Interested in raising Pygmy goats? In this complete guide we walk you through everything you need to know: where they come from, what they can be used for, where to buy them, and much more!
The Pygmy Goat is a small, hardy, adaptable goat breed that is increasingly popular in the United States.
Their small size and good nature make them attractive dairy goats, where they require less space and feed than larger goats, and are suitable for smaller farms in urban and suburban settings. They are also frequently kept as pets, simply for the enjoyment of their companionship.
Pygmy Goat Origin
The modern Pygmy Goat is often called the African Pygmy Goat, owing to their origins in central and west Africa. African breeders developed these goats to be compact and resourceful, and able to survive on limited high-quality forage in a variety of climate conditions. Descended from West African and Nigerian Dwarf goats, pygmy were first imported into Europe through Britain, and eventually to the United States.
They were originally imported as a curiosity, for zoos and shows, and remain extremely popular fixtures in petting zoos across the country due to their friendly nature. Many Pygmy goats were adopted by private breeders in the 1950s, who took an interest in cultivating these cute little goats as pets and companions.
They are too small to be a very productive meat goat, and don't produce as much milk as other breeds per lactation. However, their milk has a very high butterfat content, which makes them desirable dairy goats for soaps, creams, and other goat milk products that require a high fat content.
Pygmy Goat Uses
The most popular use for pygmy goats is as pets and as companion animals. They are cute, adaptable, friendly, and easy to care for.
Their small size makes them extremely attractive 4H project animals, because children are not intimidated by these little goats.
They are also frequently kept as good-natured companions for grazing animals, where they provide calming friendship for other herd animals. Their delicious milk makes them a welcome addition in a variety of small farming operations.
Pygmy Goat Characteristics
Pygmy goats have extremely variable coats, and have 7 breed standard approved colors. Their eyes come only in brown.
Does weigh 50-75 pounds, and bucks weigh 60-85 pounds. Wither height ranges from 16 to 23 inches.
Pygmy does produce 1-2 quarts of milk per day when lactating, and their milk ranges from 4.5% to a staggering 11% butterfat. However, they produce milk for only a short 120-180 days.
Pygmy goats are known for being friendly, curious, and outgoing. They seek out and enjoy interacting with people, and will respond readily to vocal calls. While bucks in particular can have the stubborn streak that goats are famous for, Pygmy goats are an excellent companion animal.
Raising Pygmy Goats
Pygmy goat social needs.
Like all goats, Pygmies are herd animals and will not be healthy or happy when kept alone. If you are keeping a Pygmy as a pet, they will often not do well in an environment where they are alone for extended periods.
Keeping them with other goats, or even with grazing animals or dogs, will help satisfy the social needs of this outgoing little animal.
Pygmy goat medical needs.
Like all goats, Pygmy need periodic hoof trimming and deworming, depending on their diet and lifestyle. Fortunately, their small size makes handling them easy. Make sure you have access to a veterinarian who is familiar with the needs of goats.
Pygmy Goat Food Needs.
Water. Goats should always have access to fresh, clean water. Remember that your pygmy goats will need more water than usual in hot weather or when lactating.
Forage and feed. Pygmy will happily browse on shrubs, weeds, herbs, and leaves. Allowing them freedom of pasture also gives them the exercise they need to stay healthy and prevent health problems.
Depending on the size of your pasture, the variety of plants available, and the season, alfalfa hay can and should be offered for free feeding. Purchase very high-quality hay for the healthiest goats and best quality milk.
Alfalfa hay is high in calcium, which is essential when goats are kidding and producing milk. Alfalfa hay can be expensive, so some people supplement other high-quality hay with alfalfa pellets instead.
Grain is a desirable source of extra nutrition when a goat is producing milk, but is not strictly necessary.
Supplements. Depending on the plants in your pasture, local soil composition, and nutritional composition of your hay, it is likely that your goats will need mineral supplements. If you are providing high-quality food, they may only require small amounts of trace minerals.
When free-fed, goats will only eat as much mineral supplements as they need. Use a mineral supplement designed for goats or cattle, and avoid supplements designed for sheep, because goats and cows require copper, which is toxic to sheep. You can also feed your Pygmy goats fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen to add variety to their diet.
Pygmy goat enclosure needs.
