Should you own a pygmy goat? What is a pygmy goat? How do you take care of pygmy goats?
Pygmy goats are a popular breed of goat to raise due to their social nature and small size.
If you’re considering getting goats, then you might want to start off with pygmy goats. Their small size means that they require much less in the way of feed than standard size goats.
Pygmies can ease you into livestock ownership and are an excellent choice for those new to owning goats.
Pygmy Goat History
The pygmy breed has an interesting history that began in Africa.
Throughout Africa there are several types of pygmy goats. The pygmies that led to the pygmy goats found today in the United States are descendants of the Cameroon Dwarf goats.
The Cameroon dwarf goats originated in the French Cameroon area.
Some of these goats were captured and exported to zoos in Sweden and Germany where they were put on display. They were very different in appearance from the large standard-sized dairy goats that were found in European countries at the time.
From Sweden and Germany, the dwarf goats were exported into England, Canada and the United States.
In the 1950’s, the breed was established.
The Rhue family in California and Catskill Game Farm in New York imported the first pygmy goats in 1959.
The descendents of these goats are the pygmies found in the U.S. today.
True to their name, pygmy goats are small in size and are much smaller than standard sized goats.
Pygmy goats can be any color or color pattern.
The most common color is agouti, which results from a mixture of light and dark hairs, making a grizzled pattern.
Pygmy goats are very hardy and very adaptable. They have big personalities and are both docile and playful.
Their intelligence and eagerness to interact with both adults and children make them a favorite at petting zoos around the country.
Pygmy goats are small and have compact little bodies. This distinguishes them from Dwarf goats, which have a more refined appearance.
Pygmy Goat Size
When measuring goat size, there are two main ways that you can measure them.
- By weight
- By height at withers
The withers is the highest point on the goat’s back, between the shoulder blades. This is where height is measured.
Keep that in mind when imagining the height of the animal, as the head is not included in the height measurement, unless indicated.
How big do pygmy goats get?
- Males: 50 to 70 pounds and 16 to 23 inches tall
- Females: 40 to 70 pounds and 16 to 22 inches tall
This makes them much smaller than many of the standard breeds. Many dairy breeds weigh around 120 pounds at maturity.
Some adult meat goats can weigh close to 200 pounds.
Pygmy Goat Lifespan
They reach maturity at 8-12 months.
Pygmy goats can live to be 10-15 years old.
Breeding Pygmy Goats
There is nothing cuter than a pygmy goat kid. Pygmies themselves are small and adorable, but the kids are just too cute.
Pygmies reach sexual maturity at as early as 4-5 months of age.
To prevent accidental breeding, separate bucks and does when they are 8 weeks old as there are a few documented cases of goats breeding that soon.
Pygmy goats are short-day breeders. This means that does will come into heat for breeding when the days start to get shorter.
Does can be brought into heat sooner by keeping them in a stall that is dark and shortening the day for them.
Does are pregnant for 145-153 days, or about 5 months.
Bred does will have 1-4 kids at a time. Typically, the more kids, the smaller they are in size.
The average pygmy kid weighs between 2-4 pounds at birth.
One kid born will be larger than if the doe has three kids.
Pygmy kids should be up and trying to nurse within an hour after they are born.
In fact, pygmy kids will usually be up and nursing within a few minutes after birth. Not long after birth, they will be running, playing and jumping in the pasture.
Kids should begin exploring feed, hay or pasture by one week of age.
Pygmy kids are weaned at 8-12 weeks of age.
You may be thinking that there is no way that a pygmy goat doe can successfully nurse four babies at a time.
While it’s true that she only has two teats to nurse babies with, pygmy does are very successful when it comes to raising multiple kids.
In fact, many people choose to have pygmies because they can get milk from does and the doe will still be able to nurse her kids.
Pygmy goats can produce a ton of milk for their small size.
You can expect anywhere from 1-2 quarts of milk each day. The milk is super rich and can contain as much as 11% butterfat.
They do have shorter lactation periods than some of the dairy goat breeds and will only be in milk for 120-180 days before drying up.
