Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats

for people who love the littlest dairy goats

I just discovered this page and wanted to share it with everyone. It includes some really excellent advice on buying goats!

Updated Feb. 16, 2014

Keith Harrell, the breeder who had this website, died a year or two ago, and it just occurred to me that his website would no longer be around. So, I used the web archive to find it and have posted it below so that you can still read his excellent advice.

"Let the buyer beware"
( Caveat emptor is a principle in commerce where the buyer assumes all of the risk. )

New breeders have many hurdles to jump in order to get a good start in goats. My recommendations are that you proceed slowly at first. Learn about the breed and do your homework.  Determine what you want goats for, and proceed accordingly.  


  1. Do not buy from any breeder that does not offer some form of a contract. In the absence of a written contract, the breeder should at the very least offer you a list of terms and conditions related to the sale of animals from their farm, including what you can expect from them, and what your responsibilities are.

  2. DO NOT BE COMPULSIVE ABOUT BUYING!!!! - This is one of the quickest ways for a buyer to get into trouble. Most respected Nigerian Dwarf breeders have a waiting list, especially when it comes to their highest quality stock. These waiting lists can be for months, or even years in some cases, but it is in your best interest in the long run to research and do your homework before making a commitment. If you really want a high-quality Nigerian Dwarf from a respected and ethical breeder you should be willing to wait for what you want. If you do not, you are likely to end up buying from a farm that is the goat equivalent of "puppy-mill" that does nothing but breed goats continuously for nothing more than the money to be made on the kids. Your vet bills after receiving one of these "kid-mill" pets, can make the price you paid in the first place look like cents on the dollar. And, these "kid-mill" goats seldom do anything to advance a breeding program.

  3. BEWARE OF "PUFFING". Puffing is an expression or exaggeration made by a salesperson, or found in an advertisement, that concerns the quality of goods offered for sale. It presents opinions rather than facts and is usually not considered a legally binding promise. Such statements as "this car is in good shape" and "your wife will love this watch" constitute puffing. In the goat world, statements like ...... "Our foundation stock come from some of the highest quality bloodlines available", or "Most of our herd is a product of a Grand Champion Sire and/or Dam", constitute puffing. Even simple terms like "show quality", "excellent udders", "excellent milkers", "excellent bloodlines", etc., can often be nothing more than puffing. Ask the breeder to show you the facts, meaning records.
    If you want SHOW GOATS, only purchase goats from herds that can present you with  performance records of their animals over time. And keep in mind that not all Grand Champions are created equally. Performance in the show ring is as dependant on the competition as it is on the quality of the animal being shown. What I mean by that is in shows where the quality is poor or average, the animal winning Grand Champion may not necessarily be a fine example of the breed. Also, you need to determine the show opportunities in your area. This can determine which registry you should choose your stock to be registered with. (see #9 below)
    If you want DAIRY GOATS, with an emphasis on milk production, then choose your goats from herds with some form of milk records, even if they are simple, unofficial barn records. Herds with official DHI records are preferred. Also, you need to determine the production testing opportunities in your area. Again, this can determine which registry you should choose your stock to be registered with. (see #9 below)
    If you simply want PET GOATS, then your choices will be much easier. My personal opinion is, if you have no interest or intention of milking or showing your stock, you honestly have no business breeding. Simply enjoy your goats as pets... period. NOT EVERY GOAT SHOULD BE BRED.

  4. Demand a breeder that can offer you honesty, support, and success. The breeder should try to help you find the perfect match for your needs. They should represent their animals honestly, without undo puffing, advising you of both good and bad potential of the animal you are considering to purchase. They should be willing to assist you before, during, and after the purchase, offering management tips, showmanship tips, mentorship, etc. 

  5. If you find large herds, let's say herds with more than 25 milkers, which do not exhibit their stock, participate in official milk testing, or operate some sort of dairy or creamery, be very careful that you're not dealing with a "kid-mill". Not to say that all herds that fit this profile are kid-mills, but this is when it becomes extremely important for you to do your homework and not fall prey to puffing. If they don't show their stock, ask how can they determine the quality of their goats. If they are not milking their stock, ask how can they determine the production potential of their goats. These are reasonable questions, and you should be given reasonable, straight-forward answers.

