Pygmy Goats – An Introduction
What exactly are pygmy goats? The difference between pygmy and dwarf? A pygmy is a member of one of the ancient equatorial African tribal people of very short stature, whereas dwarf has its origins in Norse mythology and also due to a genetic disorder. They are both of diminutive size.
There are many animals which are pygmy- marmoset, slow loris, owls, chameleons, hippopotami, mongoose, donkey, jerboas, and even Borneo elephants. And what is familiar to them save the small stature- they are irresistibly cute. They are incredibly adorable, and the cuteness factor is way off the charts. No wonder, so many of them end up as exotic house pets. They however still retain their natural prowess; a mongoose will battle a snake, and an owl remains a fierce raptor. But these are decorative pets in that they are not the frisky, playful pets that pygmy goats make. The pygmy goat holds pride of place as a pet. They play a dual role as farm livestock, especially for their milk. Pygmy goats are a small, hardy, outgoing breed which is both a contributor and a huggable companion.
What are pygmy goats and their characteristics?
Pygmy goats are one of the smaller breeds of goats. They range in height from 15 to 22” weighing between 35 to 50 pounds. The males are somewhat heavier and can weigh between 40 to 60 pounds. Even as they are small goats, they lack the refinement of their nearest cousins, the Nigerian dwarf goats, but their bodies remain compact.
The coats of these goats come in a broad palette ranging from light to dark caramels, light to dark grey agouti (similar to ‘salt and pepper’), black combined with frosted points and solid black. The coats are medium-long and fall straight. In the colder months, there is a diffusion in the coat density. The males have that characteristic feature of goats that is beards. It should be lush and long. The females do not.
Despite being size challenged, pygmy goats can adapt quickly to any climate. Being very hardy and having a robust constitution otherwise, pygmy goats though of a friendly personality are known to be aloof. That given, the bucks exhibit tendencies of stubbornness and independence, emphasizing that they are no pushovers. The good nature of these lovely animals cannot be questioned.
Markings are breed-specific. Goats in black excepted, the muzzle, forehead eyes, and ears are highlighted in lighter colorations. It is common to goats of all colors. Darker than main body coat, are the hoofs, cannons, and the lower part of the leg. The crown and dorsal stripe are similar. On the front sides of darker socks appear light vertical stripes on all caramel-colored goats.
What is the origin of pygmy goats?
The African dwarf goat is the true origin of the pygmy goat. Locally adapted, the pygmy goat is found in the Cameroon Valley. They have domesticated some 8500 years ago, for their meat, milk and fiber. During the colonial era, they were taken by the British to Europe. They found their way to the United States for use in zoos and for their milk. As subjects in lab research were yet another intention. They quickly gained favor as pets and as exhibition animals by private breeders who had acquired some of them. The most common breed of goat kept as pets, pygmy goats are in the first place. A hardy constitution, small size, good-natured personalities, and affectionate nature render them enduring.
De-horning and vaccinations
Its an undeniable fact of nature; goats will have horns. When you want to rear a pygmy goat as a pet, most people would prefer to have them de-horned. The correct term is dis-budded. So the goats cannot develop horns if this procedure is followed. End of problem. Goats with horns are capable of fighting one another and even hurt or kill the adversary. They are a threat to humans also though unintentionally. A goat can suddenly rear its head when in your arms or close by, catching you unaware and getting hurt. Pygmy goats are pets and will be cuddled ever so often. Dis-budding is a good option.
Insist that CAE and CL free test results that establish the fact are available from the owner. CAE and CL are goat (and sheep) diseases that can make them unwell down the road.
Vaccinations, just as for your pet dog, are paramount. It may be your choice alright, to vaccinate or not, but I think he a foolish pet owner who does not care enough about his pet’s health. Veterinarians recommend CD&T and CDT (for tetanus). Do follow up.
How do I figure out if the goat of my choice is healthy?
What if you decide to adopt a dog or a pup? On your visit, you find the home filthy, smelly and noisy. Your first instinct will be to rescue the puppy from there. But chances are he is not healthy after living in such conditions. Buying a pygmy goat is much the same. Cast your eyes around the surroundings. Is it clean or is it dirty? Are the quarters cramped with too many goats? Remember, animals do best when allowed plenty of space and a natural environment. Goats housed in tiny cages, uncleaned poop all over are signs of improper care. If you detect that decent living conditions have been provided by the owner, it indicates that time and care have been put in. The kid should be a good bet healthwise.
Does the goat have a good personality?
Talk about goats, the foremost thing about them is the wide gamut of personalities. Some are calm and cool, some hilarious and theatrical and some, plain annoying and stupid. It’s nothing personal there. Guess that’s where ‘black sheep of the family’ came from. The obvious thing is to pick out a goat who enjoys being human touch and being fed too. If the goat you fancy on a farm runs the other way, you’ll need to rethink your choice. You can take it that you have found your goat if it is playful, friendly and unafraid.