Pygmy Goat Care
Just like any other goat, pygmies need proper housing. This includes fencing and shelter from harsh weather.
Goats are prone to getting hoof rot, which can be easily avoided by providing them a dry place to escape muddy pastures.
If you find your goat with hoof rot, learn how to easily treat it: treating hoof rot in goats.
Pygmy goats will need less feed than larger breeds, but they still need adequate feed, hay, water and supplements.
Housing for Pet Pygmy Goats
It’s important to consider the size of the goat when you start thinking about housing and fencing needs.
Pygmies are smaller than other livestock and can often squeeze out of fencing that other goats or larger livestock cannot.
Field fencing is a good option for small goats. The holes are small enough to keep both adults and kid pygmies inside of the pastures.
You may want to consider disbudding your goats if you use field fencing.
The grass always seems greener on the other side of a fence and goats can easily get their heads through the fence with horns. However, they can’t always get them back through the fence.
This makes them an easy target for predators, especially if the goat is vocal about having his or her head caught.
Provide your goats with a barn or three sided shed for shelter.
Most goats don’t like to be exposed to rain or snow and will choose to be in a dry area if possible.
Make sure that the area is well-ventilated but free from drafts. The floor should also remain dry.
Goats that stand in muddy pastures for extended periods of time will quickly develop hoof rot. When hoof rot is left untreated, it can cause hoof damage.
In the winter, goats will need help staying warm. A heat lamp and deep bedding is usually sufficient to keep goats comfortable.
An 8×10′ shed will provide enough sleeping room to comfortably house four adult pygmy goats. Provide them with some elevated sleeping areas to keep them entertained and off of the potentially wet ground.
Feeding Pygmy Goats
Pygmy goats are browsers naturally. This means that they will choose to eat the leaves of trees and shrubs rather than graze on pasture grasses.
It’s interesting to note that goats are very efficient when they eat. They will choose the most nutritious parts of plants as they graze, meaning that will proper area to graze, you’ll be out less on feed.
Although most goats prefer to browse, they still enjoy to eat grass. When pastures die back, you’ll need to provide them with hay.
You may also have to supplement their diet with feed and minerals also.
A goat on good pasture doesn’t require feed.
However, pregnant goats or goats not on good pasture should be given a small amount of feed.
There are good goat feeds available. You can find these easily at your local feed stores.
When you’re buying feed for your goats, don’t purchase feed that is labeled for goats and sheep. If you can, purchase feed that is formulated specifically for goats.
Goats and sheep may be of similar size and appearance, but they require different nutrients.
Goat feed often has added minerals like copper and selenium, which sheep don’t need as much of.
Avoid making your pygmies sick by giving them the proper feed.
If you give your goats feed, make sure that you aren’t giving them too much.
Too much grain is not good for any livestock, including goats. They need roughage in their diet as well.
Pygmy goats are prone to obesity and can become fat quickly with too much feed. If you notice a goat that starts to look pot-bellied and isn’t wormy, then you need to restrict the amount of feed they consume.
There are times when you’ll need to provide your goats with hay.
You may need to separate individuals before kidding or during a time of illness.
Provide goats with an ample supply of hay. A flake or two of a quality square bale is generally enough for a day.
Bermuda hay is a good choice for goats. It will provide enough nutrients and is highly palatable for goats.
Do not feed your pygmy goats alfalfa hay. I know it looks tempting and something that your goats would love to eat, but it can cause urinary calculi, or kidney stones to form.
Goats are messy when they eat hay and can waste a lot of it. Put the hay in a feeder and don’t put it on the ground.
A hay feeder will reduce the amount of hay that is wasted by your goats.
Any hay that is wasted on the ground can be used to fill chicken nesting boxes or put into the composting bin.
Always make sure that your goats have access to clean, drinkable water.
Goats require a lot of water to digest their food properly and will quickly go off of feed if they don’t have water to drink.
Pygmy does that have babies they are nursing will need additional water to produce the large amounts of milk that they make.
A large water trough can be filled up for goats, but make sure that the water trough isn’t too tall for your pygmies to reach.
If you have babies, you’ll need to provide them with a small bucket of water that they can reach.