  6. Learn to use the ADGA Genetics website. There you can access existing performance records of animals.

  7. Do not buy from any breeder that refuses access to their farm. Go see the farm. This is the best way to see that the animal you may be purchasing, and its relatives, are raised and cared for in an appropriate manner. The barn should be dry and draft free. It should not smell, have filthy or sick animals running about. If they only want to meet you at the Cracker Barrel parking lot or someplace along the highway and will not let you see how and/or where they keep their animals, that should tell you something.  But also understand that many breeders will only allow visitors at specific times and within a specific area of their barn or home for security and/or bio-security reasons.

  8. Don't be afraid to ask for references. It's easy for any ethical breeder to put you in contact with their veterinarian, or with buyers from the past to see if they are happy. 

  9. There are currently four US registries that maintain herd books for Nigerian Dwarf goats. They are: 
     - the American Dairy Goat Association
    - the American Goat Society
    - the Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association, and 
    .- the International Dairy Goat Registry
    Learn the different registries, and what each allows or offers , and doesn't allow or offer. This can really make a difference if you are interested in milking or showing. AGS registered goats can be shown in ADGA sanctioned shows. Likewise, ADGA registered goats (except Recorded Grades), can be shown in AGS sanctioned shows. Nigerian Dwarves registered solely withNDGA cannot be shown in AGS or ADGA sanctioned shows, and NDGA shows are not offered in many states. There are no shows or production programs for goats registered solely withIDGR  .
    Today, many Nigerian Dwarves are registered with more than one registry. So make sure the registration status of the goats you're thinking about buying is adequate and matches your needs.

  10. Learn what TRUE DAIRY FORM is. Without a clear mental image of what a dairy goat is, you cannot effectively select stock. If you want goats simply as pets, selecting for true dairy form is not so important. However, if you want goats for exhibition or production purposes, you must learn to recognize true dairy form. That said, even if you wants goats primarily as pets, you should either not breed them, or if you do breed them, you should strive to produce the best quality offspring possible. 

  11. Learn what goat titles mean. You'll see titles such as: GCH, CH, MCH, ARMCH, *D, *M, *B, +B, *S, +S, etc.  There are titles that are earned, and titles that are inherited. Some of the titles are earned via exhibition, and some are earned or inherited via production.  Learning what each title means will help greatly in determining the potential of the goat(s) involved.

  12. There is always a story behind adult goats that are offered for sale. Top quality mature goats are seldom offered for sale unless the farm is selling out, or seriously down-sizing. Be warned in advance that there are herds that regularly have herd "sell outs". Although they say they are selling out, they never do, and usually are dumping lesser quality stock, then take the funds raised from the sales and purchase new, hopefully "better", stock for themselves.
    You can occasionally find quality mature does offered for sale. For various reasons, the animal may just not "fit" within that herd's breeding plans any longer. If a quality mature doe is offered for sale, the seller should be able to provide you with a show record and/or milk record for the animal. If no such records exist, then you need to evaluate that animal based purely on what you can see and verify for yourself. Top quality brood does can be worth their weight in gold. So, they don't become available often. If you see a mature doe on the market, do a little research and see if you can find any of her milking daughters out there. GOOGLE is an excellent tool for this research.
    It's not unusual to see mature bucks offered for sale. Again, be careful here. A top quality buck that is throwing desirable traits to his daughters is worth his weight in gold. GOOGLE the buck's name and see if you can find milking daughters. If there are no milking daughters to be found, and if the herd offering the buck for sale has no milking daughters, then you need to be asking questions, both of the seller and of yourself.

  13. Don't purchase goats based simply on herd names. No herd produces only champions. Even the best herds in the country produce "duds" at times. Remember the paragraph above that spoke about "puffing"?.... well, there are herds that will use well known herd names in their relentless puffing. Don't fall for it. Again, look for proof.
    Remember, anyone can purchase a quality goat. It takes knowledge and experience to produce quality animals generation after generation. When you see herds promoting their stock by using other herd names, you should look closely and determine if that herd is riding on the coat tails of others, or are they truly able to produce quality stock themselves.

