What are LaManchas? What are Nigerian Dwarfs? MiniManchas? Why these breeds?
There are many breeds of dairy goat to choose from. The most popular breed in America as of now is the Nubian, but I happen to not like Nubians as much, although they are beautiful. There’s no law that says you have to like the same breed as someone else! There’s not even a law that says you have to pick one breed. I know of many people who maintain multiple breeds in their herd, including myself. Of course with many breeds one will get more focus than the others, but having a mixed herd is just fine if that suits you and your needs.
Each breed is unique and brings something different to the table. My personal favorites, as you may have guessed, are Nigerian Dwarfs, LaManchas, and MiniManchas (the cross between the two). I love different things about both Nigerian Dwarfs and LaManchas, which is why I also love the MiniManchas; they bring in the best of both breeds into one adorable and useful little package.
About Nigerian Dwarfs
Personality wise, Nigerians are energetic and friendly. They really are so much fun to have around. They are playful and colorful, and that has made them popular in recent years with the pet and show industry. When I was first starting into goats in 2008, Nigerians were just beginning to gain fame and were still listed as “Watch” by The Livestock Conservancy. They are now listed as “Recovering,” which is wonderful. *Update: In 2013, Nigerians were officially removed from the list because their numbers had recovered! Although this is great news, unfortunately for some of these precious goats, fame comes with a price. Their popularity has seen an increase of people breeding them just for fun, as pets, or for strictly show with no concern for their dairy purposes. This has flooded the market with Nigerians that aren’t up to par for serious breeders or for those looking to milk them. If you’re starting out in Nigerians, sift through the market to weed out the pet breeders before you buy if you are looking for something more. There is nothing wrong with goats as pets, but it’s my personal belief that we should breed with a purpose, not just for kicks and giggles. Of course it’s important to seek out good breeders in any breed, so maybe my statement is redundant.
LaManchas, also a pure breed of dairy goat, have long been a staple in the dairy goat industry. My mother owned LaManchas when I was just a tot (one actually knocked me out by accidentally slamming my head into concrete — I guess that explains it, eh? ;). My grandmother owned them — and a Saanen and a Nubian — before her. Though the complete history of the breed is unknown, we do know that LaManchas likely came to California from Spain and were developed as a breed — at least as we know them now — in the United States. LaManchas, being standard-sized goats, tower over Nigerians. According to their breed standard as set by the American Goat Society, does should be a minimum of 28″ and bucks at least 30″. LaManchas are known to have fairly high butterfat as well and are generally good producers. LaManchas, like Nigerians, can also be any color.
The defining characteristic for the breed is, of course, their ears. It is misinformation that they have no ears; they simply have very small ears that give the appearance of no ears. LaManchas can either have gopher ears, which are tiny ring of skin around the actual ear, or elf ears, which extend further from their heads but must not be more than two inches long. Either ear type is acceptable in does, but bucks must have the gopher ears.
What I love about LaManchas and what they bring to the table for MiniManchas is not their tiny ears or sweet faces but their docile, sweet, and calm personalities. LaManchas are known for their excellent disposition and for generally being less vocal than many of their counterparts. This varies with individual animals, of course — everything always does — but it is a common trait. It’s been my experience that LaManchas are more laid back, whereas Nigerians can be little firecrackers.
MiniManchas are a cross between these two, accomplished by breeding either a Nigerian buck to a LaMancha doe, MiniManchas to MiniManchas, or Nigerian bucks to MiniMancha does. They are registerable through The Miniature Dairy Goat Association or The Miniature Goat Registry. The Minis combine the smaller size and higher butterfat of the Nigerian with the docile personality, tiny ears, and higher production of the LaManchas. The end result is a medium sized animal — not too big and not small — that usually produces more than a Nigerian but eats less than a LaMancha.
