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Lula woman to raise and show a herd of Nigeria dwarf goats
Jennifer Carlyle hopes to produce soaps and lotion from her animals' milk
At 5 months old, Captain is the baby of the Nigerian dwarf goats in Jennifer Carlyle’s herd. She hasn’t begun breeding him yet, but said goats can start breeding at 2 months old. - photo by J.K. Devine

Jennifer Carlyle is expecting new additions to her family in spring 2017.

The mother of two children and five goats is preparing for a whole new set of kids as her Nigerian dwarf dairy goats are pregnant with their first group of offspring.

Carlyle brought home her first Nigerian dwarf goat six months ago to start her own herd after years of raising horses and chickens.

“I’ve enjoyed it so far,” the 34-year-old Lula woman said.

Carlyle picked Nigerian dwarfs because of their small size and high-quality milk.

Nigerian dwarfs are the smallest breed of dairy goat. The American Dairy Goat Association requires a buck to be smaller than 23.5 inches and a doe smaller than 22.5 inches.

The goats also are prized for the high butterfat content in their milk. Nigerian dwarfs produce a larger quantity of milk relative to their size than larger breeds, making them popular for goat milk and cheese production.

Their visible docile temperament was another reason Carlyle decided to raise them. Her three does, Sno Cap, Zinnia and Pandora, along with the youngest buck, Captain, follow her around like puppies as she tends to their feed. Her fifth goat, Obie, stays in his own pen since bucks are known to be aggressive with one another.

Carlyle, a human resources technician for the Georgia Department of Transportation, spends much of her free time caring for her herd. She plans to enter them in shows across the Southeast in spring and fall 2017. Goats are judged on breeding characteristics, such as udder size and teat placement.

“It keeps me busy and you’re pretty much always on your toes as far as taking care of them,” she said.

Carlyle grew up raising livestock with her mother in North Carolina, so tending to animals is second nature to her. But she learned about the dwarf breed from Shannon Lawrence, who teaches a Goats 101 class at her farm in Shady Dale in Jasper County.

The Texas native has been raising goats since 1997. She relocated her Yellow Rose Farm to Georgia in 2003 and serves as a consultant and mentor to other goat owners in the area. Lawrence has about 70 goats and produces various goat milk products such as soap, lotion, shampoo and conditioner.

Carlyle, who moved to Hall County in 2008, hopes to produce soaps and lotions from her goats’ milk. But her current goal is to expand her herd to 20 to 25 goats.

“After hours and hours of studying bloodlines, looking at other breeders’ programs and trying to figure out what my goals are in beginning my adventure, I believe I have a nice foundation to build on,” she said. “The hard part will be trying not to keep all of them.”

Lawrence agreed. Despite the large size of her herd, Lawrence said she feels a connection to all of her Nigerian dwarfs.

“I know all of them. I know all of their names,” she said. “I can tell you who they are and who their mamas and daddies are.” 

Lawrence told Carlyle and her classmates raising goats is not a casual undertaking. Goats may have many health concerns and are more susceptible to parasites than other farm animals.

“There’s a huge learning curve with goats,” Lawrence said. “Just because you’ve had other livestock in the past, goats are very different. You need to know what to look for.”

Carlyle has already experienced some difficulties. After years of rescuing and rehabilitating malnourished horses, she said she had to fight her instincts to overfeed the goats.

She also has to administer their vaccinations by hand and monitor their calcium and phosphorus levels. Goats can suffer from copper deficiencies, so she gives them copper capsules to help guard against parasites.

But Carlyle is not the only one who cares for the goats. It has become a family affair.

Her daughters, Ashlyn, 2, and Thereslyn, 11, help feed and care for the goats.

“Giving my daughters the experience of being able to take care of them and be hands-on every day, it definitely teaches them responsibility,” she said. “And they enjoy it.”