Mini goats – Pygmy and Nigerian dwarf goats – can be great additions to the right family. Gregarious and docile, both types are good choices for hobbyists and people who want to keep them as pets. There is never a dull moment with these mini goats, but they aren’t for everyone.
The pygmy goat is about half the size of a regular sized goat, weighing between 55 to 75 pounds. The Nigerian dwarf weighs between 25-45 pounds. Both types of goats can be milked.
Female goats are called does or nannies; intact male goats are called bucks or billies, and neutered male goats are called wethers. Billy goats can be aggressive and have a strong smell; does or wethers are recommended for people who want to keep them as pets.
Anyone who has ever tried to house train a goat will tell you it is impossible to keep them in the house. Aside from the fact that goats eat everything but the kitchen sink (not an exaggeration here), they also have the inability to control their bathroom habits.
Goats are herd animals, meaning that they get lonely if left by themselves. It’s better to have at least a pair, but if you don’t want a growing herd, it’s best to get two females or a female and a wether.
The great thing about keeping mini goats is that they do not need a lot of space (especially in comparison to other livestock). Shelter should be 15-20 square feet per goat, with a hard surface for standing and access to adjacent grazing areas. The shed should have bedding that is replaced regularly, and a higher, dry place for sleeping.
Fencing is key: their housing area should be secured with fences high enough to keep these spirited jumpers inside the fence and safe from predators.
Goats are grazing animals, spending long hours of the day eating a variety of roughage, including dry leaves, brush, bark, and grass hay.
Not all pet owners can provide this type of free-range diet for their pet goats, so a goat mix feed should be provided (check with your vet for recommended amounts and types of feed). Overfeeding can lead to health problems such as scouring and obesity.
Goats make great lawnmowers and the fresh grass is an excellent addition to their diet. However, beware of plants poisonous to the pygmy such as fir trees, laburnum, rhododendron and yew.
Minerals should also be included in the diet; a mineral block, available at any large pet or farm store, should be placed in a dry location where the goats can easily reach it.
Before you even consider getting goats – find out if there is a veterinarian nearby (or within a reasonable driving distance) who treats goats. Ask the breeder or rescue, check online for large animal vets (especially one that treats small ruminants), call a nearby veterinary college to see what services they offer, or call the county agricultural extension agent and ask for recommendations. (See resources, below, for online listings.)
Mini goats are generally very hardy and healthy, but there are a few basic care requirements pet owners must do routinely:
Vaccination and medication – goats should be vaccinated against tetanus, pulpy kidney, enterotoxemia and other illnesses common in your geographic location. Ask your vet for the recommended vaccination schedule for your goats.
All herbivores have a tendency to contract parasitic worms. Administering worming medicine to your goats twice a year will prevent stomach and gastrointestinal parasites. Talk to your veterinarian about your worming needs and the appropriate medicine to give your pet. Worming medication is easily administered by mouth and can be given at home.
Hoof trimming – just like the human fingernail, goat hooves grow continuously and will require trimming about every six to eight weeks.
As with any pet, you must consider the amount of money that will need to be spent to keep your goats safe and healthy. Here are some of the line items everyone should consider before adding a goat to the family (prices will vary by geographic region and how elaborate you want your set-up to be):
- Health, registration, and transportation certificates
- Shelter and fencing
- Goat feed and hay
- Annual veterinary costs
Even if you regard your mini goats as pets, they are legally considered livestock and require owners to obtain documentation such as property and registration numbers and transportation/movement licenses before/upon purchase of the animal. Every county or municipal district may have different requirements; the rescue or breeder should be able to help you get the appropriate documentation squared away before you take your new goats home.
If you live in a city, your first order of business should be determining whether or not you can keep livestock within the city limits. You should also check (and double check) any municipal regulations regarding such things as waste disposal, rodent control, and noise abatement.
There is a lot more to owning goats than you thought!
Although it may seem like a lot, most of the legal requirements and expenses are only necessary right after purchase or adoption. Of course, not every budget, property, or lifestyle meets the requirements for goat ownership. But, with this information as a starting point, you can now make an informed decision about adding mini goats to your family.
- Raising Goats for Dummies
- Nigerian Dairy Goat Association
- National Pygmy Goat Association
- Pocket Farm UK – a seven part series on all aspects of owning goats
- Modern Farmer
- UrbanAgLaw.org – legal info, best practices, and support for urban agriculture
- Cyber Goat
- American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners
- Goat World 911
- And a map of every goat in the United States
Mary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals. Mary Beth has three dogs, a Siberian husky named Rocky and two rescue dogs named Sambita and Nina.