Your gut instinct.
It works for all of us. Your gut feeling, or you could call it a sixth sense that tells you, propels you towards that decision. It could be illogical, even impractical. That is the one I pick. Has it never happened to you. You are faced with four puppies, all similar in playfulness and mischief. You get to choose only one. You go home with one, and in a couple of days she or he is the apple of your eye, and you say to yourself, thank God, I picked this one.
I suggest the same; some gut instinct can be very contributory.
A pygmy goat can cost $40-$70, but the more striking varieties can set you back $300 or so.
Though they are usually reared as pets and companions or for meat, their primary use is in milk production. Each goat can yield milk for a year post-childbirth, so many goat owners get to have some milk too. Pygmy goat milk is sweet and delicious. The usual production of milk per day is about half a gallon or 2.3 liters. You can make ice cream and cheese from pygmy goat milk. The high butterfat milk (4.5 to 11%) makes for great moisturizing soap bars too. Pygmy goat milk powder is made and is commercially sold in the bigger supermarts.
What needs does a pygmy goat need?
Essentially, the pygmy goat is a natural ruminant. It does not graze but lives off browsing on leaves and plants. Sometimes, they are inclined to eat fruits, vegetables, and hay.
It is extremely important that your pygmy goats are fed on adequate quality feeds. Protein-enriched foods must be included in the regular diet. An apt pick would be grains, fresh greens, and oats. Whole and rolled grains would take care of carbohydrates. The requirement of minerals and vitamins cannot be under-emphasized. It is vital. Feed them:
- goats corn (do not overfeed corn because it can cause bacterial infection),
- sweet feed – a mix of whole-grain or pelletized food with molasses. Goats find this blend of molasses and grain highly appetizing.
- goat ration – It is a complete palatable feed for milking dams. A high energy formulation, it contains sufficient protein and a proper balance of vitamins and minerals. A pygmy goat will usually require a cup of grain daily.
Some veterinary dieticians recommend hay mixed with good quality alfalfa and molasses free grain for pygmies. Trough feeding is a good move. It will reduce grain wastage. A pygmy goat will never eat soiled or dirty food so an effective ploy is the use of a trough. Get them inclined to forages such as forbs ( a herbaceous flowering plant), grass and browse. Fescue, orchard, and bluegrasses (different types of grasses mainly bluish in color) are suitable for pygmy goats. Also, contributory to the excellent health of the goats, are cloves, dandelion and wild lettuce They love to browse blackberry brushes, rabbitbrush, etc. Very essential for pygmy goats are vitamins A & D. Rich sources of vitamin A are green hay, green pasture, yellow corn, etc. The Sun, of course, gives sufficient vitamin D, but when not so strong, sun-cured hay is the best source of vitamin D. Very importantly, pygmies need a steady supply of clean drinking water. In winter give them tepid water. Do not forget to change the water regularly and clean the watering pot.
Pygmy goats have one unwanted side of their curiosity. They have an urge to eat anything and sadly somewhere their instinct gave that a skip. They will chew on rubber, try to browse in a datura patch and so on.
Raised wooden platforms are the best shelter for pygmy goats. They usually prefer like standing on elevated vantage-ground as if to proclaim ‘’Í am the master of all I see.’’ But they are not excellent jumpers. They detest sleeping on the ground; a raised, dry place is what makes them happy. Acute hoof disorder appears to be a significant setback in these creatures.
Pygmy goats require less space for habitation. An 8’ by 6’ enclosure is sufficient for 2 adults. The shed should be well ventilated, especially in the summer months, so they are comfortable. Many diseases and illnesses are warded off with ventilation. Keep drafts out during the cold months. The flooring may be of concrete, wood or clay. A wooden floor can present problems of rot and infection; concrete may be cold and damp in winter; experts declare that a.clay floor is the best possible solution. It provides a natural ground for the goats and dissipates the odor of urine. Using gravel as the base, construct a thick layer of clay. Renovate the floor by replastering clay every two years. Getting their hooves wet or muddy is not something that pygmy goats take kindly to. Place bricks and wood in your backyard or wherever the pygmy goats ordinarily frequent.
Pygmy goats are wily escape artists. A fence around your farm area will need to be constructed to prevent the goats from wandering off. Keeping in mind not to allow harmful animals such as dogs ingress into the vicinity of the goats, the height of the fencing should be sufficient. A 4 feet high fencing should be good enough. So that the goats can frolic freely, a pen surrounded by a durable fence is your next project. Never use barbed wire as the pygmy goats may harm themselves to make a run for it.
Regular hoof trimming should be an indispensable care regime for pygmy goats. Lameness, splayed toes or footrot can be the outcome of untrimmed hooves. Hoof trimming should be included in the monthly health routine check-up. The recommended interval for pygmy goats is 4 to 6 weeks.
