Pygmy Goats: perfect for small farms & pets

Michael Feldmann
Friday, 13th November 2020

All you need to know about raising pygmy goats, from good characteristics, housing, fencing and other requirements, to proper feeding, watering, caring, and maintaining their health.

The pygmy goat is a great general-purpose goat for small farms; a pygmy goat is a small, friendly goat that can be a great pet, and only a few of them are needed for a constant supply of fresh milk to the table. Despite their small size pygmies can give 1-2 quarts of milk per day. Their milk is of exceptional quality and value. Their milk has a very high milk fat content, which makes it preferred for soaps, creams and other high fat goat milk products. Being a similar size to a dog, pygmy goats require minimum shelter and care. Their small size and good nature make them attractive dairy goats; and they require less space and feed than ordinary goats, and are suitable for smaller farms in urban and suburban settings. Pygmy goats are quite tame and very friendly so they can be let out of their pen for eating: grass, shrubs, weeds, and leaves. They are active and entertaining, and if you build obstacles in their pen, they will provide hours of entertainment.

History and Origin

The pygmy goat is the American breed of achondroplastic goats. Like the Nigerian dwarf, it comes from the West African dwarf group. Around 1930 - 1960, some type of animal was imported into the United States as a zoo animal and for research; some were later kept as companion animals and established as a breed in 1975. This is a completely different and separate breed from the British Pygmy breed. 

Housing and Requirements

If you want to have a pet in your yard, or want to add a new animal to your herd, a pygmy goat is an excellent choice. You need to take care of them in some way, of course, but once you figure out what they need, it's not going to be difficult. In fact, they are suitable for most climates as long as you provide them with adequate shelter. 

While there are many different breeds of goat, they all have similar traits. In order to keep animals according to their species and needs, it is important to know the characteristics of their nature. As I said earlier, pygmy goats are curious and intelligent and like to get to know their surroundings very well. Therefore, as a goat farmer, you should definitely ensure that there is enough activity material in their barn, such as fresh straw every day or permanently installed brushes for grooming. 

Pygmy Goat Barn - To determine the type of goat barn you need, think about the weather where you live. If you live in temperate latitudes, your goat might not need as much barn as in other places. However, if you live in a place with harsh winters, you need to build a barn to protect your pygmy goats. You just need to protect them from the elements. The size of a pygmy goat barn will be determined by the size of the herd. In general, you should give each pygmy goat about two square meters. In fact, you could even use a large dog house if you keep two pygmy goats in your yard. 

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A big dog house works great as a barn for pygmy goats

First and foremost, the barn should be well insulated, because nobody likes damp spaces. Stones or tree trunks should also be placed directly in their barn to offer your pygmy goats additional climbing opportunities. Fresh straw should always be available in their barn.

Fencing - Pygmies are agile and prepared jumpers, and they need enough space for wandering and exercise to avoid unnecessary wear on fencing. However, their small size limits how high they can jump and reduces the chance of damage to your fences. Pygmy goats will bend, stand, and rub on the fence, especially if there seems to be attractive food on the other side, so the braided wire should be strong enough to withstand. So, it is desirable that the posts should be no more than 10 feet apart. To secure your pygmy goats, a wire fence with 2x4 inch holes is needed - that should be small enough for the goats to lay their heads.

Goat fences should be at least 5 feet for most goats and 4 feet for pygmy goats. A wire run as tightly as possible on the top of the fence between the posts at eye level can prevent jumping and climbing. Some prefer to have it barbed or electrified but ordinary wire also works well. Goats are more likely to crawl under than climb or jump a fence, so the bottom wire should be kept close to the ground.

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Woven wire fences are most effective and commonly used goat fencing option.

Woven wire fences are an effective and commonly used fencing option, but it is important to pay attention to the openings. Horned goats can easily get caught in woven wire fences with 6x6 inch openings. A good idea is to put an electrified wire about a foot from the ground and 9 inches from the fence but it will only reduce the number of goats caught in the fence. Woven wire fences with 6x9 inch and 6x12 inch are cheaper and the goats can free themselves if caught. A safer but more expensive option that many recommend is woven wire with 4x4 inch openings - this is also a better option if there are predators in the area. A general tip is to have the wire face the interior of the pen or the goats so that if they will push or rub against the wire the force would be directed to the posts rather than the staples.

Barbed wire, rail, and panel fences are also good options. But generally, with any type of fencing, remember the important saying "what doesn't hold water won't hold a goat".

Determine how many goats you want to keep - Pygmy goats are herd animals - always consider that a goat never wants to be alone. At least two of the beautiful pygmy goats should therefore be kept together. A pygmy goat always needs a friend.

Climbing opportunities - The original habitat of the pygmy goat is the mountains. Therefore, goats are enthusiastic and agile climbers. So, if you constructed some obstacles in their pen, such as bales of straw, wooden benches or picnic tables they could provide hours of entertainment.

