West African Dwarf Goat: Characteristics and Care

West African Dwarf Goat

The West African Dwarf goat is a breed of domestic goat originating from coastal West and Central Africa, approximately from Senegal to Congo. It is a small breed of goat, with a height of 30 to 50 cm and a weight of 18 to 25 kg for females and males, respectively. Both sexes possess horns that curve outwards and backward in males, and males have beards and sometimes manes.

West African Dwarf goats are known for their productivity, good mothering ability, and high prolificacy. They are one of the most productive breeds of goats in Africa and are often used for meat, milk, and skin production. They are also commonly used as pack animals due to their small size and hardiness. The breed is the progenitor of the African Pygmy goat and Nigerian Dwarf goat breeds in the United States, and the Dutch Dwarf and Pygmy goat breeds in Great Britain.

Despite having a small size, West African Dwarf goats play a major role in the agricultural economy of West and Central Africa, where they are distributed across 15 countries. They are a significant livestock resource in the humid regions of the area, where they are raised in both traditional and modern farming systems. The breed has gained popularity in other parts of the world in recent years due to its adaptability, hardiness, and productivity.

Origin and History

Native Habitat

The West African Dwarf goat breed originated from Southern Sudan and Northern Nigeria. They are a group of domestic goats native to the coastal regions of West and Central Africa, ranging from Senegal to Congo. These goats are well adapted to the humid forests of the region and are known for their hardiness and resistance to diseases.

West African Dwarf Goat

Historical Significance

West African Dwarf goats have played an essential role in the lives of West and Central African people for centuries. They have been used for their milk, meat, and skins and have been an essential source of income for many families. The goats are also used in traditional ceremonies and rituals and are often given as gifts.

In recent years, the West African Dwarf goat has also gained popularity in other parts of the world. They are now being raised in many countries for their meat, milk, and as pets. The breed is known for its small size, high fertility, and ability to adapt to different environments.

Overall, the West African Dwarf goat has a rich history and continues to be an essential part of the lives of many people around the world.

Physical Characteristics

Size and Weight

The West African Dwarf goat is a small-sized breed of goat, with a typical height ranging from 30 to 50 cm (12 to 20 in). Adult males weigh between 20 and 25 kg (44 to 55 lb), and females weigh 18 to 22 kg (40 to 49 lb). The chest of the West African Dwarf goat is broad, and the back is straight. The neck is relatively long, and both sexes have horns that curve outwards and backward in males.

Color Variations

West African Dwarf goats come in a variety of colors. The most common colors are black, brown, and white, but they can also be found in shades of gray, red, and spotted. The goat’s coat’s color does not indicate its breed purity. Crossbreeding is common among West African Dwarf goats to improve their productivity and genetic diversity.

The coat of the West African Dwarf goat is short and smooth, which makes them well-suited to hot and humid climates. West African Dwaft goats are highly resistant to diseases and parasites and are popular among small-scale farmers in Africa.

In conclusion, the West African Dwarf goat is a small breed known for its hardiness, adaptability, and high productivity. They are an essential food source and income for many African rural communities.

Behavior and Temperament

Social Behavior

West African Dwarf goats are social animals that thrive in groups. They are known for their friendly and affectionate nature towards their owners and are generally easy to handle. These goats are also known to be curious and plays a lot, which makes them an excellent choice as a domestic animal.

In a group setting, West African Dwarf goats establish a hierarchy. Dominant goats assert themselves over subordinates, sometimes resulting in head-butting or other aggressive behaviors. However, these interactions are typically harmless and establish order within the group.


West African Dwarf goats are highly adaptable animals that can thrive in various environments. They can withstand extreme temperatures and survive on various vegetation, including low-quality forage. This makes them ideal for farmers in regions with harsh climates or limited resources.

In addition to their physical adaptability, West African Dwarf goats are known for their adaptability to different management practices. They can be raised in extensive systems, where they are allowed to graze freely, or in intensive systems, where they are kept in pens and fed a controlled diet. They are also suitable for small-scale farming operations, as they require relatively little space and can be raised alongside other livestock species.

Overall, West African Dwarf goats are highly adaptable and social animals that make great companions for farmers and families.

Diet and Nutrition

Feeding Habits

West African Dwarf Goats are browsing animals that prefer to graze on shrubs, trees, and bushes. They are known to be selective feeders and tend to consume a wide variety of plants. They are also known for their opportunistic feeding behavious, meaning they will eat anything available to them. In addition to grazing, they also consume forbs, herbs, and agricultural by-products such as cassava peel meal and Pennisetum purpureum.

Nutritional Requirements

West African Dwarf Goats have specific nutritional requirements that must be met to be in good health and productivity. These requirements include energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins. The nutritional requirements of West African Dwarf Goats vary depending on the stage of life, level of production, and the environment in which they live.

