Pygmy Overview

Caring for Your Pygmys

How to Care for your Pygmy’s

Basic Condensed Version

History – African Pygmy goats are a miniature “meat” breed of goats. They are considered to be cobby, more compact and muscular than Nigerian Dwarf goats.  Nigerian Dwarf goats are considered “milk goats”. A Pygmy’s Head and Limbs are considered short – relative to their body length.  A Healthy Pygmy might look like a beer keg with legs.

The pygmy goat was originally called the Cameroon Dwarf Goat. The Cameroon Dwarf is mostly restricted to the West African countries. Similar forms of pygmy goats also populate all of Northern Africa, South Western African, and East Africa.

The Cameroon goats were exported from Africa to zoos in Sweden and Germany where they were on display as exotic animals. From there they made their way to England, Canada, and the United States. In 1959, Heinz Rhue, of California, received the first documented shipments of pygmy goats from the Coast of West Africa, designated for the Oakland Bay Zoo.  On delivery the cost of each pygmy was $3,000.00. There were approximately fourteen pygmy goats in the first shipment. Offspring of these animals, as well as earlier imports, were sold to zoos, medical research, and to some private individuals.

Breed Characteristics – Pygmy’s love to climb, jump, and appreciate toys in their yards. They are herd/social animals and do not like being alone.   They need some sort of companionship. If you get males make sure they have been fixed/neutered (called wethers).  If you want pets, two wethers would be great; they are considerably less expensive then does or breeding buck, and make a choice pet.

 Several color patterns are preferred with agouti (salt and pepper appearance produced by the intermingling of light and dark hairs) being a predominant color. Caramel is also a prevalent color. Random markings are acceptable if they are light markings on a dark background that appear to be a complete or partial girth belt. The average height is 15.4″ – 22.6″ and weigh 44-60 pounds.

On females, beards may be non-existent, sparse, or trimmed. On adult males, abundant hair growth is desirable. The beard should be full, long and flowing.  The copious mane should drape cape-like across the shoulders.

Acceptable body colors include caramels, grays, blacks, with red caramels being the newest color.

See NPGA Link for more details.  http://www.npga-pygmy.com/Colorchrt.html

Breed-specific markings are only required for registration and the show ring: muzzle, forehead, eyes, and ears are accented in tones lighter than the dark portion of the body in goats of all colors, except goats that are solid black. Front and rear hoofs and cannons are darker than main body coat, as are the crown, dorsal stripe, and martingale; except in goats that are solid black. On all caramel goats, light vertical stripes on front sides of darker socks are required.

Basic Guide for Pygmy Goat Care – Pygmy goats are easy keepers and love to browse. They will eat alfalfa hay (alfalfa molasses or a horse hay pellet ration) and a commercial goat grain. A good basic diet for a pygmy is roughage in the form of hay with bark, brush and dry leaves where available and supplemented, when needed, with grain in the form of a commercial sweet feed. If grain is given it should be increased during pregnancy and lactation. Many types of bushes and trees are poisonous to goats. The NPGA has a list of poisonous plants.

Feeding – Fresh Green Leafy Alfalfa Hay or Grass, and plenty of fresh water, plus a mineral/salt block should be available at all times are the most important part of a balanced diet.

Grain – Bucks and Wethers should be fed grain only at times of growth or high use in breeding season or showing. A dry (without molasses) corn, oats and barley mix works well. The best is probably Nutrina Goat Show Feed; it has nearly everything your pet will need. Black Oil Sunflower is also a good supplement to help with a shinny coat.

Be sure to have fresh, green, leafy alfalfa hay, fresh water, plus a mineral/salt block available at all times. We use a type of grain that is designed specifically for goats. It has molasses, rye, barley, corn, oats, added nutrients, etc.

 Do NOT give horse feed to goats, as the copper content is too high and may poison your animals. For bucks and wethers, add ¼ tsp ammonia chloride to help prevent Urinary Calculi.

Note: (You may not want to have your buck kids castrated until at least 4 months. This may help to minimize stones).

 Many people choose not to give grain to wethers at all.  This will also help to prevent Urinary Calculi.