Feed and Water

Treats - A variety of human foods such as watermelon, apples, pears, peaches, carrots, lettuce, celery, pumpkin, squash, and spinach are good to feed your pygmy goats and can be added to their diet. Only make sure that all pieces are small enough to prevent choking. Note: Avocado is highly poisonous to goats; and should be avoid.

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Fruits and vegetables are good for pygmy goats and will be welcomed as a great treat.

Giving your pygmy goat freedom of pasture is absolutely necessary. Grass, shrubs, leaves, and weeds such as dandelions and clovers, are the natural food of the goat and will be welcomed as a great pleasure. In summer, pygmy goats can feed themselves only by grazing in pastures, if of course you have big enough pastures. If you have a small pygmy goat herd, you will need multiple pastures to accommodate goats' needs. Moreover, you must regularly change the place where your goats graze, so that the grass and weeds can grow back.

Alfalfa hay - If you don't have enough space for your pygmy goats, you can feed them alfalfa hay when they can't graze. Purchase very high-quality hay for the healthiest goats and the highest quality milk - high calcium alfalfa hay is important for milk production. Every pygmy goat needs 0.5-1kg of hay a day. But if they get additional grain, they need less. 

Hay feeder - When feeding your pygmy goats with alfalfa or other hays you need to put it in a hay feeder that will keep hay off the ground as goats are relatively picky about their food. They won't eat it if it falls on the ground and they've stepped on it. Buy a hay feeder that is a suitable size for your pygmy goats; they are only about 50cm tall. They can't eat the food if they can't get it. Therefore, the part of the hay feeder from which the feed comes should be less than two feet from the floor. A good choice is a hay feeder with bars that keep the hay in and the goat out. The hay feeder is in a V shape that you place the hay in so they can pull it through the openings.

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Hay feeder

Cereals - You can also supplement goat's food with cereals. Pygmy goats, like an ordinary goat, need more food in winter. In addition, goats giving milk and young goats need cereal additives even in summer. Three main suitable cereals for pygmy goats are oats, corn, and barley.

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You can also supplement pygmy goats' food with cereals.

Water is essential for goats - Like all animals, goats need water to survive. Moreover, water is especially important for goats beacuse they are ruminants and need more water than other animals to process their feed. So, make sure your pygmy goats are always having access to fresh, clean water. Remember to change the water regularly and to clean the water tank frequently.

Pygmy Goat Care

Brush your pygmy goats - To keep your goats clean and healthy, it is very important to brush them. It should be done once every several days. A simple brush can be used for this. Brush your goats very carefully so not to scratch them. Next, use a soft brush to brush their fur.  

Bathe your pygmy goats - Generally, bathing pygmy goats is not necessary, it is mostly done if one of your goats have parasites. Most of the time, brushing is enough. To bathe your goat, you need to warm the water slightly so that it is not cold. Soap the goat with an animal or goat shampoo. Use a soft brush for this. Then, rinse the soap off. It will be easier if your goat is wearing a collar as it will make it easier for you to hold onto it.

Maintaining the Pygmy Goats’ Health

Vitamin A - Pygmy goats need vitamin A in their diet to stay healthy. Most of the time they get this vitamin by eating alfalfa or grazing. However, if they do not have access to any of these sources, try feeding them corn.

Vitamin D - Just like in humans, vitamin D helps goats absorb calcium, which helps keep their bones healthy. If your goats spend most of their time outdoors, they will absorb vitamin D from sunlight. However, if they are not exposed to sufficient sunlight, give them sun-dried alfalfa.

Give minerals to goats that graze in pastures. If your pygmy goats are grazing (instead of eating alfalfa and grains) you should give them a mixture of iodized salt, limestone (powdered), and animal bones (steamed and powdered). You can put this mixture in a separate bucket and let the goats consume it when they need it.

Give them selenium injections - Selenium is an essential nutrient, but it is even more important if you are in an area affected by white muscle disease, as selenium protects against this disease. When the kids are born, you can inject selenium into them.

Give vaccinations yearly - Your goat should at a minimum be vaccinated against enterotoxemia and tetanus. This can be done by your veterinarian. You should also ask your veterinarian about a rabies vaccine. 

Have your goats checked once a year, this way you can make sure that the goat's vaccines are up to date and that your goat is healthy.

Take care of your goats' hooves - Goat's hooves will grow over time and if you do not trim them, they will prevent the goat from walking properly. To trim them hooves, put on gloves and use scissors or a hoof knife. You need someone to hold the goat in place while you trim its hooves. Look for the presence of growth rings. You should be able to see the growth of the hooves. Trim the hooves to the last growth ring.

Useful links

Community owned goats

5 best breeds for your smallholding

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