Information

25 Best Dairy Goat Breeds - Goats for Milk


Sherry grew up watching her uncle raise turtles, fish, goats, and chickens in his backyard. She brought home a goat last year.

Goat's milk is easy to get and is a richer food since it has more fat, protein, and minerals than cow's milk. Goat milk has less lactose and casein which seems to be the reason for its increasing demand among people with lactose intolerance and cow milk allergy. However, it is important to note that even goat's milk might not be suitable for these people.

There are around 570 goat breeds in the world, but only 69 of those are truly identified as "dairy breeds". The remaining are either meat breeds or fibre-producing ones. It is important to choose a true dairy breed if you are solely interested in milk because although meat breeds can also produce milk, the quality and quantity cannot even be compared.

Milk goats are leaner and usually have a calmer composure than meat breeds. They produce milk in high quantity. They generally require more supplemental feed during the lactation period to maintain milk production.

Best Dairy Goats in the World

  1. Saanen
  2. Alpine
  3. Anglo-Nubian
  4. Toggenburg
  5. Sable
  6. Poitevin
  7. Nordic
  8. Malaguena
  9. Chamoisee
  10. Murciana-Granadina
  11. Appenzell
  12. Malaguena

How to Choose the Best Milk Goat Breed?

Among dairy breeds found globally, those found in tropical regions have lower milk yield due to their lower genetic potential and prevailing environmental factors than their temperate counterparts.

Farmers and breeders happen to import high yielding exotic breeds of goats under suboptimal conditions as a substitute to less productive local breeds or for upgrading purposes. However, exotic breeds perform better in their regions of origin. Normally, farmers cross dairy goats with local goats to get a goat that produces more quantity of milk and at the same time can adapt to local conditions.

If you live in a temperate region, you are good to select a dairy breed you like. But, those living in a tropical country would either have to select a local breed that produces milk in good quantity or have a breeder help you find one.

Popular Dairy Goat Breeds by Region

  • Includes US, Switzerland, India, Spain, Italy, Turkey, France, Portugal, Norway and Cyprus

Dairy Goats in the US

1. US Saanen

  • Milk yield: 2015 pounds
  • Lactation length: 292/year
  • Fat content: High
  • Average lifespan: 10-15 years

Saanen is widely known as the world’s highest milk-producing goat. The breed first originated in Switzerland. Because of its great milk productivity, it was exported to various parts of the world in the 1990s. Present-day Saanens in the US are descendants of some of the best quality Saanens from their first arrival to the states.

These goats have proved to be widely adaptable in the US ever since. The does weigh anywhere between 110 and 200 pounds, whereas the bucks weigh between 175 and 265 pounds.

2. US Toggenburg

  • Milk yield: 1620-1920 pounds
  • Lactation days: 292/year
  • Fat content: High
  • Lifespan: 8 to 12 years

Toggenburg is the oldest breed of dairy goats in the United States. It is a breed originating from the Toggenburg valley in Switzerland. The colour of goats is brown to grey with white legs and white around the base of the tail. They are polled and have short, erect ears. The males weigh around 145 pounds and females weigh around 100 pounds.

3. Alpine

  • Milk yield: 1915 pounds
  • Lactation days: 288/year
  • Fat content: High
  • Lifespan: 8 to 13 years

Alpine is another of the main Swiss dairy breeds in terms of milk production and distribution around the world. It can be considered as the best milking goat after Saanen. The breed has many colours and forms distinctly separate breeds of which American Alpine is one. The bucks weigh between 175 and 220 pounds, whereas the does weigh between 135 and 200 pounds.

4. LaMancha

  • Milk yield: 1670 pounds
  • Lactation days: 288/year
  • Fat content: High
  • Life expectancy: 7 to 10 years

La Mancha is the only dairy breed developed in the US. They are easily identifiable because of their distinctively short ear pinnae. Does weigh around 130 pounds and bucks around 155 pounds.

5. Nubian

  • Milk yield: 1565 pounds
  • Lactation days: 288/year
  • Fat content: High
  • Life expectancy: 10-15 years

In the USA, the Nubians are recognized as a single purpose dairy breed with excellent milk productivity. Male Nubians weigh up to 310 pounds and female alpines weigh up to 240 pounds.

6. Oberhasli

  • Milk yield: 1600 pounds
  • Lactation days: 288/year
  • Fat content: High
  • Lifespan: 8-12 years

The American Oberhasli is chamois coloured, solid brown with black dorsal marking, face, belly, feet and legs. The Oberhasli is a medium-sized breed with bucks weighing around 150 pounds and does near 120 pounds.

Switzerland

1. Saanen

  • Milk yield: 1640 pounds
  • Lactation days: 282/year
  • Fat content: High
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years

Saanen is the most reputable dairy goat breed in the world. It is native to the Saanen Valley of Switzerland. The goats produce a high milk yield with average butterfat content. The average weight of males is 175-200 pounds and the female is 150 pounds.