Like all goats, Pygmies are agile and ready jumpers, and require ample space to roam and exercise to prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your fencing. However, their small size limits how high they can jump, and reduces the potential for damaging your fences and enclosures.
Remember that fences not only keep goats in, but should keep predators out, and Pygmies are especially susceptible to predation, depending on your local wildlife.
Even some stray dogs can pose a threat to Pygmies. Fences should be about 4 feet high since Pygmy goats can't jump higher than that.
Goats will lean, stand, rub, and chew on fencing, particularly if they have smaller pasture, or if there seems to be attractive forage on the other side, so posts should be no further than 8 feet apart.
The best way to secure your Pygmy goats is with a woven wire fence with 2x4-inch openings too small for adults to put their heads through; woven wire is strong enough to withstand the chewing, leaning, and standing that the fence will endure. Woven/goat wire can be purchased in rolls that are already 4 feet high.
Pygmy goat shelter needs.
All goats need shelter at night and in poor weather. Situate your shelter well away from your fence, so that goats aren't able to jump from the roof of their shelter over the fence, and avoid situating the shelter on low ground that would accumulate rain.
At minimum, the shelter can simply be a roof and three sides, so that goats can get out of bad weather. It is better to have a dry dirt floor than a wood one; wood flooring can get slippery with mud or manure, and potentially injure a goat or cause foot problems.
Does will need additional shelter and protection when they have kidded, and to be separate from the herd while the kids are still small.
Breeding Pygmy Goats
Pygmy does can come into heat when they are as young as 2 months, but breeding them that early should be avoided.
They are polyestrous, and will come into heat when they are exposed to a male, so it's a good idea to keep young does away from bucks until you are ready for them to breed.
They are prolific breeders, and does can give birth to 2-4 kids every 9-12 months.
When a doe is coming into heat, she will generally show signs with signature behaviors, such as:
Unlike dairy goats that will come into heat annually, and produce milk for 1-2 years, Pygmy goats produce milk for only a relatively short 3-6 month period of time. This makes their polyestrous nature favorable.
If you want a steady supply of delicious, high-quality goat milk, you will need several does, and to time their breeding schedule so that you will always have a doe producing milk. At a minimum, this means four does, breeding a different one each quarter, so that you can have 1-2 quarts of goat milk a day throughout the year.
This presents the challenge that all goat farmers have: keeping a buck so that you can breed your goats when desired, but isolating him from the does so that they don't breed to early, or more than once.
Even relatively small Pygmy bucks can be quite determined when they want to access a receptive doe, so their enclosure needs to be very sturdy. And even bucks that need to be separated from the herd still have social needs, and should be kept with other animals or a wether for company.
If you choose to keep a buck, it is best to not have him share a fence with the does. Goats are resourceful, and have been known to breed through fences. Create an enclosure for the buck, with a clear area of 15 or more feet between it and the enclosure for the does.
This buffer zone will not only prevent unwanted breeding through the shared fence, but it will also discourage him from attacking the fence and putting undue strain on it.
As an alternative, you may find a neighbor with a buck and arrange periodic “dates” for your does when you are ready for them to come into season and to breed. This is a popular method for keeping constant milk production, while avoiding some of the expense and challenge of owning your own buck.
Pygmy does are famous for having kidding problems, due to the small size of their pelvis, and will need to be watched closely as a pregnancy nears its term. It is best to have a veterinarian available to assist if necessary, and be familiar with the signs of a difficult kidding and how best to intervene and help the doe.
Most does experiencing a normal birthing will have a kid within an hour of beginning labor. If your doe has been pushing for an hour and not yet kidded, notify your veterinarian and have them on standby. If she still has not given birth after 2 hours of pushing, it is necessary to intervene, and potentially save the life of both mother and kid(s).
Pygmy wethers make excellent and popular pets, and this popularity as a pet helps to reduce some of the stress of figuring out what do to with the unneeded male kids born several times a year. It is also a good source of additional income from a pygmy goat farm.
Pygmy Goat Price
Pygmy goat prices vary widely depending on whether you are happy with an unregistered animal to keep as a pet ($40-$50), or want a pedigreed Pygmy to start breeding of your own for sale and profit ($150 - $300).
Pygmy Goat Breeders
Because Pygmies are both pets and livestock, there are a variety of breeders who specialize in different purposes.
Many popular Pygmy breeders can simply be found on Facebook, and there are excellent resources available through the National Pygmy Goat Association.
Be wary of people offering pet goats through public bulletin boards like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.
Make sure you visit the goat on site before bringing it home, verifying that the goat is healthy and parasite free, and that its living conditions are clean and healthy.
Bringing home a sick goat not only can lead to extensive expensive veterinary care, and potentially the loss of the animal, but can put your other animals in health jeopardy as well. It's best to always buy from a breeder with a good reputation, and inspect the goat thoroughly before you agree to buy it.
Pygmy Goat Farming
The Pygmy goat is also referred to as the African pygmy and the miniature goat. They’re a miniature breed of goat that can easily adapt to their environment, despite different climates.
What are pygmy goats used for?
Pygmy goats are sturdy, little animals that have the friendliest of personalities. Their small stature and good nature make them incredible show animals. They weigh up to 65 pounds and though they’re small and cute, pygmy goats can hold their own in milk production and breeding.
Pygmy goats as pets
Pygmy goats are known to be very cute, friendly, and come in a variety of different colors. If you’re looking to house any as pets, there are a few things you should know about them, as they do require a different level of care than your average household animal.
- Each pygmy is different, and their attitudes are different as well. Though most are friendly, some may be a little standoffish at first.
- Pygmy goats are very playful.
- As a pet, pygmy’s require fresh, clean water and plenty of nutritious foods.
- A small, strong, ventilated structure is a good place to keep your pygmy goat.
Pygmy goats for meat
If you’re setting up your goat farm to be a source of meat, you need to know that there are show goats, and then there are meat goats. They’re raised very differently, so when you’re selecting your breed, make sure you know what type of goat you’re getting.
Though they’re small in size, pygmy goat meat sells because it’s so compact. Also, they mate out of season and breed every 9 to 12 months. This means that this particular breed produces more offspring, a.ka., more meat.
Pygmy goats for milk
At the peak of their lactation, pygmy goats can produce up to ⅔ of a gallon of milk per day. Their milk is very sweet and delicious. Pygmy goat milk is best maintained when it’s kept in cold storage.
Pygmy goat milk is rich in calcium, potassium, and lower in sodium than other breeds.
Raising pygmy goats: Pros and Cons
Like any animal, pygmy goats come with a shortlist of pros and cons. Now, depending on what you’re using the pygmy for, these lists may or may not sway your decision to start a farm.
Pygmy goats care: Top tips
Keep in mind the following tips when deciding if you want to add pygmy goats to your life.
- Because they’re so tiny, pygmy goats don’t need as much space as larger breeds. However, they do get bored easily, so they’ll need a space where they can run around and use their minds.
- Pygmy goats should be kept in a ventilated, sturdy space built for their size.
- They need a good amount of freshwater daily to keep them healthy. Also, a good amount of alfalfa hay mix/grass, molasses-free grain, and trace mineral salt will ensure that your pygmy gets all the nutrients they need.
- If you want to breed your pygmy goat, the ideal time to wait is 18 months after they’re born.
Pygmy goats for sale: Where can I buy pygmy goats in the USA?
There are two types of pygmy goats that are sold in the US: Nigerian Dwarf Goats and African Pygmy Goats. Goats can range anywhere from $50 to $300 depending on various factors including sex, weight, size, age, and temper. There are additional costs that may need to be covered to make sure your house/farm is ready to take on this new animal.
There are pygmy farms and breeders all over America who house a reasonable selection of pygmy goats. If you want to see who sells what, contact your local zoo, pet store, or animal farm to see what they have to offer.
Pygmy goat associations: What are the major pygmy goat associations in the USA?
How to Care for Pygmy Goats - Ask a Vet with Dr. Jyl
- Pygmy goat FAQs
How big do Pygmy goats get?
These diminutive farm animals may only reach one and a half to two feet tall (if that) and forty inches long but they can reach a stocky weight of 35 to 60 pounds.
How long do Pygmy goats live?
Pygmy goats can live as long as fifteen years, though the average lifespan is eight to twelve years.
How much does a Pygmy goat cost?
Depending on the breeder and the breeding capabilities of the goat in question, Pygmy goats can cost anywhere between $75 and $300. For non-registered goats only kept as pets expect between $40 and $70 on the low end, while registered breeding goats go for $350 or more.
