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Nourishing Nigerian Dwarf Goats in New Brunswick
When we made the decision to homestead in New Brunswick, I looked at our land and pondered which animal would thrive in this environment. Our pasture wasn’t lush, but it did boast wild roses, wild blueberries, too many alders, and a variety of wild plants… weeds. I wondered, which farm animal would devour this foliage? The answer seemed obvious—goats! They have a reputation for eating everything in sight. However, the longer we’ve taken care of our goats the more I discovered that it isn’t quite that simple!
With no prior experience in goat husbandry, my knowledge was limited to my basic familiarity with Holstein dairy cows. My involvement with cows had mainly revolved around occasional chores and that’s really about it. Managing cattle and making sure they can produce and reproduce… that’s an entirely different gig! This entails knowing where our food’s food comes from. We have to have nutrient dense food if we want all that our cattle has to offer. The reap what we sow saying really rings true. Actually, ALL the sayings that you’ve ever used without too much thought come alive when you live on a homestead. Cooped up, make hay while the sun shines, this little piggy ran all the way home… it’s all very real and very true!
I embarked on my quest for goats with certain criteria in mind. They had to be healthy, resilient, capable of producing a substantial amount of milk, easy to handle, and, of course, possess an endearing appearance — they had to be super cute. Nigerian Dwarf Goats checked all the boxes. They are just perfect for raising here in New Brunswick on our small homestead.
Here are some of the Advantages of Raising Nigerian Dwarf Goats
Nigerian Dwarf goats are small in size, making them easier to handle and manage compared to larger breeds. Their compact size makes them suitable for small farms and homesteads.
2. Milk production:
Despite their small size, Nigerian Dwarf goats are known for their excellent milk production. They produce a high butterfat content in their milk, which makes it ideal for cheese, yogurt, and soap making. Their milk is also rich in nutrients, making it a healthy choice for consumption. We are looking forward to drinking our very own raw goat milk.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are efficient in converting their feed into milk production. Due to their small stature, they require less feed compared to larger dairy goat breeds, making them a cost-effective choice for small-scale dairy operations.
These goats are adaptable to various climates and can withstand hot and cold weather conditions. They are hardy and have good resistance to diseases, making them relatively low-maintenance compared to some other breeds.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are not only excellent milk producers but also have potential as meat goats. Although they are smaller in size, their meat is known for its flavour and tenderness. Their dual-purpose nature provides flexibility to goat owners. Our heritage breed chickens are also dual-purpose.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are known for their friendly and sociable personalities. They are gentle and affectionate and just like to have fun. They have a very tight knit herd and they love to be together. They also like routine and staying close to home – at least ours do! With practice they will venture out for walks but they will remember where their barn is and as soon as they can, ours will run right back!
Nigerian Dwarf goats have good reproductive abilities. They reach sexual maturity at an early age and have the potential to produce multiple kids per breeding cycle, increasing the overall productivity of the herd. We keep the bucks and the does separate so that we can track their due dates. People have different approaches to determining breeding age.
This is the recommendation from our breeders at Potting Shed:
If a kid is growing very well and is a good size we will breed at 12 months of age. Others get bred at a year and a half to give birth at two years old. Nigerians often have 3 or 4 kids at a time so the babies will take all of the milk for the first 8 – 10 weeks. We wean at that age and then take all of the milk for the next 8 months. Does require a rest ( dry period ) of 2 months in between lactations. To keep a year round supply of milk stagger your breedings. All kids are dehorned at 5 days of age.
8. Land management:
Nigerian Dwarf goats are great for landscaping. They love to eat overgrown vegetation, such as brush, weeds, and invasive plants, which can be beneficial for maintaining pastures and managing land with overgrowth.
Yes, homesteading with Nigerian Dwarf goats in New Brunswick is an excellent choice!
Sourcing Healthy Nigerian Dwarf Goats in New Brunswick
We bought our Nigerian Dwarf goats from Jack Kent, a reputable breeder from Nova Scotia and part owner of the “Potting Shed” herd. His herd is widely regarded as one of the top herds in Canada, boasting strong bloodlines for both milk production and conformation. One notable aspect is the exceptional health of his herd, with no cases of CL (Caseous Lymphadenitis), Johnes, or CAE (Caprine Arthritis Encephalitis).
The Potting Shed Herd: Exceptional Quality and Bloodlines
Over the past 11 years, Jack has imported 13 bucks from the United States, further enhancing the quality of his herd. In 2016, he even earned the title of Premier Breeder for all goat breeds at the Canadian East National Dairy Goat show held during the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. With this impressive background, I felt confident that these goats would be of exceptional quality, which adds pressure on me to ensure the continued production of a healthy and robust herd.
