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 it’s always a trade off between having the numbers we want and the time available to supply, by hand, all of the feed they need.
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 unsprayed alfalfa. Beginning in the winter of 2018, we added in home grown tree hay once per week and handmade grass silage daily. We also feel that exercise is essential in winter so have spaced our feeder and water sources a good walk away from shelter so that the does must travel throughout the day, getting exercise to eat and drink. This helps them stay fit and toned for the upcoming spring kidding and we’ve seen an improvement in kidding ability because of it.
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 or barley/oats, 1 part field peas and 1 part black oil sunflower seeds. See Calculating Grain Costs for Goats for how much this costs per doe.
This winter of 2018-2019 we switched suppliers and feed only a mix of whole barley, oats and peas, all unsprayed. This supplier was a Godsend; we also now have a source for unsprayed barley straw so they won’t have to sleep in potentially Roundup saturated straw (ask your straw supplier about this).
Minerals are a critical element to having a healthy herd and as we’ve gained experience, I have become absolutely convinced that the best way to approach minerals is by letting the animals choose what they need from a mineral buffet. During periods of rain or environmental stresses, I add medicinal herbs to help combat whatever the current issue is. For example, during wildfire season, I add herbs like mullein and lobelia to soothe lungs and boost overall health. The minerals are where we add herbal cocci preventative for kids as well.
We no longer give any supplements at all. They get what they need from their hay, forage and mineral buffet.
We don’t regularly deworm as a rule. We walk among the goats, checking FAMACHA scores, body condition, coat condition, attitude, activity and energy levels. Changes in any of these are the first clues that something is off. Know the condition of your herds and they will thrive. When a goat presents with a low FAMACHA score, we deworm with essential oils. We have completely eliminated conventional dewormer in 2018 and are thrilled with the health our herd now exhibits. You can buy my parasite blend here.
Here are some additional resources on feeding and care:
- Bringing a New Kid Home: What to Expect the First Few Days
- Goat Feeding and Care Take Home Sheet
- Goat Feeding and Care: Feeding Amounts