Regarding energy, West African Dwarf Goats require a diet high in fiber and low in fat. They also require a protein-rich diet essential for muscle growth and maintenance. The dietary protein requirement for growing and lactating West African Dwarf Goats is higher than for mature, non-lactating goats.

West African Dwarf Goats also require calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium minerals. These minerals are essential for bone growth, maintenance, and other physiological processes. They also require vitamins such as A, D, and E. Vitamin A is essential for vision and immune function, while vitamin D is vital for bone growth and maintenance. Vitamin E is essential for immune function and reproductive health.

Overall, a well-balanced diet that meets the nutritional requirements of West African Dwarf Goats is essential for their health and productivity. Farmers and livestock managers should work with a qualified nutritionist to develop a diet that meets the specific needs of their goats.

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

West African Dwarf goats are generally hardy and resilient animals but can still be susceptible to specific health issues. Owners must monitor their goats’ health and seek veterinary care. Some common health issues that may affect West African Dwarf goats include:

  • Parasites: Goats are commonly affected by internal and external parasites, such as worms and lice. Regular deworming and grooming can help prevent infestations.
  • Respiratory infections: Goats can develop respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, which bacteria, viruses, or other pathogens can cause. Good sanitation and ventilation can help prevent these infections.
  • Footrot: This bacterial infection can cause lameness and swelling in the feet and can be prevented by keeping the goats’ living area clean and dry.
  • Urinary calculi: This condition occurs when stones form in the urinary tract and can cause blockages and other health problems. A balanced diet and a lot of water can help prevent urinary calculi.

Average Lifespan

The average lifespan of a West African Dwarf goat is around 8-12 years, although some may live longer with proper care and nutrition. Factors that can affect lifespan include genetics, environment, and healthcare. To help ensure a long and healthy life for their goats, owners should provide a balanced diet, clean living conditions, and regular veterinary care. Monitoring their goats’ behavior and health regularly is essential to notice any potential health issues early.

Breeding and Reproduction

Breeding Cycle

West African Dwarf goats are capable of breeding at twelve to eighteen months. The breeding season typically occurs in the rainy season between April and August. During this time, the does come into heat every 18 to 21 days. The gestation period for West African Dwarf goats is about 150 days. Multiple births are very common, with twins being normal and triplets frequent. The kidding interval averages about 220 days.

Offspring Care

After birth, the doe will clean the kid and consume the afterbirth. The doe will also produce colostrum, essential for the kid’s health and survival. The kid should be allowed to nurse on colostrum within the first few hours of life. The doe will continue to produce milk for the kid for several weeks. The kid should be allowed to nurse as often as it wants to ensure proper nutrition. After a few weeks, the kid can be weaned and fed a diet of hay and grain.

To ensure successful breeding and reproduction, it is essential to manage the herd properly. This includes providing adequate nutrition, housing, and medical care. Proper breeding practices should also be followed to avoid inbreeding and maintain genetic diversity of the herd. It is recommended to have a breeding plan in place to ensure the health and productivity of the herd.

Economic Significance

West African Dwarf goats are a vital livestock resource in the humid West and Central Africa, distributed across 15 countries. They are raised in low-input systems where they contribute to the income and livelihoods of millions of people. In this section, we will discuss the economic significance of West African Dwarf goats in detail.

Role in Agriculture

West African Dwarf goats play a significant role in the agriculture sector of West and Central Africa. They are kept by small-scale farmers and rural households for their meat, milk, and skin. These goats are highly adaptable to harsh environmental conditions, making them a valuable asset to farmers in the region. They are also resistant to certain diseases, such as trypanosomiasis and haemonchosis, which are prevalent in the area.

Moreover, West African Dwarf goats are used in mixed crop-livestock farming systems, providing manure for crop production. The manure is rich in nutrients and helps to improve soil fertility, leading to increased crop yields. This, in turn, contributes to food security and poverty reduction in the region.

Commercial Value

West African Dwarf goats have a significant commercial value in the region. They are sold in local markets as a source of income for farmers and rural households. The goats are also exported to other countries, where they are in high demand for their meat and milk.

In addition, the skin of West African Dwarf goats is used for leather production. The leather is of high quality and is used to make shoes, bags, and other leather products. The leather industry provides employment opportunities and generates income for many people in the region.

Table 1 below shows the average cost of goat production per 12 herds of goats, with the cost of purchasing breeding kids’ input resources constituting the highest proportion of the total cost.

Table 1: Average cost of goat production

Input Resource Cost (USD)
Breeding kids 79,200
Feed 18,000
Labour 10,000
Medicines 8,317
Miscellaneous 12,000
Total cost 127,517

Overall, West African Dwarf goats are an important livestock resource in West and Central Africa. They play a significant role in the agriculture sector and have a high commercial value.

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