Having owned several animals over the past forty years our Nigerian Dwarf Goats are our pride and joy. Our registered herd name is Dancin' Elves because that's what they remind us of when they are out playing. Our tribe is a very affectionate group; they will wag their tails and even lick you when they are happy. At the same time, they are also very independent and willful… sometimes even down right stubborn. lol
Never did we imagine that goats would steal our hearts, but they have. We absolutely love our tribe of Nigerian Dwarf goats!
We are passionate about the humane raising of all animals and are dedicated to continuously educating ourselves in order to keep our animals healthy and happy.
We have vowed to raise our tribe as naturally as possible on our land. Our field and woods have not been chemically treated with herbicides, pesticides, or synthetic fertilizers in over 25 years. We walk the field and woods with our tribe at least once each day paying close attention to what they are drawn to and at what stage they are most interested in it.
Of utmost importance is fresh, clean water each and every day. We add apple cider vinegar to our herd's water at least twice a week to aid in digestion, to keep a healthy rumen, to replenish electrolytes, and for overall health.
Currently we offer our tribe organic non-GMO hay and supplements on a daily basis. We purchase several of our supplements from Reedy Fork Organic Farm in Elon, NC; we purchase things that are not available on our land such as: Thorvin Kelp, Fertrell Minerals, and Diatomaceous Earth for the entire herd. In addition, we also purchase alfalfa pellets, molasses, barley, oats, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds, which we offer to our mommas while on the milking stand; all are purchased from Reedy Fork Farm and are Certified Organic .
Because production of milk adds stress on their bodies we do offer our milking mommas, on occasion, an organic soy free “mix” from Reedy Fork Organic Farm. This mix contains some added probiotics. Our herd's health is our number one priority. We do not push our girls to produce more than what is natural for their small bodies. We milk our girls for quality NOT quantity.
We are hoping to eliminate the need for outside organic feed sources by seeding our field with organic seed mixes that are both nutritious and palatable to our tribe, rotating our tribe so as not to overgraze any one area, and incorporating more organic herbs, trees and brush which we feel is what keeps them happiest and healthiest.
Our bucks are kept separate from our does and we do scheduled breeding. By doing things this way we know the does that are being bred are in top condition, we know who the daddy is, and we know the approximate due date; (the average gestation for a Nigerian Dwarf is between 145-152 days) our does average between 145 and 147 days. We test our girls at approximately 50 days after breeding to see if they settled (became pregnant); we use a livestock p-test purchased through EmLab genetics; this way no blood needs to be drawn and we have found these tests to be very accurate.
The ladies forage/browse daily and are only supplemented with organic hay, minerals and kelp for the first 3 months of gestation. During the last two months of gestation we begin to offer a small amount of organic alfalfa pellets, barley, sunflower seeds (a good source of selenium), flaxseed (high in omega-3) and, to strengthen the uterus and help with labor and delivery, we add (per The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable, by Juliette de Bairacli Levy) organic red raspberry leaves, chamomile flowers, peppermint leaf and thyme .
See our kidding schedule here
We allow our mommas to choose a spot they want to kid in; If they want to kid in the barn… Great!... if they choose the field… Awesome!... maybe they prefer under the pine trees this time…. Not a problem!... Wherever they fancy we will be nearby just in case assistance is needed. The one exception is nighttime... when we have a doe due to kid we begin placing her in a private stall at night. This is done for the safety of her and her newborn(s) from nighttime predators. We closely monitor her throughout the night, even to the extent of sleeping in the barn to make sure we are there should a problem arise. Thus far, we have only needed to assist in one kidding and had to have a vet come assist because two babies were stuck trying to come out at the same time. To our surprise (and the vet’s) everyone was fine. Both boys (Filius and Gus) and their momma (see Willow on our does page) are happy and healthy.
Our main objective is to allow the mommas to feel as comfortable and free as they would in the wild without any unnecessary interference. If a problem should arise, we are close enough to offer assistance. Our girls are very used to us and have accepted us as part of their tribe therefore they do not mind if we are close by and have often sought us out to let us know the time has come. 😊
We allow the mother to take care of the umbilical cords on her own and all the cleaning of the babies. We also allow her to take care of the placenta as she would do naturally. If assistance is needed in any of these areas, again we are nearby. There have been times that a first freshener (first time momma) is not completely aware of what exactly needs to be done. We are there in these cases to help dry off the newborn kids and to remove the placenta to dissuade predators from being attracted to the scent of birth.
Because we are close by, we can evaluate the health of the babies immediately. We are able to observe how long it takes for the babies to stand and suckle on their own. Colostrum is very important so it is essential that the babies begin to suckle very quickly. The faster they are up and being “goats” the healthier we feel they are.
The mommas all enjoy a nice molasses water drink along with a handful of red raspberry leaves after birthing.
All new mommas are given a herbal wormer for 3 consecutive days immediately following kidding. The red raspberry leaf is coupled with echinacea leaf and fed for 10-14 days.
