The Cute, Adorable Nigora Goat
A cashmere goat of the smallest scale ... with a bonus of delicious milk!
By Bessie Miller, Evelyn Acres Farm
Let me introduce you to a new breed of goat that will rock your homesteading world. It’s called the Nigora goat. Half dairy and half fiber, these miniature goats make an amazing addition to the small farm or homestead. They are dual purpose and practical, for those (like myself) who value efficiency, producing gorgeous, soft fiber for the aspiring or practicing fiber artist, and deliciously creamy milk for the family. Plus, they are some of the most fluffy and adorable goats you will ever see!
I began my foray into the world of goat keeping in 2010 with two Nigora goats (bucklings, which in hindsight was not the smartest idea, but it ended up working out just fine). As an artist and aspiring spinner, I was drawn to the fiber aspect of the Nigora goat breed; and as a homesteader, it seemed practical to choose a goat with dairy capacity as well. Since adding a couple Nigora does to the mix in 2011 and having my first Nigora kids in 2012, I have become a passionate Nigora goat enthusiast.
Nigoras are a relatively new breed; the first “official” Nigora breeding program was started in 1994. Nigora goats were not created as a “designer” breed, but to be a functional asset to the farm or homestead — specifically, a fiber-producing dairy goat. The first known Nigora, Cocoa Puff of Skyview, was born in the late 1980s. She was originally sold as a Pygora, but was rejected by the Pygora Breeders Association for having “dairy goat” type markings. More research was done into Cocoa’s background by her new owners, and it was discovered that she was actually from Nigerian Dwarf and Angora breeding (or possibly a Nigerian Dwarf/Pygora breeding) and therefore a Ni-gora. Cocoa Puff lived to be 15, and produced many beautiful kids in her time.
At the start of this experimental breeding period, Nigoras were created by crossing colored or white Angoras with Nigerian Dwarf goats. Today the American Nigora Goat Breeders Association (ANGBA) standard includes the crossing of Swiss-type (Mini) dairy breeds with Angoras as well. The ANGBA also has a grade Nigora breeding program. The end goal is top-quality milk/fiber production in one small, practical goat.
Since the early 2000s, Nigora breeders have sprouted up in 15 different states, including Alaska. The American Nigora Goat Breeders Association is growing and expanding, and registration services are expected to be available in the spring of 2014.
So why are Nigoras such a great choice for the small farm or homestead? First of all, their size is just perfect. Nigoras are a medium to small-sized goat (ANGBA standards dictate between 19 and 29 inches tall). This is fantastic if you have limited space for keeping livestock, or if you simply do not want to hassle with a larger dairy breed. Miniature goats are great for the novice as well, as they can be easier to handle in general, especially if you are a small-statured person like myself, or have children who will be helping out with goat care.
Secondly, Nigora goats are a dairy breed, and are the perfect size to supply milk for the family. Nigoras produce about the same amount of milk as a Nigerian Dwarf goat, and their milk is creamy and delicious. The breed is still in the beginning stages of development, and the Nigora’s milking capacity will only get better as stronger milking lines are bred into the gene pool. Again, the Nigora was created to be a fiber-producing dairy goat, so all serious Nigora goat breeders should be focused on producing goats with lots of milk in their pedigrees.
The third thing that I love about Nigoras is their gorgeous fiber. With Nigoras you have a variety of fiber types in one breed — a nice perk for the fiber artist! Nigoras can produce three different types of fleece: Type A, which most resembles the mohair of the Angora goat; Type B, which is very fluffy and oh-so-soft, with a medium staple; and Type C, which is more like a cashmere coat, shorter and luxuriously soft. Sometimes a Nigora will produce a combination type, such as A/B, which has a longer staple with a little more fluff to it, or B/C, which is a longer cashmere type. I currently own a Type A/B doe (who is often mistaken for a sheep by passers-by) and a Type C doe. The A/B fiber is just heavenly — soft, silky, easy to spin with. Much less “scratchy” than mohair. The Type C fiber, although shorter-stapled, is also a dream to work with and produces beautiful yarn.
Nigora goat care is similar to that of any goat, with the exception of shearing. Shearing is a fun (and at times challenging) job and is done once or twice a year, depending on the needs of your goat and your climate. A Nigora with Type A fiber will most likely need to be shorn twice a year, like an Angora, while an A/B or B type will only need to be shorn once. Again, climate also needs to be factored in. If you live in an especially hot climate, it will probably be necessary to shear more often.
Some fiber types can be brushed out; typically the lighter fiber types, such as B and C. This is usually done in the spring when they begin to molt their winter coats. These types can also be shorn if you choose.
There is some discussion as to whether or not you should disbud a Nigora goat. Most fiber goat breeders lean toward leaving horns intact, while those accustomed to dairy breeds tend to want to disbud. My goats have been disbudded, with no issues. However they are shorn in the spring and do not have heavy coats during the summertime. ANGBA standards allow horned, polled and disbudded goats. This is an issue that each person will have to research and decide upon for themselves.
In summary, the small stature, dual-purpose, sweet tempered and oh-so-fluffy Nigora goat would make an excellent addition to your herd—for the small or large-scale farmer, homesteader, fiber artist and dairy goat enthusiast alike! If you would like to learn even more about Nigora goats, you will find a wealth of information at the ANGBA website (www.nigoragoats-angba.com). You can also find the ANGBA on Facebook, where we have loads of lively discussions about all thing fiber and dairy goat related, and where experienced Nigora goat breeders can answer any questions you might have about the breed. We look forward to welcoming new enthusiasts into the wonderful world of Nigora goats!
Nigora 3 Fiber Types
The three main fiber types of Nigora goats. From L-R: Feathered Goat’s Farm Curly, Type A (courtesy of Julie Ploughman of Feathered Goat’s Farm); Artos Roux, Type B (provided by ANGBA, courtesy of Juan Artos); Evelyn Acres’ Hana, Type C (owned by the author).
THE AMERICAN NIGORA GOAT BREEDERS ASSOCIATION: www.nigoragoats-angba.com
AMERICAN NIGORA GOAT ENTHUSIASTS FACEBOOK GROUP: www.facebook.com/groups/NigoraGoats
Learn more about Evelyn Acres Farm at www.evelynacresfarm.webs.com.