What do Pygmy goats eat?
Unlike the popular stereotype of a goat eating any garbage lying around, Pygmy goats are picky eaters and drinkers. Their diet should consist of greens - leaves, twigs, grass, alfalfa - and small molasses-free grains, and they must have fresh water or they won't drink even if they're thirsty.
What is a Pygmy goat?
Pygmy goats are the standard goat's miniature cousin. They are popular as household pets and milk-producers on small farms. They are an amiable and fun-loving breed perfectly suited for a family.
Where can I buy a Pygmy goat?
Registered breeders are found online, using the National Pygmy Goat Association website's database. Purchasing from a farm or local breeder is also an option, but slightly riskier.
How long are Pygmy goats pregnant?
The gestation period for Pygmy goats is 5 months or 151 days.
What are Pygmy goats used for?
Pygmy goats are often used as a source of milk, but because of their size and personality - friendly, playful, and even trainable - they make popular pets as well. Because they love climbing, they're also making a scene with "goat yoga"!
How much space do Pygmy goats need?
Pygmy goats do not like to be enclosed in a cage. They prefer open spaces where they can run, jump, and generally frolic to their heart's content. They are great leapers and they will likely escape any fenced in areas where they are expected to stay. Most experts agree that a four-foot tall fence can usually keep them in, as long as there is nothing for the goats to climb on. Per goat, 250 square feet is sufficient, but one goat alone is never a good thing. Plan on at least two goats and 500 square feet.
How many babies do Pygmy goats have?
Since Pygmy goats can begin mating as early as two months old, and they produce one to four kids every year, over a lifetime they may have anywhere from ten to thirty kids if allowed to breed at will.
How tall are Pygmy goats?
Pygmy goats are called Pygmy goats for a reason: they rarely reach more than twenty-four inches tall. On average, both bucks and does are between 16 and 23 inches tall.
How much do Pygmy goats weigh?
Despite their small size, the little Pygmy goats can weigh in at 35 to 75 pounds for a doe, and 40 to 86 pounds for a buck!
How to tell if a Pygmy goat is pregnant:
Signs of pregnancy are similar to human pregnancy: increased appetite, weight gain, tightening belly, personality changes. Other signs include decreased milk production, not returning to heat, and snoring.
How much do Pygmy goats cost to keep?
The cost of raising a Pygmy goat greatly depends on a budget. Plan on at least $1000 for a small shelter, $2000 or more for a larger shed. Goats are hard on fencing, and building one that won't let water escape - the only way to guarantee to keep a goat in as well - will also factor in heavily, depending on the size of the fence. Continuous costs to consider are food, vet bills, medicines and grooming supplies. On average, monthly costs may range from $300 to $500.
How high can Pygmy goats jump?
Athletic Pygmy goats can leap several feet, but most goats will not leap over a 4-foot fence.
How much do I feed Pygmy goats?
Although Pygmy goats can graze in pastures, their diet is better supplemented by hay or alfalfa bales. Each goat may eat one to two pounds of hay per day, depending on other available foods. Grains are used as a dietary supplement for milk production and pregnant goats.
What not to feed Pygmy goats:
Several kinds of plants should be kept away from Pygmy goats: onions, oleander, rhododendrons, house-plants, and bulb plants may be harmful to them. Pygmy goats have also been known to eat tires, so be well aware if you have old tires lying around.
Which is smaller, Pygmy or Nigerian Dwarf goats?
Although very close in size, Nigerian Dwarf goats are just a bit smaller on average. The Pygmy goats are bred to be denser boned, whereas the Nigerian Dwarf Goats are generally lengthier.
How old do Pygmy goats have to be to breed?
A Pygmy buck can reproduce beginning as early as two months, though typically does are bred at 1 to 1 1/2 years.
Where do Pygmy goats come from?
Though they are a common farm animal nowadays, Pygmy goats are originally from Cameroon Valley in West Africa, and only in the 1950s did researchers bring them back to zoos in the United States
How much milk does a Pygmy goat produce?
Don't let their small size deceive you, Pygmy goats can produce an average of 4 pounds of milk per day! That's between 1 to 2 quarts of 4.5% to 11% fat milk.