Better know a Nigerian. Part the third.

(Third part of my conversation with Pygmy/Nigerian Dwarf Goat breeder Tori from Calico Patch Farms. First part here. Second part here.)

Do bucks tend to throw a certain gender? In humans, of course, gender is determined by the male, and a man can have children who are predominantly male or predominantly female. Were this the case with goats, I would think a doe-throwing stud would be in great demand.

Yes, bucks determine gender and does determine the number of kids (don’t fall for ads for a buck that say they consistently throw multiple kids, it’s a fib!). For the most part, at least around here, most bucks seem to throw about half and half, but we did once have a Nigerian buck that seemed to give us about 75% buck kids. If someone were to have a buck that threw mostly does, people might pay more for stud service if they believed that they were more likely to get doe kids. I myself have not ever seen a buck that threw more that 75% doe kids, though.

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How do you determine which buck to breed with a certain doe? What’s your thought process? How far back in his lineage do you go looking for traits?

Breeding takes a lot more thought and consideration than many people would think. This is when we recall what judges have said of each doe; they point out both weaknesses and strong points, and we also carefully look over each doe ourselves.

We currently have three Nigerian bucks, each with different strong points. One buck excels in general appearance, one has super strong feet and legs, and one comes from a background of heavy milkers. If we have a doe that looks very nice, but doesn’t produce quite enough milk, we would breed her to our buck that comes from milk lines. When kids are born, we look them over and decide if the breeding corrected any of the dam’s faults. If it did, it was a successful match that is likely to be repeated. If not, we would put her with a different buck the next year.

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Typically, we look back to a buck’s grandparents (very easy to do when they are registered and you can just type the names of the grandparents into a search engine and find pictures of them!). If they aren’t registered, we at least want to see their parents to get a general idea of what to expect. If you are breeding for milk production, it is especially important to at least look at the buck’s dam to see what her mammary system looks like (you obviously aren’t going to judge a buck by his mammary system!).

Believe it or not (and I’m going to embarrass myself publicly here), it was a surprise to me that does have to be bred to come into milk (hey! chickens lay perfectly good eggs without a rooster…). And breeding means babies. My understanding is that it’s relatively easy to find homes for doelings, but homing bucklings (or wethers) can be a challenge, as so few bucks are worthy of breeding.

How do you handle your bucklings? Are you able to sell them as pets, or do you also sell them for meat?

Actually, quite a few people don’t know that! Now, if you are breeding for milk, you probably won’t have to breed every year; good milking does can continue to lactate for years! Also, if you are only planning on having 2-3 does, you wouldn’t have tons of babies. My point here is that you won’t have a whole lot of babies you have to worry about selling (at least compared to breeders who breed anywhere from 10-30 does a year).

Doelings are always sold pretty fast and easily. Wethers are also sold very easily for us. We have never had to sell them for meat because we had leftovers that we couldn’t sell as pets. Wethers actually make the best pets because they are friendly and less temperamental, and this is usually the selling point for families that are just looking for a couple of goats as pets, and there seems to be a large number of people just looking for pets. Also, Nigerians are bred as a milk breed, so they are very small and lean; the opposite of a goat bred for meat purposes. In other words, they make poor meat producing animals.

Seriously?! I had read that does “milking through” was possible, but I had no idea it was common. Does this trait vary from breed to breed?

It really depends on the lines the doe comes from. We don’t milk our does for any more than three months out of the year, so I have not personally milked a single doe for a couple of years without rebreeding, but I know people that have. Any of the dairy breeds could do this.

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Let’s go back to goats as meat. My intent is dairy, and I chose NDG because they are primarily for dairy, and because, having owned a 190-pound Great Dane, I thought it best I be able to lift each animal on my own if I ever needed to. That said, we already have a few future clients interested in meat, and it has the potential to be a lucrative sideline. People will eat meat whether I produce it or not, and I have the inclination and the ability to give the animals as good a life and peaceful a death as possible.

I am by no means unfeeling (I haven’t eaten meat in over 17 years), and I only considered the idea after finding the most humane slaughter methods possible, but…from your description, NDG aren’t going to be the best meat animals, are they? I read that Pygmies were more of a meat breed. Would you agree, and, how would you say they do as milkers?

We actually have a Great Dane of our own, so I completely understand why you would want a smaller breed! The Nigerians do not make a good meat breed simply because they are so small. Pygmies were originally bred for meat, but again, they are so small that they weren’t ideal for this purpose. This is about the same time the big Boer goats became a popular meat breed. They are the primary breed raised for meat now. Pygmies are now pretty much just raised to show and as pets. For the most part, pygmies don’t produce as much milk as the Nigerians. I do however have one Pygmy that produces as much as my Nigerians, so I can’t say that all pygmies are poor milkers.

Oh, a Great Dane owner. I knew I liked you.

Thus endeth Part the Third. Stay tuned for the fourth installment of our conversation, where we talk about colour and those freaky goat eyes.

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