"Let the buyer beware"
( Caveat emptor is a principle in commerce where the buyer
assumes all of the risk. )
New breeders have many hurdles to jump in order to get a
good start in goats. My recommendations are that you proceed slowly at first.
Learn about the breed and do your homework. Determine what you want goats
for, and proceed accordingly.
Do not buy from any breeder
that does not offer some form of a contract. In the absence of a
written contract, the breeder should at the very least offer you
a list of terms and conditions related to the sale of animals
from their farm, including what you can expect from them, and
what your responsibilities are.
DO NOT BE
COMPULSIVE ABOUT BUYING!!!! - This is one of the
quickest ways for a buyer to get into trouble. Most respected
Nigerian Dwarf breeders have a waiting list, especially when it
comes to their highest quality stock. These waiting lists can be
for months, or even years in some cases, but it is in your best
interest in the long run to research and do your homework before
making a commitment. If you really want a high-quality Nigerian
Dwarf from a respected and ethical breeder you should be willing
to wait for what you want. If you do not, you are likely to end
up buying from a farm that is the goat equivalent of
"puppy-mill" that does nothing but breed goats continuously for
nothing more than the money to be made on the kids. Your vet
bills after receiving one of these "kid-mill" pets, can make the
price you paid in the first place look like cents on the dollar.
And, these "kid-mill" goats seldom do anything to advance a
BEWARE OF "PUFFING".
Puffing is an expression or exaggeration made by
a salesperson, or found in an advertisement, that concerns the
quality of goods offered for sale. It presents opinions rather
than facts and is usually not considered a legally binding
promise. Such statements as "this car is in good shape" and
"your wife will love this watch" constitute puffing. In the goat
world, statements like ...... "Our foundation stock come from
some of the highest quality bloodlines available", or "Most of
our herd is a product of a Grand Champion Sire and/or Dam",
constitute puffing. Even simple terms like "show quality",
"excellent udders", "excellent milkers", "excellent bloodlines",
etc., can often be nothing more than puffing. Ask the breeder to
show you the facts, meaning records.
If you want
SHOW GOATS, only purchase
goats from herds that can present you with performance
records of their animals over time. And keep in
mind that not all Grand Champions are created equally. Performance in the show
ring is as dependant on the competition as it is on the quality of the animal
being shown. What I mean by that is in shows where the quality is poor or
average, the animal winning Grand Champion may not necessarily be a fine example
of the breed. Also, you need to determine the show opportunities in your area.
This can determine which registry you should choose your stock
to be registered with. (see #9 below)
If you want DAIRY GOATS, with an emphasis on milk
production, then choose your goats from herds with some form of milk records,
even if they are simple, unofficial barn records. Herds with official DHI
records are preferred. Also, you need to determine the production testing
opportunities in your area. Again, this can determine which
registry you should choose your stock to be registered with. (see #9 below)
If you simply want
PET GOATS, then your choices will be
much easier. My personal opinion is, if
you have no interest or intention of milking or showing your stock,
you honestly have no business breeding. Simply enjoy your goats as
pets... period. NOT EVERY GOAT SHOULD BE BRED.
Demand a breeder that can offer you honesty,
support, and success. The breeder should try to help you find
the perfect match for your needs. They should represent their
animals honestly, without undo puffing, advising you of both
good and bad potential of the animal you are considering to
purchase. They should be willing to assist you before, during,
and after the
purchase, offering management tips, showmanship tips,
If you find large herds,
let's say herds with more than 25 milkers, which do
not exhibit their stock, participate in official milk testing,
or operate some sort of dairy or creamery, be very careful that
you're not dealing with a "kid-mill". Not to say that all herds
that fit this profile are kid-mills, but this is when it becomes
extremely important for you to do your homework and not fall
prey to puffing. If they don't show their stock, ask how can
they determine the quality of their goats. If they are not
milking their stock, ask how can they determine the production
potential of their goats. These are reasonable questions, and
you should be given reasonable, straight-forward answers.
