How To Raise Pygmy Goats


You love goats. Their cute ears, inquisitive yet cheeky looking eyes and the way goats just love to play and frolic has earned them a special place in your heart. You are taken especially by the pygmy goats. So small, charming and mischievous and decide that the pygmy is the goat for you. They originated in West Africa where the pygmy goat was raised primarily as a source of meat. 

Between 1930 and 1960 they were imported to zoos in America primarily because of their docile nature they became an ideal breed for petting zoos for children. Eventually, in 1975 a pygmy goat breeding society was established. If you are looking to raise pygmy goats here is a brief outline of things to consider:

  1. What is your purpose of having pygmy goats?
  2. What is the best feed for your goat?
  3. Are there any health issues to be aware of?
  4. What is the best shelter for your pygmy goat?

Female goats weigh between 50-75 pounds whereas their male counterparts weigh 60-85 pounds with the height at the shoulders of pygmy goats being between 16-20 inches. Therefore their small, stocky size, as well as their friendly nature, makes them an ideal option as a pet.

So many options for raising a pygmy goat

When you consider getting a pygmy goat to raise you may have thought about the different reasons for getting these adorable animals. Maybe you just want them as a companion around your place. Perhaps you are a fan of goat milk and its health benefits in comparison to cows milk. Or, you fancy yourself as a bit of a meat connoisseur and want to raise the goats for their meat. 

Ah, so many choices available to you with the pygmy goats.

Friendship 

If you are after a goat that is cheeky, yet lovable, then you should look at the pygmy goat. It’s a mischevious breed, yet isn’t afraid of humans. However, when it comes to goats, they are social creatures who long for companionship beyond mere human contact. They will find fellow animals to hang out with whether it be a dog, cows, horses or sheep. A rule of thumb when raising goats is to buy at least two (preferably does) so that they don’t feel lonely. 

Goats love to butt their heads and those horns can cause you some pain. Also, the horns can cause your pet goat to get tangled up in fencing when it decides to follow its inquisitive nature. An option you can look at is to have your goat disbudded (have its horns removed). It may sound cruel to have your goat’s horns removed but as a safety precaution for your goat (and yourself). The best time to have your goat disbudded is when they are a kid no older than two weeks of age. You can either disbud the goat yourself (WARNING: the site has graphic step-by-step photos of a goat being disbudded) or get your veterinarian to come and do it for you. 

Your pet pygmy goat can live into its teens (with the average lifespan being between 10-12 years). Though goats are primarily kept outside, there are cases of pygmy goats living in a house. Just make sure that it’s house-trained. Just make sure your prized crockery and possessions are kept out of harm’s way!

Such sweet-tasting milk

Does have the potential to produce 1-2 quarts of milk daily with butterfat falling between a sweet-tasting 4.5% to 11%. The first step to producing a lactating doe is to get her pregnant (pygmy does can give birth sometimes give birth to triplets or quadruplets). As soon as the doe gives birth, remove the kids out of the does sight (psychologically the doe will see you as her kid when you go to milk her and bond of trust will be established between you and the doe so that you can milk her with few issues!)

The pygmy doe will produce milk for only 120 – 180 days, so if you want to have a constant supply of milk you will have to buy maybe four does and stagger their lactation period (so when one doe has stopped producing milk, you have another doe ready to supply you with more!). It requires some careful planning and forethought so that you don’t run dry in your milk supply.

If you’re allergic to cow milk and looking for a similar tasting alternative, then Pygmy goat milk is the way to go. Also, it contains high levels of calcium and potassium (which aids in fluid retention and blood pressure issues).

Oh, Pygmy goat so small and meaty 

Though the Pygmy goat may be compact in size it is still considered as a potential meat goat, which is one of their original purposes back in their African homeland before being imported to the US. 

When raising a goat for meat it is ideal to choose a breed that matures quickly so that you can sell it quickly and make more money! Also, Pygmy goats can mate all year round so you can expect to breed them every 9 to 12 months, More baby goats being born means more meat and more cash in your bank. Mature does can weigh between 50 to 75 pounds and males fall between 60 to 85 pounds. Though the Pygmy goat may be small in stature, they do have a lot of meat on them! 

Feeding Your Pygmy

Now you’ve decided what reason you want to have a Pygmy goat (friendship, milk production or meat) it’s time to think about what we are going to feed our goat.

Allow your goats to roam freely in the pasture as it allows your goats to have the physical exercise that will keep them healthy and content.   They’ll happily munch through shrubs, vines, grasses and weeds. During the winter you can offer your goats high-quality alfalfa hay which is a great source of calcium for does who are kidding and lactating.  High-grade alfalfa hay also helps keep your goats healthy as well as having the does produce excellent milk (that’s if you are raising Pygmies for the purpose of milk production). If alfalfa hay is a bit being your budget (it can be quite costly) an alternative is to use alfalfa pellets.

Feeding Goat

To ensure that your goats get all the minerals, vitamins and nutrients they need you should consider buying a mineral salt block.  Your choice of a mineral block should be determined by the nutritional needs of your goats and what it is they are lacking through the soil. Goats are known to lack copper and aren’t as susceptible to copper toxicity as their sheep counterparts. Copper helps in the development of your goat’s central nervous system, bone growth and the overall health of your animal.

Pygmy goats love fruits and vegetables, so feed them some regularly as a way of helping them get more vitamins in their diet.

Your goats also need vitamin A which will help them become more disease resistant. A lack of vitamin A can lead to does with conception issues or even abortions, eye diseases and respiratory issues. Another necessary vitamin for your animals is vitamin D which they can get through spending time in the sunshine. A lack of vitamin D can cause poor growth amongst your pygmies. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium (which is an important mineral for lactating does as well as bone strength for your herd) and phosphorous (a necessary mineral for cell growth and needed by rumen microbes for the best growth of your goat).

With pygmy goats, you should make sure that they get a quarter of a cup of grain daily. It’s not a necessity to feed your goat grains but it does provide them with extra vitamins and minerals especially for pregnant or lactating does. It also supplies your goats with 12-16% additional protein.

Pygmy goats don’t eat as much as other goats so make sure that you don’t overfeed them. 

Also, like any goats, your pygmies need access to fresh, clean water. Goats need between 2-3 gallons of water each day, though some may only require half a gallon if they have access to green pasture. In the summertime, their water intake will obviously be higher than that in the winter due to the hot weather. To encourage your goats to drink water try and make the water temperature cool in the summer and warm in winter.

Healthy Bouncing Pygmies!

Caring for your pygmies extends beyond making sure that they are getting their full of vitamins, minerals and proteins though all these contribute to the health of your goats. Physically your goat needs its hooves trimmed regularly and dewormed.

Goats

Trim those hooves!

Trimming your goat’s hooves is a means of preventing infection and making sure that your goat is comfortable. You should trim the hooves every 3 or 4 weeks. An ideal time to trim is after a period of rain or heavy dew as the hooves will be softer and therefore easier to trim. The process isn’t painful for your goats (just think of it as similar to you cutting your fingernails). You can trim the hooves yourself or if you’re squeamish you can get your vet to do it for you.

Do I have worms?

Indications that your pygmy may have worms are:

  • They start to show signs of lethargy
  • Your goats appetite decreases or they stop eating.
  • The goat starts to lose weight
  • The coat becomes rough
  • Diarrhoea

Goats can contract parasites through being enclosed in areas that are densely populated through grazing pasture that contains parasitic eggs. Worm larvae can move up the grass where they will eventually be consumed by your goat. To identify the type of worm that your goat may have, take a sample of faeces and have it analysed by your vet.

To prevent your goat from getting worms it’s necessary that you have a regular deworming schedule. Kids are especially susceptible to parasites and should be wormed before they are 8 weeks old and then every 4-8 weeks until they reach the age of one year. Does and bucks need to be wormed 4-6 times per year particularly during times of warm and wet or moist weather. To minimise the chance of does passing on parasites to their offspring, they should be wormed 2-3 weeks prior to giving birth.

