More and more people seem to be getting unconventional pets and farm animals are becoming increasingly popular, even in more urban areas. Pygmy goats seem to be the best of both worlds. They’re cute and full of personality, always getting up to some kind of antics, but they also can be quite the handful. Pygmy goats aren’t the pet for everyone, even if you have the space and time for them. If you’ve seen these cute, furry critters and thought you might be interested in having one as a pet, here are the things you should know.
Pygmy Goat Facts
Pygmy goats are descendants of West African Dwarf goats. They were brought to the US between the 1930s to 1960s and people began breeding them as companion animals. Through this breeding of West African goats, the American Pygmy and Nigerian Dwarf were born. American Pygmies are stocky, sturdy goats in miniature form, while Nigerian Dwarf goats are more like miniature dairy goats. In some areas, American Pygmies and Nigerian Dwarfs are considered to be the same breed of goat, falling under the umbrella of Pygmy goats.
Male Pygmy goats stand between 17-22 inches at the withers while females stand between 17-21 inches. All colors are accepted in Pygmy goats except for Swiss striping along the face. They can weigh between 30 and 60 pounds.
Do Pygmy Goats Make Good Pets?
Pygmy goats are social animals and many of them enjoy the presence of people. More than anything, though, they like having a goat companion. It’s recommended to keep at least two Pygmy goats at any given time. This can be a mating pair or two wethered, or neutered, males. Keeping two studs together may lead to aggression.
Pygmy goats require hands-on care every day. It’s recommended to brush them daily, but this can be done multiple times per week if you’re unable to do it daily. They will need to be provided with clean water and fresh food every day. Some people make the mistake of getting Pygmy goats as “lawnmowers”, but these goats prefer to browse for food throughout the day as opposed to continuous grazing, making them a poor choice for this job.
Before you seriously consider getting Pygmy goats, the first thing you should do is check the laws in your area. If you live outside city limits, you likely can own goats. If you’re inside city limits, owning livestock animals is extremely variable from place to place, so you’ll definitely need to check on this. If you can legally own goats in your area, the next thing to check is to ensure your homeowners association or landlord will allow goats.
Where Can I Get Pygmy Goats?
Depending on where you live, acquiring Pygmy goats may be easy or difficult. In more rural areas, you may be able to find Pygmy goats in co-op type stores or you may even pass signs on your daily drive advertising goats for sale. It’s a good idea to research breeders in your area to ensure you’re getting healthy goats from a reliable breeder. If you live in an area where it is more difficult to find goats, you may be able to order them online or find some for sale in more rural areas within a few hours drive of your home. If you have family or friends who currently have or previously had Pygmy goats, they may be able to give you referrals to reliable resources.
How Much Does It Cost to Own Pygmy Goats?
Purchasing a Pygmy goat can range anywhere from free to $500. If you’re acquiring a wethered male, you may be able to get it for free or extremely low cost. High quality and champion goats from breeding lines can easily cost hundreds of dollars. If you’re just looking for Pygmy goats to keep as pets, you will likely be able to get a couple of goats for under $100.
Acquiring goats will likely be the cheapest part of getting started. You’ll need to have yard space that has been “goat-proofed” to keep them safe and secure. Setting up a shed and safe yard space for your goats can easily run hundreds to thousands of dollars. Feed shouldn’t break the bank, though. Goats can be fed hay, and a single bale of hay could easily last a pair of Pygmy goats for a couple of months. Feed known as “sweet feed” should not be fed to wethers because it’s high in calories and they are prone to obesity. If you have kids, does, or studs, then sweet feed will likely cost you $15 per bag, which should last a while for Pygmies. Vitamins and supplements will cost you approximately $100 or less per year.
Your goats will need a vet checkup when you first bring them home, which will likely be anywhere from $75-$175. Additional lab work and visits can cost into the hundreds of dollars. Goats also need dewormer 4-6 times per year to prevent and treat parasites. This can usually be acquired from the vet or from farm supply stores.
What Kind of Home Do My Pygmy Goats Need?
Your goats will need a shed that provides them shelter from the elements. They should be able to stay dry and have adequate blocking from the wind. It should also be insulated in a way that helps them stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Pygmy goats don’t necessarily need any lighting in their shed or pen, but it’s a good idea to provide heat lamps in cold weather. There are multiple safe ways to use heat lamps, and many are made to be used in partially outdoor environments.
Fences for Pygmy goats should be tall enough that they cannot jump it, usually 5 feet or more. The frame of the fence should be well-braced and sturdy, so it isn’t easily knocked or blown over. The fencing used should be something the goats cannot squeeze through or get a foothold in, so fencing options like no-climb horse fencing or thick chicken wire will work well. Kids can squeeze out of very small spaces, so the fencing should be installed inside the frame and needs to be pulled taut on installation so they cannot slip underneath it.
Straw, wood pellets, and wood shavings are all good options for goat bedding. The bedding should be able to help keep your goats warm and comfortable while also absorbing waste to prevent hygiene issues.
Food and Water
Hay should be fed from a hay rack or feed trough. Any loose feed that is offered should be fed in a feed trough. It should not be fed from the ground. Water in a low-sided water trough should be clean and available all the time. This trough should be a safe depth just in case one of your goats accidentally gets inside of it and can’t get back out
Grooming and Accessories
You’ll need a hard brush and a curry comb to keep your goats clean and well-groomed. You will also need a bathing mitt, hoof trimmer, and a comb for longer hair areas like tails and beards. Your goat may need a coat if they are ill or if the weather is exceptionally cold, but otherwise should not need one.
