I grew up obsessed with horses and began riding as a toddler and continued into my teen and most of my adult life. As I was getting older I knew I couldn't afford to risk a major injury being a single mother so I began researching other animals that would be safer, to pour my passion into. I also really wanted to have animals that "gave back" or at least contributed lol! Dogs, Cats and Horses tend to be "takers" or at least animals that you pour a lot of money in but besides their awesome love and devotion~ don't give back... So I began to look into chickens (the "gateway" animal to farms) and learned a lot about them~ Guineas, chickens, ducks geese,
I tried them and they are really messy animals. I do have a flock of 20+ chickens that free-range and we do love them and their yummy eggs but not an animal I could really get excited about! No offense to those that do I have a lot of good friends that are crazy over their birds!
For as long as I can remember I have always wanted a goat but really did not have a lot of knowledge about them~ I knew if would cost the same to raise an unregistered goat as a registered one so I wanted to make the right choice. I also liked the idea of participating in production programs offered by the ADGA (American Dairy Goat Association. I have experience in breeding dogs (Labrador Retrievers in the 90's) and horses and have always strived to improve on the breed standards.
So in 2009 I began researching the different breeds and uses (milk. meat, fiber) and found there were quite a few choices and their needs did vary. For me the size of the Nigerian Dwarfs are very attractive, they are about a 3rd of the size of a standard breed (about the size of a Labrador Retriever) making them far easier to handle and house. They also require less feed, easy to transport (dog crates work great). Nigerian Dwarfs tend to be hardier than large breeds, they are very inquisitive and friendly. Their milk production quantity can be very respectable and the butterfat content is the highest out of all the breeds. The higher the butterfat equates to the highest % of cheese produced out of the milk, in soap and lotions it will make them more emollient and full of vitamins.
Although a fairly new breed (less than 30 yrs at the time) they have gained popularity quickly and now account for the highest portion of registrations each year in the American Dairy Goat Association. They also generally have the largest percentage of entries at shows and many times provide the income to support the less popular (but still awesome) breeds and are in high demand throughout the country.
My background is in sales and marketing and so I can't help but evaluate everything I venture into through those lens~ including hobbies. I always look into how my interests can hopefully at least support my investment or better yet make a profit. I also had become interested in homesteading & producing safe & humanely raised food sources for my family particularly since there is so much uncertainty commercially.
I was in real estate when I saw the writing on the wall in 2006 and I made the move into Corporate America thinking it would give me more stability., Tennessee's housing industry had surged but we did not get the "bubble" like other areas. Thankfully I was with a good company when the economy crashed.
I worked in marketing for a well know Resort corporation but I did not like the idea that could at anytime decide to remove my department or make drastic changes that would affect my finances- which did happen 10 years later. I really felt that I needed to have more control over my income and future. A side note~ raising livestock also does have very attractive tax advantages that is how emus and alpacas became a craze! Nigerian Dwarfs also tend to produce twins and triplets but sometimes a single or quads and can have as many as 7 offspring (I have only known of 2 sets of 7- so it is unusual). The gestation is 5 months or avg for NDs is 145 days, we aim to bred once a year sometimes a little sooner but not more than 3 births in 2 years.
The length in lactation is not as long as a cow but goat milk production does respond to demand, if you milk twice a day you will get more production but you can reduce your frequency to once a day and not lose half the production~ works out to about 75%. Bloodlines and conformation will play a huge part into actual production. It was very important to me to obtain lines that had a long solid history of high milk production so that I could build on to the consistency already established. There are flukes but odds are much higher in your favor if you are working with proven lines. Using the best bucks I could find was most important to me as well~ A buck will have a huge impact on your herd and the quickest way to improve your herd. A great doe will only produce offspring once a year yet a great buck can produce all your offspring in a year.
I continued to work full time as I built up my herd and knowledge and in 2016 made the shift to working from the farm full time. It is rewarding to see the results in the fruits of your labor. BUT, it is also alot of hard work, long hours, no days off and sweat and tears (of both happiness and sadness). I look at all my endeavors through a business angle so I did alot of research before deciding on NDs.
