Raising Dairy Goats - A Guide to Breeds

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Dairy goats can be the perfect solution to the small homesteader who wants a steady producing dairy animal, but perhaps doesn’t have the space, or housing available to raise a cow.

Before choosing a dairy goat breed, there are a few things you need to know about dairy goats in general.

  •  Dairy goats must be milked twice a day, 12 hours apart.
  •  They must be bred and give birth (usually each year) in order to produce milk.

So, before you buy a dairy goat, you must realize that you will have to find a buck each fall and you will have to find a solution to the 1-4 kids being born each Spring if you want to keep your girls in milk.

Dairy goats also need a quality grain or alfalfa, grass hay, minerals, and pasture. Dairy goat nutrition is especially important because for most of their lives, does are either pregnant or lactating. This requires adequate protein and balanced feed.

Goat milk, when tasted raw, is much like cows milk in flavor. Goat milk gets its goat-y flavor if it is aged, or when it is heated for pasteurization. This flavor has a slight tang, similar to Greek yogurt, or the flavor you taste with store bought goat cheese.

Goat milk is also healthier than cows milk:

  • Goat milk is easier to digest due to the smaller protein and fat molecules.
  • It contains less lactose than cows milk.
  • It also has about 89% less Alpha s1 Casein which is known to cause milk allergies.

It has:

  •  13% more Calcium
  • 25% more Vitamin B6
  • 47% more Vitamin A
  • 134% more Potassium than cow's milk.

Butterfat

Butterfat is what gives goat milk its sweet flavor. It also makes the milk more rich, makes more decadent cream and you will be able to make more butter per gallon.

Goat milk is naturally homogenized which means the butterfat is emulsified into the milk and will not rise to the top as easily as in cows milk. In order to “harvest” your goat cream to make butter etc. you will need a milk separator. This is a machine that uses centrifugal force to whip the fat laden cream away from the skim milk.2012-10-23 008.jpg

Each breed is known to have an “average” butterfat content. (show below) Breeds who have higher butterfat tend to give less milk. Knowing this can help you to choose which breed is best for your purposes.

Dairy Goat Breeds

Technically you can milk any goat, but these 7 are the best known in the United States and probably the easiest to find.

Saanenziege.jpgSaanens

  • Weight: Does: 135lbs+, Bucks: 165lbs+
  • Height at withers: Does: 30”, Bucks: 32”
  • Average milk amount per day: 1 ½ - 3 gallons
  • Butterfat content: 3%

Saanens are a large dairy goat and the highest in milk production. They are a hearty breed with a calm temperament, and though large, they are great with children. They have the traditional Alpine ears that are upright and forward. The coat is usually white or off white.

Alpine

  • Weight: Does: 130lbs+, Bucks: 170lbs+
  • Height at withers: Does: 30”, Bucks: 35”
  • Average milk amount per day: 1-2 gallons
  • Butterfat content: 3.5%

The Alpine is also a large breed of dairy goat, weighing close to the Saanen breed. This breed was developed in the French Alps. We used to raise Alpines and they have very gentle dispositions and keep production high throughout the year.   

OberhasliOberhasli_Goats.jpg

  • Weight: Does: 120lbs+, Bucks: 150lbs+
  • Height at withers: Does: 28”, Bucks: 30”
  • Average milk amount per day: ½ - 1 gallon
  • Butterfat content: 3.8%

The Oberhasli is a medium size goat from Switzerland. The Alpine breed was established from the Oberhasli. It produces less milk than the larger breeds, but has a higher butterfat content. Not only is the Oberhasli a good dairy goat, but they make great pack animals. They have a gentle temperament and are more willing to please than some other breeds. The unique coloring of this goat breed is called chamoisee. It’s a deep rich, reddish bay color with black tips, a black dorsal stripe and black lower legs.  

Nubian

  • Weight: Does: 135lbs+, Bucks: 175lbs+
  • Height at withers: Does: 30”, Bucks: 35”
  • Average milk amount per day: 1 gallon
  • Butterfat content: 5%

Nubians are my favorite breed and the type of dairy goat we raise on our farm. The first time I saw a Nubian with the long floppy ears and curved Roman nose, I fell in love. Nubians produce the highest butterfat content of the large dairy breeds. We’ve raised both Alpines and Nubians and I prefer the flavor of the Nubian milk. It’s sweeter and more rich in flavor.

Nubians, though large are a high energy, uppity breed. They are also extremely loud at times. Both the kids and the adults have a loud, hollering call when they want something. It often sounds like they’re in pain or dying, but it’s usually something trivial like being separated from their herd mates, or wanting a treat.

They can be a bit more willful than other breeds, and a bit more destructive. In my opinion they are harder to train and more cunning.

They are an African breed and because of their warm weather background, they can be bred year round.

La_Mancha_closeup.jpgLaMancha

  • Weight: Does: 125lbs+, Bucks: 130lbs+
  • Height at withers: Does: 28”, Bucks: 30”
  • Average milk amount per day: 1 gallon
  • Butterfat content: 4.2%

The LaMancha is the only goat breed developed in the United States. It was created by Eula Fay Frey in Oregon in the 1930’s. The LaMancha was developed from short eared Spanish goats crossed with Nubians. The resulting breed has very short ear flaps categorized in two types:

  • The gofer ear where the ear flap is mostly non-existent
  • The elf ear, where there is a slightly pointed tip to the ear

It has the second highest butterfat content of the large dairy breeds and can go more than one year without needing to be freshened (bred).

ToggenburgToggenburg_goat.jpg

  • Weight: Does: 120lbs+, Bucks: 145lbs+
  • Height at withers: Does: 26”, Bucks: 28”
  • Average milk amount per day: 1 ½ - 2 gallons
  • Butterfat content: 3.7%

The Toggenburg is the oldest dairy breed. It is from Switzerland developed in the Toggenburg Valley at Obertoggenburg. They are a spirited, playful breed. Their coloring is often a grayish brown with cream stripes from the eyes to the nose and cream on the lower legs.

Nigerian_Dwarf_Goat_001.jpgNigerian Dwarf

  • Weight: Does: 50lbs, Bucks 70lbs
  • Height at withers: Does: less than 22.5”, Bucks: less than 23.5”
  • Average milk amount per day: ½ gallon
  • Butterfat content: 6-10%

The Nigerian Dwarf is the smallest goat in the dairy group. Though small, this little goat produces the highest butterfat content of any other dairy goat. Their milk is also higher in protein. They are a playful breed, easy to care for and are wonderful around children.

Once you've decided on which breed(s) to raise, visit Manna Pro online to learn more about goat nutrition and ensuring a happy, healthy life for your animals.

Click Here for our Goat Breeds Poster

 

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Jennifer Sartell - Professional Homesteader & Blogger

Jennifer Sartell - Professional Homesteader & Blogger

Jennifer Sartell is the primary care taker of all animals on her and her husband’s farm in Fenton, MI. With a passion for living a simple life, Jennifer enjoys creating art, taking in nature, raising animals and has developed a deep appreciation for homesteading. Jennifer and her husband, Zach, currently raise goats and poultry. Her vast amount of experience on the farm includes, but is not limited to: milking, shearing, hoof trimming, vaccine administration, assisting in animal births, dehorning, egg collecting, chick and turkey hatching, feeding, watering, etc. She can also cook a mean farm-to-table meal and when the day is done has documented and photographed their day on the farm.

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