  14. When buying kids, you can only select for genetic potential. Look for goats with true depth of pedigree. Depth of pedigree is when you have generation after generation of animals found in a pedigree that consistently exhibit the qualities you are seeking to add to your own herd.
    If you do purchase top quality young stock, your management practices are going to determine how that animal grows and develops. 

  15. You may hear people say that the buck is half of your herd. DON'T BELIEVE IT. In my opinion, the buck IS your herd. Regardless of how nice your does are, if you use the wrong bucks, you'll be going backwards instead of forwards in regards to improvement within the herd. Do not settle for anything less than an exceptional buck. He MUST come from outstanding genetics for as many generations as possible. Demand to at least see photographs of both his dam and his grand dams, showing the does in milk. If you don't like those female relatives, don't buy him.

  16. Lots of people are really swayed by pedigrees, especially when that pedigree contains a well known individual animal. Understand how quickly the genes of one or two animals are "watered down" by other individuals within a pedigree. Frequently I see animals that are promoted as being "the grand son of....", or "the half brother to....". These facts may or may not be an attribute the the animal being sold. Let's say you are thinking of purchasing a grand son of "the great so and so". Keep in mind that only a quarter of his genetics come from that "great so and so". While that 25% may be great, it's the other 75% that should be of greater concern in your selection of this animal as brood stock. Within a pedigree, unless there is some significant line breeding, once you go back more than 3 generations, the genetic influence offered by animals in those lower generations is minimal. 

  17. Learn the differences between out crossing and line breeding. Both are valid breeding methods, with value to offer any breeding program. Generally speaking, out crossing is used to bring in a new or desirable trait into a breeding program. Line breeding is used to "fix", or "set" that trait within the breeding program. Basically, line breeding increases the probability that the two copies of any given gene will be identical. That said, line breeding can increase the occurrence of both desirable and undesirable traits.
    In herds with many varied blood lines, and therefore constantly involved in crossbreeding, it can be somewhat of a coin toss as to what the offspring of certain pairings will inherit.

  18. DO NOT SEND ME HATE MAIL for saying this, but if you decide to pursue certain cosmetic characteristics, such as blue eyes, you are going to find that your success rate in breeding top quality goats will be seriously hindered. First and foremost, breed for structurally sound and correct goats, with strong, productive mammary systems. Once you get the structure and mammary systems, then you can add other cosmetic characteristics into your herd, should you so choose.
    I personally do not own any blue eyed goats. I have owned many blue eyed goats in the past. Through the process of selection for structure and mammary systems, those blue eyed genes were fairly quickly eliminated from my herd. Maybe it's just my experience, but I can only say that I found the mammary system genetics within the blue eyed strains to be far too inconsistent for me.

  19. The term "One man's trash is another man's treasure" does not apply with goats. What you purchase today, if it's a cull from someone else's herd, will one day be a cull from your own herd. So why waste the time and money? Buy quality stock in the beginning and you'll never regret it.

  20. Websites with links to goat breeders are very useful. Sites like Goat Kingdom and Cyber Goats can provide you with numerous links to breeder websites, but don't stop there. Search engines like GOOGLE can be your best friend. Just type in the breed of goat you're looking for, and you'll be able to browse websites for days on end. You can also use GOOGLE to research individual animals found within pedigrees.
  21. Use your best judgment and logic. How would you want your new kid(s), or even adult goats, to be treated by a breeder? Find a breeder that meets those expectations, and expect them to offer their advice and mentorship to you. If you find a really good breeder, you may have a friend, as well as a strong, healthy, productive animal, for years to come. 
  22. Remember, you do well what you enjoy doing, and you enjoy doing what you do well.