2. Toggenburg

  • Milk yield: 1620 pounds
  • Lactation days: 285/year
  • Fat content: Medium-High
  • Lifespan: 8 to 12 years

Toggenburg goats are among the oldest and most popular dairy breeds. The doe weighs around 120 pounds while the buck may weigh more than 200 pounds.

3. Chamoisee

  • Milk yield: 1565 pounds
  • Lactation days: 278/year
  • Fat content: High

Swiss Chamoisee or American Alpine is the breed next popular to Saanen among dairy goats. They have a unique colour and pattern combination making them quite distinctive. Colour and pattern may include white, grey, black and cou clair, cou blanc, sundgau and spotted. Males weigh up to 180 pounds and females weigh around 132 pounds.

4. Appenzell

  • Milk yield: 1480 pounds
  • Fat content: Medium-High
  • Lactation days: 278/year

Appenzell is a rare breed of domestic goats from Switzerland. The goat was listed under the endangered status by the FAO. The goats are medium-sized with male goats weighing about 140 pounds and females about 100 pounds.

Spain

1. Murciana Granadina

  • Milk yield: 1355-2000 pounds
  • Fat content: Medium-High
  • Lactation days: 257-270/year

This breed is a combination of mahogany-coloured Murciana and the black Granadina. Because of their high milk production and ability to breed any time of the year, they are largely exported to South and Central America. Females can weigh up to 110 pounds and male goats can weigh up to 135 pounds.

2. Malaguena

  • Milk yield: 1320 pounds
  • Lactation days: 255-260/year
  • Fat content: Medium-High

This is one of several Spanish breeds valued for high milk yield. The breed is medium-sized and has a light red coloured medium-sized coat.

3. Canaria

  • Milk yield: 1435 pounds
  • Lactation days: 255/year
  • Fat content: High

Canaria goats are very hardy with good mothering ability. They are mainly found on the Canary Islands in Spain. The goats are dual-purpose milk and meat goats. Their ability to resist diseases that are common in most goats makes them a good choice for those looking for a dual-purpose breed.

4. Guadarrama

  • Milk yield: 1210 pounds
  • Lactation days: 210/year
  • Fat content: Medium

Guadarrama mountain goats belong to Madrid. The breed is rare and known to be at the risk of extinction. The goats are dual-purpose with good milk-producing ability.

India

1. Barbari

  • Milk yield: 250-342 pounds
  • Lactation days: 160-190/days
  • Fat content: Low
  • Life span: 14-17 years

Barbari is a small to medium-sized goat breed found in India and Pakistan. They are very popular for the excellent quality of meat. But they are also used for milk in the Asian countries. The goats have white-coloured hair with tan spots over their body. The does weigh about 50 to 80 pounds while bucks weigh about 80 to 100 pounds.

2. Beetal

  • Milk yield: 440 pounds
  • Lactation days: 198/year
  • Fat content: Low
  • Life span: 12-15 years

Beetal is considered a dual-purpose breed for its remarkable meat production alongside milk yield. This Indian dairy breed was derived from the Jamnapuri breed of goats. The goats are tall with both sexes having medium-sized horns. The adult female weighs around 100 to 132 pounds and the adult male weighs up to 188 pounds.

3. Jamunapuri

  • Milk yield: 475 pounds
  • Lactation days: 220/year
  • Fat content: Low

Jamunapuri is a long-legged dairy breed that originated near the Jamna River in India. It is one of the ancestors of Anglo-Nubian breed. The goats have roman noses with often undershot upper jaws. This is a unique recessive trait that makes the goat prefer browsing overgrazing. The Jamunapuri male and female goats weigh up to 145 and 200 pounds respectively.

4. Malabari

  • Milk yield: 110-440 pounds
  • Lactation days: 181-210/year

The Malabari goat breed is widely found in Southeast India. The goats are of mixed ancestry, due to crossing with dairy breeds from Northern India. They come in a wide range of colours and both sexes have horns but polled ones are also common. They are small-sized goats with males weighing up to 90 pounds and females weighing up to 70 pounds.

Italy

1. Maltese

  • Milk yield: 980 pounds
  • Lactation days: 200/year
  • Fat content: Medium

Maltese is an Italian goat breed originating from the island of Malta. The breed comes in various colours, short or long hair, but the goats found in Italy are normally white coloured with long hair. The average body weight of male and female Maltese goats is 101 and 155 pounds respectively.

2. Girgentana

  • Milk yield: 770 pounds
  • Lactation days: 200/year
  • Fat content: Medium-Low

This Italian breed of medium size has a good level of milk production and has very unique corkscrew-like long horns pointing vertically upwards.

3. Ionica

  • Milk yield: 730 pounds
  • Lactation days: 200/year
  • Fat content: Low

Ionica is another Italian breed with medium-sized body and medium level milk production. This breed is usually kept in small herds. The goats have long lop ears and no horns.