It does cost the same to raise and feed unregistered goats as it would to have registered goats. The registered are in higher demand and the pricing has been increasing over the years. Although it is a significant investment starting out with good stock, you will recoup your money back fairly quickly. One kidding should more than pay for the doe IF you sell the kids... I say IF because goats are very addictive and you can easily multiply your herd quickly! I started with 3 and sold my way up, back then you couldn't get your hands on the really good lines easily and I diligently hunted down the best I could throughout the country! If you are interested in showing and or milking you can't skimp on quality bloodlines. They are little goats and nobody wants to spend their time and money to get a half a cup of milk per milking! I am comfortable now expecting my girls to produce a minimum of a quart a day (first freshener) but am now getting about double that. It is rewarding being part of the improvement to the breed over the years- the value and demand has also continued to grow.
My herd name was chosen to honor God who has led me on this journey -Dancing with my Father God in the Fields of Grace has always been a favorite (by Big Daddy Weave). Everything seemed to easily fall into place, my property easily transitioned from horses to goats- this lead me to believe that this endeavor was meant to be! Some were flown in, ground transported as well as some really fun memorable trips were made to go get them.
Over the years I have learned so much~he biggest discovery was this is a never ending learning experience! I have raised many different kinds of animals, goats truly have a great learning curve. I seek to go as natural as possible in feeding and caring for them boosting their immunity and keeping their rumen happy.. After all we are consuming the milk we produce and what goes in them will also go in us as well... A healthy diet goes along way to keep their immune system and rumen healthy. I prefer not to use standard medicine using herbs and minerals but have an ample supply of pharmaceutical medications and supplies if necessary.
It is really rewarding to watch my herd transform as I find which lines really work well together for me. Every breeder sooner or later will begin to develop their own personal style of the breed and your "lines" begin to emerge. You start to see a consistency in your offspring both in looks and production. I have concentrated on and love the beautiful elegant body style of a true miniature dairy goat. But even more important is to have strong hardy lines~ There will be many variables including your climate, their diet and the parasite issues in your area that will come into play. They all can have an effect on what your milk production and herd's health will be. To me if you don't have healthy stock you are not going to have success in any other area of raising goats. Line breeding is also done fairly heavily in dairy goats- but it is only done when you truly are familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of the animals you are working with! By doubling up on the strengths you can quickly see improvements and consistency!
I love to attend goat shows and regularly travel to shows in the southeast. The furthest we have gone was to Missouri for a 6 ring buck show! Its a lot of work but also fun seeing many of my breeder friends as well as my clients who are now hooked. It is fun for all ages and many families participate. I am working on getting my grandsons interested too!
Linear Appraisal has truly taught me so much as far as conformation and always encourage others to attend as many sessions as possible. It is a yearly event where an ADGA appraiser comes to your farm and gives every eligible animal a score based on the perfect goat being a 100. No animals have ever scored that high in fact I believe only a few Nigerian Dwarfs have ever scored a 93 I have have participated 5 years and have learned so much each session. I do welcome others to attend (and help lol) with pictures and notes.
For many years I have planned on being on the DHIA (milk testing) and biting the bullet this year. I have always milked my does whether dam raising or bottle feeding (I do both depending on my schedule) but the paperwork and mailing in samples to the lab for testing has discouraged me. We love Nigerian Dwarf milk it is the best tasting of all dairy breeds and also has the highest butterfat which will yield more cheese! We have also been dabbling in soap and lotion making and love all the opportunities to be able to incorporate goat milk.
We have an awesome buck herd (I am a self admitted buck hoarder) I really believe I have owned some of the best in the nation (if not I will either have them in my semen tank or have a father, son or will be sure to add him if he becomes available!!! Having such a large herd of bucks allows us to put together very nice unrelated starter herds. We don't offer stud service but do occasionally lease a buck out to herds that participates in milk test. Having my boys proven by their daughters is important to me and I do offer discounts to herds that are on milk test as well as credits towards future purchases on animals that earn Champion status or does that earn milk stars.
Nigerian Dwarfs have the ability to freshen year round I usually plan 4-5 does to kid each month. This allows us to have does in milk and kids available through out the year. This is an excellent time to put together a starter herd together or just add some really great bloodlines!