I do not know anything about raising goats for meat, so I will stick strictly to the dairy breeds that I am familiar with. I have done some research on raising pygmy and/or dwarf goats, but I have no first hand experience with them. In the end a goat is essentially a goat, but I just wanted to be clear about that up front.
Today I would like to talk about what I feel are some benefits of dairy goats to help you decide if you think they might be right for your homestead. If you live in an urban area, it is likely going to be difficult to house goats, but it may still be possible depending on your yard size and the local ordinances. Remember that a goat doesn’t feel like a goat unless she has at least two other goats with her.
Dairy goats are an excellent addition for my homestead, but they do require work every day to keep them healthy and happy. You will need to milk them every day unless you still have a nursing kid to keep the udder from remaining full for too long. Not only is it uncomfortable for the doe, but she could develop mastitis (wiki link), which is a potentially life-threatening condition. If you do not leave a doe’s kid to nurse throughout the day, you could be milking twice a day so it is a real commitment. In return, you will be rewarded with milk that can be used to produce butter, cheese, soap, ice cream or any other dairy product that cow’s milk can produce. Goats are also excellent for improving soil fertility while they browse, and they can help keep fence lines clear, clean up fallen leaves, or help keep weeds like poison ivy from spreading.
Aside from being useful for so many items, goat’s milk is often said to be safer for people who are lactose-intolerant. Goat milk is also a healthy substitute for puppies, kittens, and other nursing animals that might be in need of milk for one reason or another. Here is a link to an article in Natural News discussing some of the potential benefits of goat’s milk. This is only one source so I encourage you to do additional research on the subject to decide for yourself if consuming raw milk is right for you and your family. I cannot recommend that you go and drink raw goat’s milk! I can only tell you what I do and that I drink raw milk, and so long as you take care to ensure your goats are clean and healthy I would not hesitate to do so every time. Do your research and decide for yourself.
Here in East Tennessee our weather is such that there are almost no limits on the types of goats we can have. Our summers are not especially hot, and our winters are not especially cold. So long as the goats are properly sheltered and watered, they will be just fine. So without further ado, let’s get into dairy breeds. These are the most common in the United States, but I am sure there are more you could find though it may be difficult to get them.
This breed originated in Oregon and it most easily recognized by its very small ears. These goats can come in all colors and are know to have a sweet disposition. Two of my goats are half LaMancha, and I can attest to their sweet nature. There milk production is considered high, and the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 3.9% fat, and 3.1% protein.
LaMancha Wiki Page
Now from tiny ears to huge ones! The Nubian originated in the Middle East and parts of northern Africa making it a good breed for hot climates. Nubians are most easily recognized by their large, floppy ears., and these goats can also be any color. They are also some of the largest breeds with females weighing in around 130 pounds. There milk production is less than other diary goats, but their milk is typically the highest in fat and protein making them a favorite amongst cheese makers. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 4.6% fat, and 3.7% protein.
Nubian Wiki Page
The Alpine breed originated in the French Alps. These goats can be nearly any color with exception of solid white or light brown with white markings. Typically alpines will have a significant amount of black or light brown coloring though there is no breed standard for patterning. Alpines are also a large breed weighing around 130 pounds. Where the Nubian has the highest fat content, the Alpine produces the highest quantity of milk making them a good choice from a pure production stand point. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 3.3% fat, and 2.8% protein.
Alpine Wiki Page
The “Togg” is the oldest of the registered breeds and originates in Switzerland. These goats have strict coloring requirements. They range in color from light fawn to dark chocolate and have white ears and white on their lower legs. This breed is the second smallest of the breeds I’m listing, but they can still reach 120 pounds. These goats are sometimes described as being “spirited”, but also curious, inquisitive, and friendly. They have an average milk production. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 3.0% fat, and 2.7% protein.
Toggenburg Wiki Page
The Saanen breed also originated in Switzerland and is the largest of the diary breeds at 135 pounds. Saanens are usually preferred to be pure white, but they can be a cream color as well. These goats are very sweet and affectionate. They have a high milk production. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 3.2% fat, and 2.8% protein.
The Sable is the newest of the goat breeds only being recognized in 2005. It is descended from the Saanen and is the same save for the coloring. Sables can be brown, black, or grey with white colorings.
Saanen Wiki Page
Oberhasli originated in the United States and is know for a very specific coloring of a bay color known as Chamoise, with a black dorsal stripe, udder, belly, and black below the knees, and the does are sometimes completely black. They have a moderately-high milk production. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 3.5% fat, and 2.9% protein.
Oberhasli Wiki Page
The Nigerian Dwarf is not what I think of a standard dairy goat, but it is still important to note. As it’s name implies, it is a dwarf goat originating in Africa. They can come in many colors and patterns and stand no taller than 22.5 inches. Though they are small, these goats have exceptionally high fat content in their milk. The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) gives us some averages for milk content – 6.1% fat, and 4.4% protein.
Nigerian Dwarf Wiki Page
These are very brief overviews, but there are many resources on the web for more information if any of these breeds are of particular interest. In the end, I have decided to go with Nubians. My herd started out a little odd, but I am currently milking my LaMancha/Nubian (Feta) cross and she’s been great. We bred her to an Alpine so her kid (Olivet) is a real mutt, but she’s going to be a great goat. We also have a little Nubian kid (Brie) that we purchased a few weeks ago. You may be able to figure out my naming pattern by now.
Feta. This photo was taken in May of 2014.
This is Oli at about one week of age.
Brie at two months old. Our latest addition to the goat herd.
That’s all I have for now. I will try to keep posts from getting this long in the future. Let me know in the comments what your favorites are and what you do with your milk. If you’d like more information on where I found my goats, or where to start looking, I would be happy to help. Use the Contact form to send me an email and I will respond as quickly as I can. Until next time, take care!