Grain – If grain is given, for Bucks, give about 1/2 cup of feed per day. Babies get about 1/4 cup per day while nursing moms receive 3 small feedings of grain each day. In summer, the does get one tiny grain feeding or none per day. In winter, you might tend to give extra grain as needed. Check with your vet for suggestions regarding your own goats.

           Note: The more natural pastureland you have for grazing, the less grain and hay you will need to provide a healthy diet.

Worming –  We use both Panacure and Ivomec Cattle Injectable.  Panacure is given orally at 1 cc per 20 pounds for 3 consecutive days, while Ivomec is given orally at 1 cc per 55 pounds once.  Ivermectin horse worming paste can also be used, with the weight of the goat 3 times for doses.

Worming should be done once per month and immediately after kidding.

Lice – We use Perethea, given 1cc per ten pound one treatment and a follow up in 7 days.  Any dusting powder in spring or fall, such as Co-Ral powder, which you can get at any farm store.  For surer protection of lice, powder your animals in the fall and spring with a livestock dust that has either Seven or Malathion as the active ingredient.

            Note:  Ivomec also helps prevent external parasites, (e.g. Lice)

More Info on Parasitism in Pygmy Goats

HOUSING AND FENCING – Housing requirements for Pygmy Goats are simple.  A wooden goat house about 4 x 4 feet and at least 3 feet tall will accommodate two adults nicely, as 8′ x 10′ shed or lean-to with will accommodate four adult animals.  If possible, bench type or other off the ground type sleeping quarters is recommended; or at least a wooden sleeping platform, as these goats do not like to sleep on the ground.  A Feeding place should also be placed inside the structure in case of rain.  They will need a hay rack, to keep their feed off the ground. Goats are fussy about eating clean feed and will not eat “dirty” feed unless they are starving. Wooden cable spools are great for playing “king of the mountain”.

The house needs some ventilation for summer, but drafts should be closed off for winter. Goats often don’t seem to like plastic houses, for example, a plastic doghouse. A shade structure is also nice for protection from the summer sun and heat. Fencing must be dog proof, coyote-proof, and offer protection against other varmints. A four-foot high non-climb animal wire, hog or buck panels, and chain link are some of the more popular types. In some places, people have 6 foot high fencing (or higher) in order to keep out predators. Watch out for the family dog. Some dogs, that at first seem OK around goats, will later turn on the goats and attack them. A trained livestock guardian dog (ie. Great Pyrenees.) may help protect your goats.

Kidding – Following a gestation period of 5 months (Actual gestations may range from 145-155 days), Pygmy Goats may bear one to four young every nine to twelve months, depending, on choice of the breeder. Does are usually bred for the first time at about 12-15 months. They can conceive as early as two months if you do not separate them early from bucks. Newborn kids will nurse almost immediately and begin nibbling on hay within a week. They are weaned by eight to twelve weeks of age.

You can find an interactive breeding chart @ http://www.npga-pygmy.com/calc.html

Many Pygmy Goats, if not bred before 2 years old, may have trouble getting bred. Arthritis is a factor in the senior goats relative to breeding. Some does can still be producing until teen their years, as others may stop at age six.  Pygmy Goats can have two kiddings per year if left unsupervised, but most breeders will limit pregnancies to about once a year to allow the doe time to recuperate.

Average Lifespan – Pygmy goats live 10-15 years.

Taking Care of your Pygmy Goat – You need to check your goat’s hooves every couple of months and trim them as needed.  Use a small hand pruner to trim the hooves.

Showing your Pygmy Goat – Pygmy goats are easy show and maintain. To show a pygmy you usually give them a bath, unless the weather is too bad, trim their feet and show in a dog lead and collar.

Note:  Please remember, that this is intended only to be a quick summary of the Pygmy. We suggest reading all available material, listen to other experienced breeders, consult your vet, and then discover which way works best for you and your herd, as you enjoy your goating experience.

References Include: 

National Pygmy Goat Association, 166 Blackstone St, Mendon, MA 01756

Pygmy Goats, Management and Veterinary Care by Lorrie Boldrick, DVM and Lydia Hale.  Published, by All Publishing Company, 10951 Meads Avenue, Box G, Orange, CA 92669

The Illustrated Standard of the Pygmy Goat by Blackburn, Hale, Werts
Published, by All Publishing Company, 10951 Meads Avenue, Box G, Orange, CA 92669