Learn to use the ADGA Genetics website. There you can
access existing performance records of animals.
Do not buy from
any breeder that refuses access to their farm.
Go see the farm. This
is the best way to see that the animal you may be purchasing,
and its relatives, are raised and cared for in an appropriate
manner. The barn should be dry and draft free. It should not
smell, have filthy or sick animals running about. If they
only want to meet you at the Cracker Barrel parking lot or
someplace along the highway and will not let you see how and/or where
they keep their animals, that should tell you something. But
also understand that many breeders will only allow visitors at
specific times and within a specific area of their barn or home
for security and/or bio-security reasons.
Don't be afraid to ask
for references. It's easy for any ethical breeder to put you in
contact with their veterinarian, or with buyers from the past to
see if they are happy.
There are currently four
US registries that maintain herd books for Nigerian Dwarf goats.
ADGA - the American Dairy Goat
AGS - the
American Goat Society
- the Nigerian Dwarf Goat
IDGR.- the International
Dairy Goat Registry
Learn the different registries, and what each allows or offers ,
and doesn't allow or offer. This can really make a difference if
you are interested in milking or showing. AGS registered
goats can be shown in ADGA sanctioned shows. Likewise, ADGA registered goats (except Recorded Grades), can be shown
in AGS sanctioned shows. Nigerian Dwarves registered
solely with NDGA cannot be shown in AGS or ADGA
sanctioned shows, and NDGA shows are not offered in many
states. There are no shows or production programs for goats registered
solely with IDGR .
Today, many Nigerian Dwarves are registered with more than one
registry. So make sure the registration status of the goats
you're thinking about buying is adequate and matches your needs.
Learn what TRUE DAIRY
FORM is. Without a clear mental image of what a dairy goat
is, you cannot effectively select stock. If you want goats
simply as pets, selecting for true dairy form is not so
important. However, if you want goats for exhibition or
production purposes, you must learn to recognize true dairy
form. That said, even if you wants goats primarily as pets, you
should either not breed them, or if you do breed them, you
should strive to produce the best quality offspring possible.
Learn what goat titles
mean. You'll see titles such as: GCH, CH, MCH, ARMCH, *D, *M,
*B, +B, *S, +S, etc. There are titles that are earned, and
titles that are inherited. Some of the titles are earned via
exhibition, and some are earned or inherited via production.
Learning what each title means will help greatly in determining
the potential of the goat(s) involved.
There is always a story
behind adult goats that are offered for sale. Top quality mature
goats are seldom offered for sale unless the farm is selling
out, or seriously down-sizing. Be warned in advance that there
are herds that regularly have herd "sell
outs". Although they say they are selling out, they never do,
and usually are dumping lesser quality stock, then take the
funds raised from the sales and purchase new, hopefully
"better", stock for themselves.
You can occasionally find quality mature does offered for sale.
For various reasons, the animal may just not "fit" within that
herd's breeding plans any longer. If a quality mature doe is
offered for sale, the seller should be able to provide you with
a show record and/or milk record for the animal. If no such
records exist, then you need to evaluate that animal based
purely on what you can see and verify for yourself. Top quality
brood does can be worth their weight in gold. So, they don't
become available often. If you see a mature doe on the market,
do a little research and see if you can find any of her milking
daughters out there. GOOGLE is an excellent tool for this
It's not unusual to see mature bucks offered for sale. Again, be
careful here. A top quality buck that is throwing desirable
traits to his daughters is worth his weight in gold. GOOGLE the
buck's name and see if you can find milking daughters. If there
are no milking daughters to be found, and if the herd offering
the buck for sale has no milking daughters, then you need to be
asking questions, both of the seller and of yourself.
Don't purchase goats
based simply on herd names. No herd produces only champions.
Even the best herds in the country produce "duds" at times.