What Should I Feed My Pygmy Goats?
Pygmy goats should have most of their diet made up of hay or grazing. In cold weather, they will require more hay since grasses will be in short supply. They can have some of their diet supplemented with roughage, like alfalfa or chaff-based feeds. Sweet feed should not be fed to obesity-prone wethers, but fit, young, or breeding goats should have some in their diet. Goats can have fruits, veggies, and novel foods like leaves and plants they don’t usually have access to as a treat. They can also have goat milk on occasion, but many adult goats will not need this.
Salt blocks, which actually contain multiple trace minerals, should be provided to your goats all the time. Additional supplementation will vary based on your goat’s age, health status, weight, and whether they are intact or not. Water is one of the most important parts of your goat’s diet and should be provided all the time. During the winter, electric deicers may be used to keep the water from freezing over so your goat has access to enough water.
How Do I Take Care of My Pygmy Goats?
Offer hay based on your goat’s age and weight daily. Extra feed and treats should be fed sparingly.
Most domestic goats are comfortable being in the presence of people. When your goats are young, handle them routinely so they get used to human interaction. This will help you both enjoy each other’s company, and it will make it easier and safer for you to care for your goats.
Your goats won’t need scheduled baths, but if they are visibly dirty and brushing isn’t cutting it, a bath is acceptable. A bathing mitt will help make sure your goat gets squeaky clean.
Goats prefer to be in temperatures above freezing and below 86˚F. Temperatures below 30-40˚F can be dangerous to your goats, especially if they do not have adequate shelter. In the heat of summer, to prevent heat stress and heat stroke, your goats need access to cool water, shade, and a shed that is insulated to maintain cooler temperatures than the outdoors. Fans outside of your goats’ reach can also help keep them safe in the heat.
Your goats will need plenty of space to run around, especially when they are young. They don’t require walking like a dog, but they do appreciate having things to jump and climb on, as well as space to move freely.
Goats are social creatures and will be happiest with a companion. They will also appreciate daily interactions with you, especially when they associate you with food and care. It may take time to build trust between you and your goat at first, but they will usually warm up quickly.
Depending on age, weight, and activity level, your goat may need hoof trimming anywhere from every 2-6 weeks or so. If their “toes” look like they’re starting to curl outward, then it’s likely time for a trim. If you’re not comfortable with this, most agricultural vets will do it.
Enclosure Cleaning and Maintenance
You should check your goat enclosure over daily to make sure the fence and shed are intact and nothing is out of place that may injure your goats or allow for an escape. Bedding should be changed out as needed and fully replaced at least every week or so, depending on how many goats are sharing a space.
Most people breed their goats during the fall into early spring, so the kids are born when weather is safely above freezing. Females will go into season and you will be able to tell when a female is ready to breed if she is having thick, mucus discharge, mounting other goats, and is wagging her tail or otherwise acting excited or overstimulated in the presence of males. If you have a stud and doe and don’t want them to breed, they shouldn’t be kept together without direct supervision at any point, even if you don’t think the female is ready to breed. Generally, it’s recommended to wait for females to be around 18 months or older before breeding.
How Do I Know If My Pygmy Goat Is Sick?
Dewormer will help prevent parasites, but it can be difficult to determine exactly what parasites you may be dealing with. Some parasites will require different treatments than others. If you notice loose stools, unusually colored stools, visible worms, weight loss, or appetite changes, it’s worth either deworming or reaching out to your vet for their recommendation for treatment.
Caprine Arthritis-Encephalitis Virus
This contagious disease is commonly transmitted from does to kids via milk, but it can be passed from goat to goat through contact with blood and feces. This disease shows up in five different forms: chronic wasting, arthritis, mastitis, pneumonia, and encephalitis. Arthritis is the most common form in adults and encephalitis leading to paralysis and potentially death is the most common form in kids. There is no treatment for this disease, and it can only be prevented through keeping a tight-knit herd and removing infected goats from the herd before they can infect others.
This intestinal disease is caused by a form of Mycobacterium and is sometimes called Paratuberculosis. It is highly contagious and can infect goats and other ruminants, including cattle and deer. It is transmitted via contact with feces, milk, or other body secretions. Some goats will carry this disease without symptoms for months or years, so when one positive goat is found in your herd, it’s likely there are others. The symptoms are non-descript and mimic those of other diseases, including weight loss, diarrhea, and weakness. This disease has no cure and is fatal.
Like other mammals, goats can get multiple types of skin infections. These infections can be fungal, viral, parasitic, or bacterial, all of which require different treatments. If you notice any lesions or unusual spots on your goat’s skin, hair loss, or itchiness, your veterinarian is going to be the best resource for an accurate diagnosis.
Pygmy goats are exceptionally fun and interesting companions, but they do require a lot of time and care. They can live up to 15 years, which means they are a long-term commitment. They are also a large cost investment up front and require regular monetary investments, so this should be a serious consideration before you bring goats home. Check about the legalities of owning goats in your area as well. If you do decide to bring home Pygmy goats, make sure you are getting them from a safe, reliable breeder so you get healthy goats.
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Featured Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock