any trouble selling any of my kids, and I am very fussy about who buys them.
One last thing I will say is that I am adamant that I only breed my does the fall after they have turned one year old in the spring so they are two years old when they kid.  I firmly believe our does need their full growth before they also start growing babies. My view is not popular with many who breed by weight or the fall after they are born.  If I had any doubt, my opinion was cemented for eternity by my first goats, a mother and her yearling daughter.  The growth of the yearling between March and November was very visible.  Because of that, I would never willingly breed a doe until several months after her first birthday.  It is not worth sacrificing her long term health for an earlier kidding.  Because I will be keeping my milking does their entire life, I want that life to be fully healthy and not compromised by premature kidding.  As I said, my view is not popular but I believe it with all my heart.
(I have only Nigerian Dwarf goats and am limited to three by city code.)

So what are some of the breeding lines that have this level of production? There are many breeders who strive for quality, yet I've never before heard that NDG can produce milk for over 305 (ish) days. I would think renowned farms like Old Mountain Farm would be bragging about such an accomplishment. They have like an eight year waiting list. I know there are a lot of people breeding to get cute goats with moonspots and blue eyes. But many are looking for linear appraisals AND milk testing. Did they sacrifice milk production for better conformation and "show" qualities? The other reason for frequent breeding would be DHI. If you only breed every three years you might die of old age before you really reach any goals of improving your farm's lines. 

Do you use supplements? Molly's herbal has "Mo' Milk"but I don't know anyone who has tried it. I think the main ingredient is fennel which I planned to grow in my herb garden anyway.

Our FF was bred in the spring and by the time we bought her in August she was down to two cups a day. This could be largely due to the chaos going on at the farm. They'd had a death in the family and another member with long term illness so milking was skipped some days. She dried up despite twice a day milking late December. We just bought a doe this spring who kidded in January and her production has already dropped considerably. Is there anything I can do to bring it up again? She's from a quality farm and I really respect the breeder.

Glenna Rose said:

If you want goats for milk, buy only registered does from proven dairy lines.
Regarding length of time milking, that will vary from goat to goat.  For first fresheners, I suggest breeding them again in the fall after drying them up early.  However, by the second pregnancy, strive for long term lactation.  All of mine have milked for at least two years.  One girl, who could never be bred again, was well into her third year, still producing nearly a quart a day when I started drying her up, only because my husband was ill and I was too stressed with all the trips back and forth to have the relaxed time with her.  Even then, it took well over a month for her to dry up and then it only happened because I started miking her only when her udder was overly full - her little body just wanted to keep producing milk.  Length of lactation will, of course, depend on the individual goat and her own milking lines.  I am lucky in that mine come from excellent dairy lines as do the bucks to whom they are bred.
Regarding butterfat, the butterfat for my girls ranges from 7 to 10+ percent, usually closer to 10.  Because of the high butterfat, I started sending samples to the lab weekly to see if it changed at different stages of lactation or time of year.  It did not.  Because I live in town, my girls have limited graze so their diet is primarily orchard grass hay (which my breeder had fed) and grain at the milking stand. I only give grain to lactating does.  They also get BOSS (black oil sunflower seeds) as part of their bedtime snack. I am not on milk test but I do keep barn records and use a digital scale to weigh the milk.
I have read on one of the groups about a Nigerian Dwarf doe that was in her fifth year of milking.  Because of the performance of my own girls, I have no reason to doubt that.  I truly believe most does can have extended milkings.  Goat owners have bred annually because that was the way it was done - because it was does not mean it needs to be.  Unless you are breeding to sell goats, there is no reason to breed yearly.
Regarding selling the kids, that will depend on your area.  I have had all but one of the boys wethered so they are sold as pets.  The one I retained as a buck was sold to a farm in eastern Oregon.  This spring, I bought one of his daughters from that farm who delivered one doe almost three weeks ago.  Personally, I've not had any trouble selling any of my kids, and I am very fussy about who buys them.
One last thing I will say is that I am adamant that I only breed my does the fall after they have turned one year old in the spring so they are two years old when they kid.  I firmly believe our does need their full growth before they also start growing babies. My view is not popular with many who breed by weight or the fall after they are born.  If I had any doubt, my opinion was cemented for eternity by my first goats, a mother and her yearling daughter.  The growth of the yearling between March and November was very visible.  Because of that, I would never willingly breed a doe until several months after her first birthday.  It is not worth sacrificing her long term health for an earlier kidding.  Because I will be keeping my milking does their entire life, I want that life to be fully healthy and not compromised by premature kidding.  As I said, my view is not popular but I believe it with all my heart.
(I have only Nigerian Dwarf goats and am limited to three by city code.)

If I could sell kids for $1000 each, I'd be breeding my goats every year. That's why big breeders do not keep milking beyond a year. The money for them is in selling kids. There is no financial incentive for them to do extended lactations. In fact, they'd be losing money if they kept milking beyond 305 days. 

If they have a show herd, they want that fresh udder every spring so that it will be competitive in the show ring. Some people have the crazy idea that the bigger an udder is the better it is. There are sadly very few judges who will actually take off points for an over-full udder. I've seen does dripping milk at some shows because they haven't been milked in 24 hours. After about 4-5 months, they can't really get that huge udder that some judges reward.  

There is no glory in ADGA or AGS in milking beyond 305 days. The numbers will be in their permanent record, but that's it. People on milk test are going for milk stars, and you get nothing extra for going over 305 days. 

Here's the milk record for my doe that only ever had 3 lactations in her whole life:

https://nigeriandwarfdairygoats.com/does/alexandria/

We quit milk testing when she was in the middle of her second lactation, but you can see here how it gets reported officially. 

NO, you do not have to give your goats any kind of herbs to make them milk more. It's all about supply and demand and meeting their nutritional needs and good management (like pasture rotation so they don't have to struggle with parasites). We stopped buying does in 2005, and back when we first started milk testing, our results sucked, to be blunt. None of them got milk stars -- couldn't even get a single day milk star. But turned out we had a problem with copper deficiency and borderline selenium deficiency. When we got that figured out, we saw everything improve, including milk production. So all of our does now go back to those same does that we bought prior to 2005, but their production greatly improved after I learned more about nutrition and management.

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