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Replies to This Discussion

Thank you so much for this post.  I went straight to it and really enjoyed it.  I am sure no one starts out with the very best, so I know I will have lots of room for improvement in my herd.  I believe if we all start out with the best we can get and are honestly happy with them but strive hard to improve them and are above all honest with our buyers then we have done a good job! After all, continual efforts toward improvement is what it is all about, right? I really like the note the article ended with-you do well what you enjoy doing and you enjoy doing what you do well. I think that is the most important part. I have to be honest and say I guess I was puffing up my website. No harm intended, I thought I was just being a good writer and I was super proud of  all my babies. I didn't write anything that was not true and am not trying to sham anyone. As I said I am very proud of my babies and feel they meet my needs just fine. I would not want to say anything that would mislead someone about what they would be getting from me. I will always try to match there needs to an appropriate animal even if it meant sending them to another breeder. If someone is not happy with an animal they get from you the animal will not be happy either and I do not want that. Appreciate you sharing this. It really makes you think.

Congrats, on how well you have handled your unfortunate situation and on your impending schooling. Here's a thought, maybe you could specialize in dairy goats,oh yea!

Deborah Flint said:

This sounds like a horror story but, in the end it was my niavete' and lack of homework that did this. I purchased a four yr old Alpine and her two kids. Loved them on site , buck was of great lineage for both the doe and the two kids, great udder conformation, stance etc. looked healthy enough for a novice. Babies where bottled and where using pasturized milk ( there was my first oppertunity to ask a needed question) . They brought them to my home and delivered them to my barn. Every thing was good for a while.

The milk doe devoloped an udder infection or so we thought. used every treatment possible just dissapeared. The one baby (doeling ) had resp. problems lots of mucus dry cough etc. Found if treated with vicks 2x a day not so bad.

Then I had suprise triplets (sneaky Nigerian buck) and decided that mini-alpines would make a great addition to my herd. I planned on taking  5 of the adults to show in state fair this year to build a reputation and of course brag .

Had the vet come and test because of that and because I had some interest in some of the young ones I had for sale. All three Alpines ended up testing positive for CAE. I notified the people I purchased them from (recieved no response big suprise) I have had them for a year know, and had just bred the doeling. I was frantic with worry . Is the rest of my herd infected? vet said no. How do I handle this? Vet gave me lots of valuable research and then I did some on my own. ok now I am calm and can deal with this effectivly. My herd is safe Everyone is tested befor they are bought or sold and I am keeping the three alpines.

What I am trying to say is ask for recent vet records. Check to see if there is something they might have that could be introduced to your herd in the future. and do your homework. Are you up to having infected seperated from non-infected? can you adjust your schedual for bottle babies etc? According to bio-tech and several other reputable sites only 30% of breeders in America test thier herds for CAE/CL . That leaves 70% that don't And if a herd advertises CAE free ask for recent records (within 6 months)Rumors state there is no such thing as CAE free but, if managed I think there can be.

All of my goats are now going with recent vet checks and copies of paperwork. If they are younger than 9 months I advise all buyers on the chance and let them know I can give them a full refund if that is what they require or I can hold the animal until it is old enough to be tested. Managment is a key in this case and I am now educating, selling, and showing. Oh P.S I was just accepted to Vetrinary school This taught me I wanted to get in the field.

Actually that is my goal .Thanks

thank you for posting this Deborah! I saw you at the mother earth fair in puyallup and that was the first time i had ever considered owning a goat! I have been researching them ever since and have settled on the decision of wanting nigerians, but now am trying to further research the breed and goats in general...since i literally know nothing about them!!!  I have been "stalking" everyone's posts on here to learn more...thanks everyone! :)

Hey Carissa, this is a great place to learn most all of what you need to know. You will love these little things. I have had about every kind of critter you can think of and these are TOPS! It is kind of flattering knowing you have been stalking all of us... for all the right reasons of course... Yea, I could handle someone stalking me any time if it was just to learn. We all love to learn and teach here. I feel safe in saying I speak for everyone when I say, you are welcome, and thank you too! Enjoy!

Welcome to the group! Ditto on everything Margaret said!

Carissa Gillis said:

thank you for posting this Deborah! I saw you at the mother earth fair in puyallup and that was the first time i had ever considered owning a goat! I have been researching them ever since and have settled on the decision of wanting nigerians, but now am trying to further research the breed and goats in general...since i literally know nothing about them!!!  I have been "stalking" everyone's posts on here to learn more...thanks everyone! :)

thank you! :)

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