When we moved to the country in 2002, we chose Nigerian dwarf goats for our farm because they have the highest butterfat of any dairy goat breed in the United States. While standard-sized goats have butterfat around 3-4%, Nigerians average 5-7%. We love goat cheese, which was the whole reason we wanted goats to begin with, and Nigerians give a surprising amount of milk for their small stature. The high butterfat makes them an excellent choice for families that want to make cheese. Our first year, we only milked Star, which was more than enough for us to make lots of chevre and French toast and tapioca pudding -- and gain weight!
We milked two does our second year, and in order to keep the weight gain to a minimum for us humans, we learned to make goat's milk soap! We also started making yogurt, kefir, ice cream, more varieties of cheeses, including both soft and hard varieties. Today we make 17 different dairy products, including all of our own mozzarella, chevre, queso blanco, cheddar, parmesan, buttermilk, and yogurt.
In 2004, we attended our first goat shows, and our daughters became completely addicted -- so much that they both wanted to have their very own goats. We showed our goats from 2004 to 2008, and we were on DHI 305-day milk testing for two years. As our daughters grew older, their interests broadened, and our oldest is now at the University of Illinois. The youngest is still at home, attending the local community college, and helping us around the farm, but she's fully recovered from the show bug. Although it was fun meeting other breeders and bringing home plenty of rosettes -- and even finishing two does as permanent champions, one in AGS and the other in AGS and ADGA -- I prefer to stay home with my goats. Showing is hard work, and I don't really feel that it proves the worth of a dairy goat. We did go back on 305-day milk test in 2010, and five of our does earned their advanced registry stars. We plan to continue in 2011.
As you tour our Web site, you will notice that our goats have been registered under three herd names -- Antiquity Oaks, Maly, and AOF. Antiquity Oaks was the original herd, which registered goats with AGS and NDGA, and Maly was the name our oldest daughter chose for registering the offspring of her goats. When she left for the University of Illinois, she sold her goats to me (her mom). At that time, I also decided to finally get a herd name with ADGA. Antiquity was already taken, so I had to come up with something else. After a lot of whining, I finally decided to just go with my tattoo sequence, AOF, which stands for Antiquity Oaks Farm. AOF is also registered with AGS now, so all goats registered with either registry in 2008 or later will be under the AOF herd name.
From Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats:
The Nigerian Dwarf is of particular interest to backyarders. Introduced in the early 1980s when they were seen mostly in zoos, some of these little imports are excellent milkers for their size. As more serious breeders continue to develop them, their milk production is constantly increasing. What's more, they are considered dual-purpose animals, providing both milk and meat. The Nigerian Dwarf was the breed chosen for the Biosphere 2 experiment, in which eight people spent two years along with 3,500 plant and animal species and no outside supplies or support except electricity. Biosphere 2 was designed as a space-colony model, though ecological research became the primary, scientific goal. At any rate, future space travelers might be milking Nigerian Dwarfs!
One Nigerian Dwarf doe gave a whopping 6.3 pounds of milk on test day, and another had 11.3 percent butterfat. (2006 Update: the new one-day high is 6.8 pounds of milk!) A well-bred and well-managed Dwarf can be expected to produce an average of a quart a day over a 305-day lactation. Many of these good producers have teats as large as those of the full-sized breeds and are milked just as easily.
Although Nigerian Dwarves are a dairy goat, not every breeder milks his or her goats. Some people raise them for show or for pets. Our goal is to use and promote these lovely little goats as the ideal family milk goat. Since one or two goats provide the perfect amount of milk for most families, there is no need to buy an extra refrigerator for storing gallons of milk. Because these goats are small and friendly, they fit nicely into families with small children. Because some lines of these goats cycle year-round (rather than seasonally like the big goats), you can have a fresh supply of milk all year with two or three goats, breeding them four to six months apart.
If you are looking for a milk goat, it is important to get one from a breeder who has milked their goats and has first-hand knowledge of their goats' mammary systems and production capability. Not every goat is easy to milk or has great production, and the only way you know how much a goat produces or if they have easily-milkable teats -- or the right personality -- is if you've spent time milking that goat.
Now that we've been selectively breeding for the home dairy for nine years, we are consistently getting doelings that meet our standards as family milkers. In many cases, we own four or five generations behind the kids that we're selling, so we can give you information about a kid's parents, siblings, aunts, and other distant relatives.
The three most important things to us are:
- Personality -- A goat has to have the right kind of personality to be a good milk goat. If she is doing pirouettes on the milk stand, it's rather challenging to hit the milk bucket.
- Production -- If a goat can't maintain at least a quart a day for several months, she isn't really making enough for most families.
- Teats -- If we can't get our hands on her teats to get the milk out, then she isn't the right goat for a home dairy.
When we decide to sell an adult goat, we are honest in our assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, and we make sure we understand why you want a goat so that you won't wind up with an aloof brood doe if you really wanted an in-your-face pet. We attempt to make the same good matches with kids and future owners, but since we're dealing with genetic potential, rather than a mature personality and conformation, it becomes much more unpredictable. No goat is perfect, and our goal is to make each goat's kids a little better than the parents. To that end, we have purchased bucks whose mothers have mammary systems that we believe will improve upon what our does already have.
We hope you enjoy your cyber tour of Antiquity Oaks, and if you are in Illinois, we invite you to personally visit us and our goats.
We are members of the following organizations:
American Dairy Goat Association
American Goat Society
American Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Association
Illinois Dairy Goat Association
Nigerian Dwarf Goat Association
Although I no longer have time to respond to general goat questions from people around the country via email, I created an online network for just that purpose. You can ask questions, create a blog, post pictures and videos, and meet new friends who also love the littlest dairy goats.
Visit Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats