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Excerpts From
Helpful Hints For Your Herd

This is just a small sample from our 39 page booklet:

Pygmy Goats 101
By Maggie Leman

Modem pygmy goats in America can trace their roots back to the Cameroon Dwarf Goat of West Africa.  That is why some people call them African Pygmy Goats. The Cameroon Dwarf goat is a short, heavily muscled animal with a dark colored coat. But the pygmy goat seen in America only faintly resembles their ancestors in Africa. Along the way they were probably crossed with Swedish Lapp goats who contributed improved milking ability and the possibility of a light colored coat. Then, once they were imported to the United States, breeders here bred selectively for traits they found desirable and produced a unique little goat called the American Pygmy Goat or just the Pygmy Goat.

Pygmy goats were first imported into the United States in 1959 by the Ruhe Brothers in California and the Catskill Game Farm in New York. Due to federal importation regulations, pygmy goats and other livestock could not be imported directly from Africa. So, pygmy goat does were bought from German zoos, where they were available for about $15 a head. From there they were taken to Sweden to be bred to Danish owned bucks so that the offspring could be imported to the United States. With quarantine, breeding, maintenance and shipping charges, the final cost per animal was about $3500 (in today's dollars that would be more than $10,000). Both the importers felt it was worth the price as they could sell stock to American zoos for display in childrenís petting zoos. Apparently their instincts were correct as the pygmy goat is a mainstay of petting zoos everywhere.

The National Pygmy Goat Associationís breed standard describes a pygmy goat as a genetically small goat standing from 16 to about 23 inches at the shoulder, and having a deeper, wider barrel, shorter legs, and shorter, wider face than dairy goats. All colors are acceptable as long as the goat has the required breed markings. There are two patterns for these breed markings: caramel and agouti. The caramel pattern ranges from snow white to deep brown on the body, with darker "trim" on the head, legs, dorsal stripe and belly. The agouti pattern includes all shades of grizzled gray, and shades of grizzled brown with darker trim on the head, legs, and dorsal stripe. When in doubt between caramel and agouti, look at the goatís stockings. Caramels have a light stripe running up the front of the stockings. Agoutis have solid stockings with no stripe. In addition, partial or complete belly bands of white and white stars on the forehead are acceptable. All other white marks are faults.

There are three sex classes in pygmy goats, bucks, does, and wethers. A buck is a male and a doe is a female, and are breeding animals. A wether is a neutered male, and is primarily a pet. All three are shown at National Pygmy Goat Association shows. Dairy goats shows never feature their wethers, and seldom have classes for their bucks.

Caring For your Pygmy Goats

Housing

Because of their small size and hardiness, pygmy goats are easy to keep. First, they require a dry, draft-free shelter. Pygmy goats need about 15 to 20 square feet of room per animal. That is a space that is 4 feet by 5 feet. So a large dog house could house a grown pygmy goat. But, pygmy goats are herd animals and do not thrive if kept alone. They are best kept in groups. Even a buck would rather be with another buck than be alone. So if you plan to keep pygmy goats, plan to have more than one and provide shelter accordingly. We use a combination of a large barn for our does, and a shed row barn with 8 by 6 foot stalls with separate outdoor pens for our bucks.

Ideally pygmy goats should have access to pasture for exercise and browsing. But many pygmy goats donít enjoy the luxury of large pastures and are instead kept in pens. The larger the better of course, but a 30 by 30 foot pen is ample for two to four goats. Fencing should be chain link or woven (not welded) wire mesh as pygmies are smart and soon learn to squeeze out of horizontal wires such as that used for horses. Even electric fences wonít hold a determined goat. Secure fences serve a more important role than just keeping your goats out of your neighborís prize roses--they keep predators from getting in! Any dog, no matter how friendly, will chase a pygmy goat to death. Often this friendly dog will inflict terrible wounds in the process. It is not the dogís fault entirely, it is their nature to chase small animals. And, you canít always count on a dog being confined. So take heed to the old saying, "Good fences make good neighbors," and securely pen your goats.

Feeding Your Pygmy Goat Properly

Secondly, pygmy goats need to be fed properly and have access to clean water. Goats hate stale water and will sometimes go without rather than drink it. Goats need plenty of water to make their digestive system work properly and bucks and wethers, in particular, need water to help prevent the formation of urinary stones. Goats should also be provided with a loose mineral supplement, preferably especially made for goats. The most important food for goats is good hay or good pasture. Many pet pygmy goats do well on a diet of hay or pasture forage only. Some pygmies, such as growing kids and yearlings, and breeding animals need to have their diets supplemented with grain. Every pygmy goat owner has his own opinion about what this grain ration should be. Maggidanís Minis uses a quality 16% pelleted goat feed for both bucks and does. Occasionally we supplement this feed with a high protein, vitamin and mineral supplement such as Calf Manna for animals in high production such as growth, lactation (milking and raising kids), or heavy breeding. They have access to a loose mineral mix formulated for livestock. We also feed a top quality grass hay. Our goats also have access to large woodsy pastures for browsing. We use the goatís body condition as a guide for how much supplemental feeding they require. Generally, pet goats are fed way too much, and frequently are fed the wrong things. Goats should never be fed dog or cat food, rabbit pellets, or poultry feed. This kind of diet can lead to severe, sometimes life threatening health problems such as bloat, rumen impaction ("stomach blockage"), and urinary stones.

One of the biggest health problems with pet pygmy wethers and bucks is urinary stones. It is our opinion that the number one cause of urinary stones is improper feeding and watering. Because of a male goatís physical makeup, it is very difficult for them to pass a urinary stone. Should they develop this condition you are facing an enormous vet bill or euthanasia. Feed and water your goats properly and you will be rewarded with happy healthy frisky pets.

Your Pygmy Goatís Health Care

Goats have relatively few health care requirements, but these are important. They are hoof trimming, regular deworming and lice control, and vaccinations. Maggidanís Minis recommends that hooves be trimmed every six to eight weeks. We deworm and delouse four to six times a year. And, we recommend that pygmy goat owners vaccinate against rabies and clostridial diseases such as tetanus. There are several clostridia and tetanus vaccines for goats. Look for one that says "C, D & T". There is no approved rabies vaccine for goats in the US. so we use the vaccine approved for sheep. All of these procedures, except the rabies vaccination, can be done by the owner with just a little training. Most vets or pygmy goat breeders are willing to help you learn. Another good place to learn about pygmy goat care is at goat seminars such as those sponsored by the North Carolina Pygmy Goat Club, or a Small Ruminants or Goat Producer seminar sponsored by veterinary colleges.

The last health requirement for your pet goat pertains not so much to his physical health but to his mental health. Goats are herd animals and are very uncomfortable with being alone. They absolutely require a companion. The best companion is another goat. Lacking this, cows, sheep, llamas and horses make adequate companions. But, a buck should not be included in your pet pair or herd. Pygmy goats are fertile as young as three months, and a pregnancy at this age is a disaster. Pygmy goat does should not be bred until they are about 14-18 months old. They need to be close to their full size when they kid (give birth) five months later to avoid problems with the kid(s) being too big to deliver. Pygmy goats can also breed year round unlike most dairy goats which are fertile only for a few months in the fall. Pygmy does become fertile again in as little as ten days after kidding. The babies are cute, but unending motherhood is a terrible drain on a doe. So you can see that a buck would have to be kept separated from the does except when breeding is desired. Bucks and does should not even share a fence line as they can mate through the fence. This has happened to us more than once. So now our bucks are housed well away from the does to prevent accidental breeding. Besides, bucks donít make good pets, due to their musk odor and their incessant "need to breed" nature.

This is just a basic guideline for keeping pygmy goats happy and healthy. If you have any further questions we are just an e-mail or phone call away. Or you can go to the websites listed on the Great Goat Resources Page for more in depth reading.

Hey! Need Hay?

Sure you can probably buy hay at the same store you buy your feed, but why pay the high price? The North Carolina Agricultural Review (See the Great Goat Resources page for contact information) is a great place to find a farmer who can supply you with just the right hay for your little goaties and usually for a whole lot less money! You donít have to buy a lot, most of these "fellow farmers" are happy to sell one or two or 20 or 30 bales.

Sharing the Wealth

Youíve composted, mulched and piled the barn berries, until you are pooped out of room. What to do? Call your County Extension Agent (look in the government pages in your phone book). He or she will let the master gardeners in your area know where they can go to strike "black gold". Unlike cow and horse manure, which can "burn" tender garden plants if not composted first, goat berries can be put right into the garden. Gardeners in suburban and urban areas are always in need of a reliable source of compost and they bring their own shovels!

Poisonous Plants

This is a list of common poisonous plants. It is by no means complete. Contact your agricultural extension agent for a list of plants known to be poisonous in your area.  Most well fed goats will not eat poisonous plants as most, but not all of them, taste bad. For example, I have horse nettle or nightshade growing in my pasture, but the goats won't touch it. A starving goat might! On the other hand most goats will eat azalea and rhododendron as they seem to taste good! But both are very toxic. Know your poisonous plants to protect your goats. The Cornell University Poisonous Plants Web Pages has pictures and photos of poisonous plants for easy identification.

Castor Bean (seed, leaves)
Caladium (all parts)
Christmas Rose (root, leaves, sap)
Diffenbachia (all parts)
Philodendron (all parts)
Mistletoe (berries)
Rosary Pea (seeds)
Autumn Crocus (all, esp. bulb)
Bleeding Heart (leaves, roots)
Dutchman's Breeches (leaves, roots)
Foxglove (leaves)
Larkspur (all; seeds)
Lily of the Valley (all)
Monkshood (all)
Narcissus (all)
Daffodil (all)
Jonquil (all)
Potatoes (all green parts)
Rhubarb (leaves)
Tomato (leaves)
Apple (large amount of seeds)
Apricot (seed)
Almond (seed)
Avocado (leaves)
Azalea (all)
Black Locust (bark, twigs, seeds)
Boxwood (leaves, twigs)
Buckeye (leaves, nuts, flowers, sprouts)
Horsechestnut (leaves, nuts, flowers, sprouts)
Chinaberry (fruit, bark, berries)
Chokecherry (leaves, seeds, bark)
Wild Black Cherry (leaves, seeds, bark)
English Holly (berries)
Oaks (tannins in foliage and acorns can be toxic in large quantity)
Oleander (all including dried leaves)
Privet (leaves, berries)
Rhododendron (all parts)
Yew (all, esp. berries)
Daphne (all; fruit)
English Ivy (berries, leaves)
Golden Chain (seeds, pods, flowers)
Lantana (green berries, leaves)
Mountain Laurel (all even honey is toxic)
Yellow Jasmine (all, including nectar and roots)
Wisteria (pods, seeds)
Buttercup (all)
Cone Flower (all)
Black-eyed Susan (all)
Hemlock (seeds, stems, fleshy taproot often mistaken for wild parsnip or anise)
Jack-in-the-pulpit (all)
Jimson Weed (all)
Amanita Mushrooms (all)
Nightshade (all)
American Bittersweet (berries, roots, leaves)
Deadly Nightshade (all)
Pokeweed (roots, shoots, leaves)
White Snakeroot (all parts)
Morning Glory (seeds)
Tobacco (leaves)
Tulip (bulbs)
Iris (corms)


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