Feeding and Care

One of the things I love most about Nigerian Dwarfs is their adaptability. When researching the breed once, I came across a photo of their ancestors, the West African Dwarf, begging for kitchen scraps outside an urban kitchen stoop, where they’d stop after foraging around the city and surrounding fields. They can thrive under widely varied conditions – just ask a few breeders what and how they feed and you’ll hear numerous different–yet effective–methods.

Around here, my feeding choices revolve around my ultimate goal – to produce thrifty, hardy animals that can live without a lot of external inputs and concentrates. My vision is to move to fully sustainable animals fed with inputs we produce here, but that’s a few years off.

Your choices are likely going to be different than ours, and that’s perfectly okay for both of us. If you’re buying goats from us, this is meant to help you see how we manage in order to get you started with ideas for your own management and/or to help transition your new goats over to your own methods.

In summer, goats are out on pasture with free choice minerals.  Our pasture is a mix of herbs, “weeds,” and grasses.

In winter, everyone gets free choice alfalfa.

Nowhere in the natural history of animals have they plunked down in a grain field to eat pounds of concentrates every single day. This is not only costly, but also, in my opinion, detrimental to the long term health of my herd.

Only milking does get grain and only as much as they can eat while they’re being milked. The grain they eat is a mix we mix up ourselves that consists of 3 parts whole barley, 1 part field peas and 1 part black oil sunflower seeds.  See Calculating Grain Costs for Goats for how much this costs per doe.

Minerals are a critical element to having a healthy herd. We feed organic goat mineral free choice year round.  Into this is mixed medicinal herbs to help with parasite control and total health.   When conditions warrant, such as periods of rainy weather, I add in kelp to dilute the minerals so they’re able to eat more of the herbs they need.

Twice a year, in July and January, we copper bolus and administer Bo-Se shots. We are deficient in both copper and selenium in our area, and these supplements make a big difference in overall health, reproductive health and parasite resistance.  Update 2018: I am experimenting with herbal sources of copper and selenium mixed in with their minerals and am not administering copper bolus or Bo-Se shots while I see how well they do on plant sources.

We check goats using FAMACHA scoring to worm only when needed.  In early 2018, I made the decision to commit fully to herbal health methods.  We keep Ivermectin on hand, but I hope not to need to use it.  Previously, we only needed to dose Ivermectin once per year, but with the daily inclusion of herbs to combat parasites, I hope to eventually throw that bottle away!