In the summer you’ll notice that water troughs can become welcoming breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Keep mosquito larvae out of your goat’s water with mosquito killing disks.
In the winter, keep your goat’s water from freezing. You can purchase heated buckets to make this easier.
Provide your goats with a loose trace mineral grain that is intended for goats.
Pygmy goats, like other goat breeds, have unique mineral requirements. It’s better to provide them with a goat mineral mixture than a salt or mineral lick intended for all livestock.
Goats can get some minerals from the soil. Depending on the soil in your area, there may be enough minerals to support your goats.
Many areas are low in selenium, which goats need in a larger amount. Goat minerals provide ample selenium and other minerals to keep them healthy.
You can provide them minerals in a small feeder. Keep the minerals in a location where they will stay dry. You can attach a mineral feeder to the inside wall of their shed or barn.
Keep an ample supply of the mineral available to them. They will only consume what they need.
Caring for Pygmy Goats: Health Needs
Pygmy goats are generally pretty healthy when they are taken care of properly.
The best way to make sure that your pygmies stay healthy is to feed them correctly.
Make sure that your goats are getting the minerals that they need. Goats will need extra copper and selenium, both of which are found in mineral mixes made for goats.
Another thing to watch out for is the presence of barber pole worms.
Barber pole worms are an internal parasite that affects goats. They get their name due to the striped appearance that resembles a barber’s pole.
The worms will bury into the lining of the digestive tract and they feed on the blood of the goat. The worms can consume so much blood that they can cause the goat to become anemic.
Unfortunately, most goats will that are affected with barber pole worms will not show symptoms until they are heavily infested with them.
Because of this, it’s important to check your goats frequently for anemia. Learn how to do this by FAMACHA scoring your goats.
You can lower the chances that your goat will get worms by making sure they always have pasture that is at least 4″ tall. Don’t let your goats graze their pastures down to the soil.
You can also put them into a pasture with horses or cows. Barber pole worms cannot live in the digestive tract of large livestock, so co-grazing reduces the parasite loads.
Trim the hooves of your pygmy goats every 4-6 weeks. You can do this with a pair of hoof shears very easily.
Check the hooves for signs of damage, soreness or rain rot while you are trimming them.
Rain rot is a common problem with goats and is brought on quickly in wet, muddy pastures. It’s easy to treat if caught early.
Vaccinate your pygmies for tetanus, pulpy kidneys and enterotoxaemia.
Pygmy Goat Uses
There are several reasons why owning a pygmy goat may make sense for you. (Besides the fact that they are just so cute!)
Pygmy goats are a popular animal raised on farms for a reason. They are versatile and can be used to clear land, provide milk and in some cases, provide meat.
Land Clean Up
A really popular reason to own goats of any breed is for land clean up.
Pygmy goats prefer to browse. They love to eat leaves, brush and other small shrubs and trees.
This makes them the perfect candidate to clean up overgrown woods and brushy pastures.
Put pygmies in a pasture with cattle, sheep or horses to clean up the brushy plants that other livestock won’t eat.
You’ll help reduce the parasite load of all the livestock involved and you’ll get even more out of your pastures.
In the Western U.S., wildfires are a major concern for landowners. Overgrown brush is a big hazard when it comes to spreading wildfires.
Goats are used as a natural way to clean up overgrown land to reduce wildfire risk.
Many landowners prefer the look left behind from goats than that of heavy equipment. Plus, they fertilize while they clean up!
Despite the small size of pygmies, they can be used as sufficient dairy animals. One doe can produce 1-2 quarts of really rich milk per day.
Pygmy milk has been shown to have as much as 11% butterfat. Even pygmies that don’t produce as much butterfat out perform many dairy breeds by producing over 4% butterfat.
You’ll be able to have does that can both nurse kids and provide milk for the family.
If you’re interested in goats for dairy purposes but don’t have much room, then pygmy goats may be the best option for you.
Do pygmy goats make good pets?
Pygmies are really popular as farm animals and pets.
They are a favorite at zoos and petting zoos because of their curious and lovable personalities.