See our 2021 Kidding Schedule here
Something we strongly believe in is imprinting. The mother and baby immediately imprint as the mother cleans the baby and the baby begins to suckle. If allowed by the mother we also like to be part of this imprinting process. We do not intrude; however, we are accessible if the babies want to come check us out and say hello. Often just speaking with the babies starts the imprinting process (we actually begin speaking to them when they are still in their momma's belly). We have found they seem to already be familiar to our voices when they are born and come right up to us within minutes. Gently touching and talking to the babies furthers the imprinting. We feel this process helps the babies see us as a trusted member of the tribe.
Our mommas spend the first three days with their babies in a private stall to begin the bonding process. Though this may not sound like the most “natural”, we feel it is for the safety of the new born kids. New born kids are easy prey for hawks, owls, and “dogs”. Fire ants in the field can also take over a new born within minutes. For these reasons we place momma and newborns in a stall for the first few days.
We start our kids foraging with the herd after three days. Mommas not only teach their kids how to forage but also teach them about herd hierarchy and how to stay safe… We have found that some of the mommas tend to “hide” their babies. We believe they are teaching them how to remain hidden from predators. There has been a time or two where we had to stage a “search and rescue” (LOL) for hidden babies and other times they seem to reappear from out of nowhere.
As the kids grow, they become more and more familiar with us. They become curious of everything we do and because they have accepted us, they just cannot help themselves and have to be part of everything. They love to climb on us, nibble our hair, clothes, shoe laces, and ear lobes. This is all normal behavior, it shows they have accepted us as part of the tribe, and is all in good fun. This also allows them to explore their curiosity, learn what is acceptable and what is not, gain confidence in themselves, and also to learn that we are not to be feared.
Raising them natural also means that our goats remain horned. Unless born polled (hornless) goats will soon start growing their horns. We do not dis-bud our babies; horns are natural to goats and, much like a dog panting, act as a way to regulate the goats body temperature.
As the kids grow, part of their play is to headbutt. We highly discourage headbutting with humans. Whether horned or not, male or female, headbutting is a natural form of communication between goats; they must learn early on, however, that this is unacceptable behavior with humans. It is not hard to redirect a young goat (or any goat really) from headbutting a human. Usually, they are only seeking attention of some form…. a scratch on the neck, shoulder, armpit, or butt (lol). Consistent and gentle redirection along with a firm "no" is usually all it takes for them to understand that this act is not going to get them the attention they are seeking.
We NEVER push back on their heads as this would only encourage this unwanted behavior.
Unlike many other goat breeds Nigerian Dwarf goats can be bred year round; this means we are able to have milk year round as well. Rain or shine, hot or cold, even holidays our girls are milked at least once per day.
We begin milking when the babies turn two weeks old. At this time, we separate the babies at night only and milk in the morning only. Babies are then left with their mommas to forage in the field for the rest of the day. This is done for at least 8 weeks; even if babies are sold they will remain with their momma and the herd until they turn at least 10 weeks of age. In our opinion we believe the momma’s milk is essential for the kid’s overall health. We also believe staying with the momma and tribe teaches the babies how to forage properly, avoiding plants they shouldn’t eat, and to learn herd etiquette.
Each doe is thoroughly cleaned before milking begins. We milk by hand and put each doe’s milk through a triple filter process. As milk is collected from each individual doe it is capped in a sanitized glass jar and immediately placed in an ice water bath. Keeping the milk from each doe in an individual jar allows us to test the specific doe’s milk if there is ever any concern (i.e.: mastitis, off taste, or off smell). Cooling the milk in this manner allows the milk to keep its fresh sweet taste for a long period of time. We feel milking by hand is a gentle process that brings about more trust with our girls; we truly feel the goats know that we use their milk and freely share it with us.
At milking time, we do offer the girls a treat to thank them and keep them happy while we milk. We offer a small amount of organic alfalfa pellets, Reedy Fork Farm’s soy-free goat feed, or sprouted barley along with sunflower seeds, flax seeds, Diatomaceous Earth, and a pinch of red raspberry leaves.
Again, we milk our girls for quality NOT quantity.
Along with multi-species grazing and a very specific worming schedule using herbal wormers weekly (a 2 part worming formula from Molly's Herbals), we also use diatomaceous earth on our stall floors and loafing areas to keep parasites, including flies, to a minimum. Moving forward we will be incorporating rotational grazing and planting specific herbs and crops that the animals will be able to feed on to boost their immune systems while building a natural resistance to parasites
You may have heard that goats hate their faces and ears touched… this is not the case with our goats. All of our tribe, girls and boys alike, love to be caressed. When you are gentle with your tribe, big or small, they trust you and you can handle them with ease. When they know you are not to be feared they will follow you like a puppy anywhere you want to lead them….
You ARE a member of the tribe.
Additional Resource Books
(These websites have a plethora of wonderful information regarding using herbs, feeding, worming, breeding, kidding, general care and much more)
FiasCo Farm, https://www.fiascofarm.com/
Thrifty Homesteader, https://thriftyhomesteader.com/
Mountain Rose Herbs, https://mountainroseherbs.com/