Feeding Nigerian Dwarf Goats in New Brunswick
The Challenge of Finding Quality Hay
When it comes to feeding our Nigerian Dwarf goats, I must admit that finding good hay in New Brunswick has proven to be quite challenging. In fact, locating hay that our goats will even eat readily has been even more difficult. Goats can be surprisingly picky eaters. Naturally, I wanted to provide them with the same high-quality hay they were accustomed to before coming here. The bale of grass hay that arrived with our goats from Nova Scotia was what I think is a perfect bale of hay for them — I have yet to find a bale that matches its quality. Although I’m sure that Potting Shed has a bit of a similar predicament as they haven’t been able to find alfalfa hay since moving to Nova Scotia. At Potting Shed their hay is almost entirely mixed grasses – leafy , green and smells good. Once in a while it will have a lot of clover in it which is a legume like alfalfa. But it’s mainly about getting hay that the animals like. Easier said than done!
Given our lack of experience and kids on the way, I’ve been particularly concerned about their feeding regimen and how well it’s going. Fortunately, I’ve been able to take some goat husbandry courses, which have been extremely helpful.
Goats’ Selective Eating Habits
In my quest for good hay, I’ve learned quite a bit. Currently, I can say that my goats don’t particularly favour first-cut hay, and the ideal option is green hay, rich in essential vitamins and fats. Ideally, goats should be able to eat just grass hay and not rely on goat feed at all, but if the hay isn’t up to par and they begin to lose weight, it becomes necessary to supplement their diet with feed. Feeding goats can vary significantly from day to day, depending on their appearance and condition.
What do goats eat?
It all depends on your hay, your land, how the goats look, the quality of your feed… So if you ask a goat farmer they will probably not give you a concrete answer because it just all depends. I’ve tried! So in continuing on in the goat farming tradition I’ll not give you a straight answer either but I will say at this moment, on this particular day, in this particular month I am feeding our goats the following:
- ½ cup of West Branch GMO free goat feed in the morning and evening for each Nigerian Dwarf goat
- ½ cup of Timothy or Orchard grass pellets for the non-pregnant does and bucks (because I fear our hay isn’t good enough at the moment and it’s a good trick for the goats because if they don’t need feed they feel satisfied that they’re getting a treat!)
- ½ cup of alfalfa pellets for the pregnant does
- All-day access to grass hay
- All-day access to free-choice loose minerals
- Multiple outings to our pasture, where they graze on weeds, blueberries, roses, and alders
I’m pretty sure this will all change the moment I learn something else! Consider this article: What do goats eat? It depends!
Hay Feeding Recommendations and Considerations
As a general rule, goats should not have alfalfa unless they are in the milking stage or during the last two months of pregnancy. A good-quality green and leafy grass hay is the preferred option. Not exactly what I have pictured below. Below, is first cut hay from last year.
Feed Supplements and Mineral Needs in New Brunswick
If you live in New Brunswick you need to know this!
We were thrilled to discover GMO-free goat feed produced right here in New Brunswick by West Branch Feeds. Even though it requires a very long drive for us, we stock up because it’s worth it. They incorporate the Bio-Ag goat mineral pre-mix into their feed, and we think it’s a great feed supplement.
However, it is also essential to provide free-choice loose goat minerals. After noticing a copper deficiency in my herd, I administered a copper bolus and began offering a superior loose goat mineral, Purina loose goat mineral, available to them throughout the day. Interestingly, the Purina product available in Canada did not have the correct composition even upon request, so we have had to order it through Tractor Supply in the United States.
Constant Learning and the ever Evolving Feeding Regimen
Feeding our goats has occupied a significant portion of my mind, and it’s a constantly evolving process. Having someone experienced assess the situation and provide feedback has been incredibly reassuring. I was thrilled when Deborah Niemann, my online goat husbandry teacher responded to my posts and stated that the goats look great. Thank goodness! I’ll sleep better tonight 🙂 Read the stats on my herd currently and her feedback, right here. I’ve put photos showing their body composition, date of birth, due dates if applicable and their current weight. Read all about it!
Good Food Matters
At this point, I believe I would properly appreciate a cattle show and the hay competition much much more than I did during my 4-H days!
Good food matters. It doesn’t just matter for us but it matters for the animals that produce our food. Good nutrition – and let’s face it, good hay and minerals – is the foundation upon which a healthy goat herd is built. It reflects in their milk and in the hair on their faces. As we continue on our journey of raising Nigerian Dwarf goats in New Brunswick, we are committed to finding the best feeding practices to make good milk and happy goats.
Our goal is to maintain a thriving and robust herd that not only produces excellent milk for our family but also shapes our piece of Saint Andrews, New Brunswick into an abundant homestead.