Remember the paragraph above that spoke about "puffing"?....
well, there are herds that will use well known herd names in
their relentless puffing. Don't fall for it. Again, look for
Remember, anyone can purchase a quality goat. It takes knowledge
and experience to produce quality animals generation after
generation. When you see herds promoting their stock by using
other herd names, you should look closely and determine if that
herd is riding on the coat tails of others, or are they truly
able to produce quality stock themselves.
When buying kids, you
can only select for genetic potential. Look for goats with true
depth of pedigree. Depth of pedigree is when you have generation
after generation of animals found in a pedigree that
consistently exhibit the qualities you are seeking to add to
your own herd.
If you do purchase top quality young stock, your management
practices are going to determine how that animal grows and
You may hear people say
that the buck is half of your herd. DON'T BELIEVE IT. In my
opinion, the buck IS your herd. Regardless of how nice your does
are, if you use the wrong bucks, you'll be going backwards
instead of forwards in regards to improvement within the herd.
Do not settle for anything less than an exceptional buck. He
MUST come from outstanding genetics for as many generations as
possible. Demand to at least see photographs of both his dam and
his grand dams, showing the does in milk. If you don't like
those female relatives, don't buy him.
Lots of people are
really swayed by pedigrees, especially when that pedigree
contains a well known individual animal. Understand how quickly
the genes of one or two animals are "watered down" by other
individuals within a pedigree. Frequently I see animals that are
promoted as being "the grand son of....", or "the half brother
to....". These facts may or may not be an attribute the the
animal being sold. Let's say you are thinking of purchasing a
grand son of "the great so and so". Keep in mind that only a
quarter of his genetics come from that "great so and so". While
that 25% may be great, it's the other 75% that should be of
greater concern in your selection of this animal as brood stock.
Within a pedigree, unless there is some significant line
breeding, once you go back more than 3 generations, the genetic
influence offered by animals in those lower generations is
Learn the differences
between out crossing and line breeding. Both are valid breeding
methods, with value to offer any breeding program. Generally
speaking, out crossing is used to bring in a new or desirable
trait into a breeding program. Line breeding is used to "fix",
or "set" that trait within the breeding program. Basically, line
breeding increases the probability that the two copies of any
given gene will be identical. That said, line breeding can
increase the occurrence of both desirable and undesirable
In herds with many varied blood lines, and therefore constantly
involved in crossbreeding, it can be somewhat of a coin toss as
to what the offspring of certain pairings will inherit.
DO NOT SEND ME HATE
MAIL for saying this, but if you decide to pursue certain
cosmetic characteristics, such as blue eyes, you are going to
find that your success rate in breeding top quality goats will
be seriously hindered. First
and foremost, breed for structurally sound and correct goats,
with strong, productive mammary systems. Once you get the
structure and mammary systems, then you can add other cosmetic
characteristics into your herd, should you so choose.
I personally do not own any blue eyed goats. I have owned many
blue eyed goats in the past. Through the process of selection
for structure and mammary systems, those blue eyed genes were
fairly quickly eliminated from my herd. Maybe it's just my
experience, but I can only say that I found the mammary system
genetics within the blue eyed strains to be far too inconsistent
The term "One man's
trash is another man's treasure" does not apply with goats. What
you purchase today, if it's a cull from someone else's herd,
will one day be a cull from your own herd. So why waste the time
and money? Buy quality stock in the beginning and you'll never
- Websites with links to goat breeders are very useful. Sites
like Goat Kingdom and Cyber Goats can provide you with numerous links to breeder
websites, but don't stop there. Search engines like GOOGLE can be your best
friend. Just type in the breed of goat you're looking for, and you'll be able to
browse websites for days on end. You can also use GOOGLE to research individual
animals found within pedigrees.
Use your best
judgment and logic. How would
you want your new kid(s), or even adult goats, to be treated by
a breeder? Find a breeder that meets those expectations, and
expect them to offer their advice and mentorship to you. If you
find a really good breeder, you may have a friend, as well as a
strong, healthy, productive animal, for years to come.
- Remember, you do well what you enjoy
doing, and you enjoy doing what you do well.
GOOD LUCK !
Keith & Marie Harrell