Worming & Vaccination
Your goats will be healthy and productive if timely wormed, which is an important part of pygmy goat care. Annually, 3 to 4 times worming must be done. Before kidding and during the last month of the pregnancy, for protecting the babies, pregnant goats are recommended to be worming. There is no excuse for not vaccinating your goats in time. Annual vaccination will lead to healthy and productive goats. Vaccinate your pygmy goats against rabies, tetanus, etc as prescribed by the veterinarian. 100% protection against any specific diseases, any vaccination can’t provide. But it lends a hand to keep illness at bay. That’s why your goat’s vaccination cant be kept on hold.
Newborn babies should never be separated from their mother unless a critical need arises for the kid’s survival. Bottle-feeding them is a strict no-no. Moms naturally always champion care of their babies. Never feed A wether, or, a castrated ram, should never be fed grain after it has been weaned. Doing this will urinary stones developing. These tips foster pygmy goat care.
How to care for a pygmy goat
With their small, compact size and playful temperaments, it is little surprise that pygmy goats are often sought after as pets. However, since goats are deemed livestock, you must check with your homeowners’ association or deed restriction before bringing one home. If in doing this you discover it is allowed, here are some tips for keeping your pet pygmy goats happy and healthy in their new home.
Pygmy goats are best kept outdoors. Their activity level, inquisitive nature, and dietary wants do not warranty keeping them indoors. Although some people do, they are the devil to house train.” said Dr. Philippa Sprake, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “They require an outdoor area to play and a safeguard from the elements. Good bedding of hay, straw or shavings serves them admirably”
Change bedding routinely. What type you choose is immaterial, only that you factor in the weather, size of the shelter, and the number of goats. Bear in mind that goats dislike getting wet, and also bank on a cool area to cope with the summer heat. Being herd animals, housed in pairs together provides company and also destresses them.
Dr. Sprake also explains that being escape artists, the challenge of surmounting the fencing is a holy mission, and all efforts to achieve this will be attempted. They understand the fundamental physics involved and the high chances in repeated pushing and pulling of fences and gates. Fences made especially for goats are the answer although electric fences can also be used. However, goats will challenge them regularly and unrelentingly, so maintenance is essential.
Most health issues originate in the gut, predominantly due to inappropriate feeding. Human food is for humans and goat food for goats. Interchanging this is not ideal as you would find out if you gave it a try. So do not feed human food to your goat. Being browsers, inadvertently, goats may consume common garden plants that are toxic, although their radar knows what should be left alone. Try and have their outings supervised. Being ruminants, foraging hay or grass is high on their list. To augment with a minimal amount of pelletized feed or grain supplements well being. But pygmy goats are easy keepers and gain weight pretty quickly. Also, leave a block of mineral in their place of habitation. They naturally sense the need for increased mineral intake and will have a few licks themselves. Pygmy goats are high on water intake so keep plenty available.
The importance of vaccinations cannot be underemphasized. An annual CD&T is a must-do for goats protecting against gut infection caused by indiscriminate consumption, monitors gut parasites that cause anemia and diarrhea. Tetanus too is warded off.
Setting up a worm control program in consultation with your veterinarian is a great idea.
Male pet goats tend to get afflicted with bladder stones with tract obstruction early and find urination a problem. The culprit most likely is excessive pelletized feed or grain. The fair weather indicator is when the male urinates comfortably the first thing on getting to their feet.
The environments in which they were reared shows in the disposition of pygmy goats. Kids that were bottle-fed will be much more agreeable, but it has its issues too; head butting by males. Castration is best done at 3-4 months. Earlier than that may cause health issues. 3-4 months is ideal as the typical odor will not be there.
That pygmy goats make faultless pts is a foregone conclusion, a consultation with an experienced goat breeder and a vet will help you in taking that final step in bringing home your new family member.
Breeding pygmy goats
A ‘responsible’ goat owner, will postpone mating the female until she is least 18 months Ideally, separately house your own male from the females. Allowing males and females to cohabit is NOT good management. Imprudence has had mismated immature females. Some dams have ended up being mated twice in a year which is not a good thing. And you will be in the dark totally as to when the new arrival is due.
The female can be treated exactly the same as before throughout the first 3 ½ months of the pregnancy. It should be ensured that community fed goats receive their fair share. Stealing food from the younger is something a dominant wether or older female will attempt. So your pregnant goat should be provided with her safe feeding area. If your goats live communally, you will need to segregate her. As her kidding date approaches, keep her in a separate pen. Gradually increase her concentrate ration after around 3½ months. Depending on the feed used you could up it to, but no more than double her usual amount. Go about her vaccinations her about a month before kidding to protect the kid/s. Drenching with a de-wormer before mating and after kidding. In her state of low resistance, vulnerability to worms is high. Keep stress levels down, do not trim her feet nor transported about. The gestation period is about 150 days is. A few weeks before her due date, give her pen a thorough clean. Remove the water bucket. Newborn kids have been known to drop into the water bucket and drown. Keep checking for physical signs of impending labor from about ten days before her due date. Impending childbirth is signaled by shiny and full teats, slackening of the muscles on the rump – either side of the spine, pawing at the bedding (nest-building), sometimes the female may turn her head and appear to talk to her side. Appetite remains good.