Move your herd regularly to different pastures to reduce the chance of parasite overload.

Delice your pygmies

Your goats can get lice. There are two types of lice that your animal can pick up: sucking lice and biting lice. Biting lice eat the dead skin on your goat which causes them to itch. Sucking lice are like tiny vampires sucking your goat’s blood which can lead to anemia. Winter months are the times when your goat is more likely to get lice, so be extra g\vigilent during this time for any signs that your pygmy goat has lice.

Symptoms that your goat has a case of lice are:

  • Indications of itching
  • Your goat’s coat looks rough
  • Signs of dandruff
  • You goat increasingly rubs against fences to try and get relief 
  • There are loose patches of hair on your goat
  • The goat starts to chew on itself.

You can check for lice and eggs (which are greyish in colour) with a magnifying glass. Check your goat’s back and if you find lice, grab one and place it under a microscope to determine whether you have a case of biting lice or sucking lice. You can identify the lice by the shape of their heads with biting lice having a wide head and sucking lice heads are narrower.

To treat lice you need to use an insecticide over a period of two weeks. You can use Co-Ral (insecticide dust) or  Ultraboss (which is a pour-on). 

Housing your goats

When it comes to giving your pygmies a house of their own a simple three-sided shed is sufficient. It should be at least 10-feet by 10-feet in size. Consider having a dirt floor rather than a wooden one as wooden floors can become slippery through mud or goat faeces. 

You will need to have a space set aside for does who are kidding and an additional space for kids when they are born. 

goats

Because goats love to jump, make sure that your goat’s shed is kept away from fences. The last thing you want is to see your precious pygmy leaping over the fence from the roof of its shed! Also, build the shed on higher ground where there is a limited risk of water accumulating or flooding of the enclosure.

In the winter you can provide your goats with a barn or small shed to live in. To keep your goats warm, provide them with hay for bedding which will need to be replaced regularly to prevent any health issues.

Keeping your goats in and predators out

To protect your pygmy goats from predators such as coyotes, foxes, bears and stray dogs you need to build appropriate fencing. Pygmies love to climb and jump but their smaller size means that your fence doesn’t need to be as high as it would for other breeds. A 4-foot fence is high enough to keep your goats in (pygmies can’t jump higher than 4-feet). Just make sure there isn’t anything along the fence’s perimeter that your goat can climb on top such as tables, benches, old cars, otherwise you will see your goat climbing onto the object and then potentially jumping over the top of the fence and playing “catch-me-if-you-can”!

When building the fence place the poles between 5-8 feet apart and concrete the poles in to prevent them from falling over from those goats who love to rub against the posts. The gap in the wiring should have spacing no wider than 4-inches which is big enough to keep predators out and prevent the more curious goat from poking their head through the fence and having it get caught.

Woven fence wire is the best option when building a goat enclosure as it doesn’t have the sharp edges found in welded fence wire. 

To prevent attacks from eagles or owls, make sure that your goats can access their shelter. Kids, which are particularly vulnerable to bird attacks should be kept in indoor kidding pens. If you live in an area where vultures are predators, you can stop them from attacking your goats by hanging a real or fake vulture carcass in the vicinity of your goats’ enclosure.

Where can I buy pygmy goats?

So now you have an idea of what it takes to raise a pygmy goat and you have decided why you want to have these adorable creatures (as pets obviously!), but where can you buy pygmy goats from in the USA?

Your best option is through the National Pygmy Goat Association which offers extensive advice and support for anyone wanting to raise, breed and sell Pygmy goats.

The price of a pygmy can vary depending on if they can breed and if the goat has been registered. For those wanting to have pygmies solely as pets, you can expect to pay between $40-$70. If you want to purchase a registered pygmy that you can breed with then you will be looking at handing over at least $350.

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