MiniManchas are to be no taller than 28″ in does or 29″ in bucks, follow the ear standards of LaManchas, and must not be more than 70% Nigerian or LaMancha to reach purebred status. Deviations from the standard are acceptable for experimental registration during the process of breeding up, but not purebred.
I personally think that MiniManchas are a great choice for a homestead, but of course it all comes down to personal preference. They are a combination of two great breeds to make one that is nice for those looking for a good ratio of production to feed in a home milker that won’t eat them out of house and home. Not to mention how adorable and sweet these miniaturized “earless” wonders are! They can definitely bring the best of both worlds to small acreages and non-commercial homesteads. The downsides, however, are that the Mini breeds are not recognized by the major registries because they are a cross breed and not a purebred. While crossbreeding has its benefits, it is sometimes less marketable than purebred. Minis are also less common than purebreds and therefore slightly less prolific and easy to find.
A Note on Disposition
Though I have described these breeds with certain personality characteristics, such as calm or playful, it is important to remember that personality varies and is unique to each individual animal. A familiar analogy would be to dogs. Many breeds of dog have a reputation for certain behaviors, but individuals within a breed express those traits to varying amounts. Some are the epitome of what their breed is known for (like a yappy Chihuahua) while some are quite opposite (like a hound dog that won’t hunt). It is the same within goat breeds. Some of my Nigerians are firecrackers and I could point to them and say, “see? What’d I tell you?” but a few prove me wrong by being calm and reserved. It all comes down to the individual in the end, and you must judge each goat on its own merits rather than assuming it will behave as expected — which also goes for other things, such as milk production.
Socialization plays a huge role in goat manners. A calm goat can be abjectly unfriendly and a spirited Nigerian can be your worst nightmare if it doesn’t like people. Playfulness or calmness don’t automatically denote sociability. I’ll compare to people this time. Highly energetic, outgoing people can either be a joy if they’re jovial or a horror if they are rude. Quiet and reserved people can be either politely introverted yet pleasant or the village hermit who throws rocks at people on his lawn. Moreover, as with people, individual goats will occasionally act outside of their typical behavior and surprise you. The least friendly one in the bunch might one day beg you for treats, or the most friendly might shock you by darting away when you reach to scratch her neck. Goats have their moods just as any other beings.
The best way to ensure friendly goats is to socialize them from a young age. Adults who are truly wild due to not being handled as kids can be a challenge to turn around. They also tend to pass this behavior to their kids, making it more difficult (but definitely not impossible) to properly socialize them. There is great information about socializing your goats at Fiasco Farm.
Another tip that can help with a timid doe is to be present at her kidding and start milking immediately after she kids (after the kids get their share, of course, and without separating the kids). At this stage the does feel-good, mommy hormones are in full swing and are telling her to nurture anything that moves. This can really go a long way for you toward gaining her acceptance and training her to be milked easily.
No goats like to be chased or cornered. They are prey animals by nature and threatening movements like running after them will automatically illicit a ‘flight or fight’ response. You will scare even your most friendly goat if you chase after him/her. Goats are also clever and they know when something is up; sometimes your most affectionate one will try to evade you if they sense that you’re up to no good (like that evil hoof trimming stuff).
It should also be pointed out that all goats will make noise at least on occasion. Some breeds are known for being more highly vocal than others, but all goats have voices and all goats will use them, even the quietest dormouse in your herd. (I occasionally have to stop and think, “Wait, who was that?” when a normally quiet one bleats because I won’t recognize their voice like I can the others.) You can expect increased vocalization and calling when there are babies afoot, when the bucks are in rut, and when the does are in season. They will also yell at feeding time. In my experience, my Nigerians are more vocal than LaManchas and MiniManchas. My guardian dogs are more noisy than my goats. However, the noise factor is a consideration for those living in neighborhoods. While it is easy to say that they don’t make as much noise as dogs, if your neighbors decide they don’t like the sound of it they may cause you trouble. Be sure to check your zoning before you bring home livestock of any kind.