As the cervix begins to dilate the female will lose a thick, whitish mucus ‘plug’ and with each contraction you may notice her body stiffen. Some females stretch out and dip their backs. Certainly she will look uncomfortable (watch her ears go back) Once the kid begins to enter the birth canal, the cervix is fully dilated, the female will start to ‘strain’ with each contraction – the typical position is lying down on one side with one hind leg outstretched, but some females prefer to stand through the whole process. First, the crown of the head emerges, the amniotic sac ruptures and the head is out. Over the next few contractions, the kid is born.
The mother gets busy in the cleaning/drying process. 20-30 minutes interval later, the second, if there is a second kid, arrives. Now that the immediate situation is under control, some follow up is left. See to it that the new mother is relaxed and not stressed out. Pet her, and get her a drink of lukewarm water. The bedding needs changing, clean and swab the area thoroughly and replenish the floor with fresh straw. One last thing that is rather important. The mother’s udders may be a bit sore, and she will try to avoid the kid’s quest for milk. Reassure her, gently apply and swab the area with a warm cloth and hold her while the kid begins its first meal.
Fun facts about pygmy goats
1. Doe meets Buck. Doe or Nanny is a female pygmy goat. The male is called a buck.
2. Salud, long life. 10 years is the average for a pygmy goat. Some have gone on to 15 years
3. Smart, Little Goat. Love your pet doing tricks? Then, sit back and enjoy the show. Your pygmy can be trained just like any other pet quite easily.
4. Give, and you will receive. A pet dog will give you unconditional love. A pygmy goat too will but disagrees with the absolute part. You will need to give it as good as you get it.
5. Please Don’t Close Me In. Don’t restrict them in an enclosure, because they will be very, very sad.
They just dig doing crazy things in an open area at all times.
6. Athletic. Pygmy goats have a penchant for leaping, and can they leap. With them, anytime is playtime. They are tremendous leapers.
7. How They Have Become darlings. The pygmy goat to be a favorite among exotic pets for many households. The reason people just adore these goats is that of their loving, nurturing, and friendly nature.
8. “Don’t Eat Me, Please.” This doesn’t qualify as a reason for buying a pygmy goat. On farms, save for the milk, they are not considered as a source of meat. A pygmy goat is a pet or a zoo attraction only.
9. Size doesn’t matter. Don’t get suckered by that small size. In spite of its miniature size, the pygmy goat is a reservoir of milk.
10. Picky Drinkers. Easy Eaters. Pygmy goats have a deep sense of hygiene. They are particular about the quality of water given them and will not settle for anything you dish out. Nice, clean water for me please, mineral, if you have some, thank you. A diet of greens and grains is manna for them. They have this curious habit like young children to try and consume everything they encounter. So you better be alert around them.
11. Buck meets Doe. An unseen occurrence is the female getting impregnated. Is there a solution other than leashing them apart. Yes, try keeping them segregated at a young age so the idea that they are playmate takes root.
12. In a rush to mutiply That’s laughable. Does can begin breeding early. They are early starters and can raise a family within 9-12 months of about 4 kids.
13. They Love Sheep. A pygmy goat is enamored of sheep. The two make for perfect companions and can become inseparable. A pygmy at play can have you in stitches, and as we all know, laughter is the best medicine. So why not add a sheep to the menagerie.
14. Two is not a crowd. Being a herd animal, that instinct is deeply buried in a pygmy goat. So naturally, it is no loner. They crave company and so is happier when it is kept with another pygmy goat or more.
The pygmy goat was, after all first introduced to the US for lab research. In many fields of biomedical research and teaching, goats are becoming a critical laboratory animal model. But this new evolvement in research conditions has little to do with our pygmy goat. They are a great attraction at petting zoos especially with young children identifying with their natural energy and playfulness. They do not shy away from humans. What is it that makes them stand apart are all those unique traits they have put them on the podium time and again. Their presence and constant play have bestowed on owners an excellent service, de-stressing, that monstrous modern-day malady.
The African pygmy goat is not considered to be a threatened species yet as notified by The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, IUCN. It is unknown how many there around the world, but they are a popular domestic breed. There are 1150 African pygmy goats in zoos around the world according to one unverified estimate as no census as such has been taken. Now with professional breeders jumping in, the numbers look better when viewed along with the high popularity