Pygmy goats are small enough that they aren’t intimidating to young children.
They love attention and can be extremely social. You can expect them to get excited when they see you.
They will call to you when they see you, come when they are called and will follow you around for attention.
Raising Pygmy Goats as Pets
If you decide to raise pygmies as pets, there are some things that you should be aware of.
Remember, pygmy goats are livestock and still have some characteristics that you may need to really consider.
If you think you can handle raising a pygmy goat, know that they make really good pets and they are fun to own.
Tips for Raising Pygmy Goats as Pets
- Check that you can own a goat in your area. Many HOA or cities consider pygmy goats as livestock and don’t allow them.
- If you don’t want to breed goats, consider just getting does. Bucks can put off a musky odor, especially during breeding season. The odor comes from a gland in the top of his head, which he may try to rub on you.
- Pygmy goats kept as pets should be disbudded to avoid accidental injury to you, another goat or themselves.
- Goats are herd animals and feel most comfortable when they have a friend. Although other species can be friends to them, a bored goat will be an unhappy goat. They are best suited to herd lives and enjoy the company of other goats. Consider whether you have the space and resources for more than one before you buy a pygmy goat.
Can a pygmy goat be a house pet?
Technically, a pygmy goat could be a housepet if you really wanted it to.
If you’re thinking about keeping a pygmy as a house pet, you might want to consider the fact that while these goats are small in size, they can jump and love to be on top of things.
They can weigh as much as 85 pounds and could easily tear up things in your home.
Also, it’s not easy to potty train them. You can put diapers on them, but you may tire of changing diapers.
You can keep them easily in your backyard as long as they have room to run and play. Make sure that if they are in your backyard, that the fence enclosing the back yard is at least four feet tall.
Some landscaping plants are toxic or poisonous to goats. No, they don’t ‘eat everything’ and they shouldn’t anyways.
Plants that are toxic to goats include:
- Poison hemlock and water hemlock
- Azaleas and other rhododendrons
- Maple leaves or oak leaves in large amounts
- Dead leaves from cherries, plums, prunes, peaches, nectarines, pluots, apricots, and chokecherry plants (fresh are OK in small amounts)
- Ponderosa pine needles
- Tomato leaves, stems fruit or flowers
- Rhubarb leaves
Not all of these plants will lead to immediate death in pygmy goats. Some of the plants can cause internal bleeding, goat polio, pregnancy abortion and other serious illnesses.
It’s best to avoid these plants all together to keep your goats safe.
Buying a Goat
When looking for a pygmy goat, it’s important to purchase them from a reputable source.
You want to purchase them from someone that has handled them frequently so that they are friendly and have manners around people.
Also, they goats should be vaccinated and have their hooves trimmed. When you purchase a goat, it’s always a good idea to check for anemia using the FAMACHA scoring method.
If the goat shows signs of anemia, worm it immediately before bringing it home and spreading the parasites to goats you may have at home.
Pygmy Goat Price
You can find pygmy goat babies for around $75 in the spring.
However, a well-bred,registered and well-taken-care-of pygmy goat can cost as much as $500.
The National Pygmy Goat Association is available to help new pygmy goat owners and future pygmy parents.
They have a list of really helpful resources and breeders that can help you find the right goat for you and your family.
Pygmy Goat Breeders
Search for breeder by state or region.
Final Thoughts About Raising Pygmy Goats
Pygmy goats are a really fun pet to own if you have the space and resources to take care of them.
Pygmies are extremely social and fun to be around. They will entertain you with their goofy personalities.
Provided with proper nutrition, they are generally pretty healthy. They need annual vaccines, hoof trims every 4-6 weeks and occasional wormings when they show signs of anemia.
Pygmy goats are best housed outdoors and not inside. Despite the small size, they are generally still too large for an indoor pet. They can, however, live happily in your backyard.
Fences should be at least four feet high and should be sturdy enough to keep goats in.
Provide a shelter or barn with a dry floor for goats to escape the weather in.
You can raise pygmies as pets, use them to clean up land, raise pygmy goat kids and even as milk and meat animals. They are extremely versatile and require less resources than other livestock species.