4. Garganica

  • Milk yield: 475 pounds
  • Lactation days: 200/year
  • Fat content: Low

This dual-purpose milk and meat goat is a small, hardy breed with long black hair. The face is straight with beards and has longhorns that are flat and twisted backwards.

Turkey

1. Kilis

  • Milk yield: 560 pounds
  • Lactation days: 270/year
  • Fat content: Low

Kilis breed was developed by crossbreeding the Damascus and Anatolian Black goats. They are usually black but some may be grey. They have long hair and may have horns.

France

1. Poitevine or Poitou

  • Milk yield: 1150 pounds
  • Lactation days: 230/year
  • Fat content: Medium

This French breed is of quite a recent origin. It is a medium-sized goat well adapted to temperate regions. The goats have brown to black short hair all over the body except white bellies, legs and area below the tail. After French Alpine and Saanen, Poitevine goats produce the largest quantity of milk in France.

Cyprus

1. Damascus

  • Milk yield: 1125 pounds
  • Lactation days: 255/year
  • Fat content: Medium

Damascus is the most important dairy breed for Eastern Mediterranean regions. It is a tall breed with a Roman nose and long shaggy reddish-brown hair. Long, twisted horns may be present in males while in females they may be sickle-shaped. The breed is quite prolific. Males weigh up to 190 pounds and females up to 145 pounds.

Portugal

1. Serrana

  • Milk yield: 770 pounds
  • Lactation days: 240/year
  • Fat content: Medium

Serrana is a medium-sized breed of Portugal. It is mostly kept in small herds. The goats have reddish-brown hair. Horns, beards and wattles are common in these goats.

Norway

1. Nordic

  • Milk yield: 1430 pounds
  • Lactation days: 275/year
  • Fat content: Medium

The Nordic breed includes native goats from Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The goats have long hair and may come in a variety of colours, but brown is most common. They have short legs, erect ears and sabre-shaped horns, although some may be polled.

Sources

  • Devendra, C., & Haenlein, G. F. W. (2016). Dairy Goat Breeds.
  • Solaiman, S. G. (Ed.). (2010). Goat science and production. John Wiley & Sons.
  • Haenlein, G. (2007). About the evolution of goat and sheep milk production. Small ruminant research, 68(1-2), 3-6.

© 2020 Sherry Haynes

Liz Westwood from UK on August 07, 2020:

This is a fascinating article. I really appreciate the way that you have broken down the breeds by geographic locations. I was interested to find a breed from Malta in Italy.

Miebakagh Fiberesima from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, NIGERIA. on August 05, 2020:

This is the first informative article on goat I've read online. And very educative. Much thanks for sharing.


A Beginner’s Guide to the Best Goats for Milk

There are many good reasons for raising dairy goats, and this article is the best place to start for more information about the best goats for milk.

Maybe your children are looking for a 4-H project. Perhaps you have always dreamed of providing your family’s milk supply. Some people would like to start a home business based on goat milk. It’s possible that you aren’t even sure why you want goats, and you wouldn’t be unusual if you said you simply like the fascinating animals. But the reason is important because to a great degree, that will determine how you will raise them, and how you should get started.

Therefore, our goal will be to help you explore the possibilities. We’ll tell you what you must know about goats before you start raising them for any reason. But only you can decide why you want to raise them, and therefore how much time, money, effort, study and sheer dedication you will allot to the enterprise.

Even if you have never met a goat in person, you probably know, from pictures and reading, that they are friendly, docile, curious and intelligent. And of course, they produce rich, delicious milk.

A good milking doe will produce an average of about 2-3 quarts a day, but that’s extremely misleading. The main reason is that most goats will produce a lot of milk — often a gallon or more per day — soon after kidding. After that peak, production declines, sometimes slowly, sometimes not so slowly. A good goat should produce for 9-10 months of the year, although the last part of the lactation (milking period) might only amount to a few cups a day. A not-so-good goat might only produce for a couple of months before going dry.

The Best Goats for Milk: Breed Overview

Naturally, you’ll want to know what the best goats for milk are.

While there are hundreds of breeds of goats throughout the world, only eight are generally recognized as dairy breeds in the United States and thus the best goats for milk.

The most popular is the Nubian goat. While these animals can be any color or combination of colors, they are easily identified by their long drooping ears and “Roman noses.” Many people say that Nubians don’t produce as much as other breeds, but their milk is richer (higher in butterfat). More on that in a moment.

Another common breed is the Saanen, which is always white or light cream and has a “dished” or concave face and erect ears. Saanen goats have a reputation for being the best milk producers, but with the lowest butterfat production. (Again, please reserve judgment for a moment.)

Sables are Saanens that are not all white or light cream. Like Saanens, their ears are erect but their face may be straight or dished. The Sable may be any color or combination of colors, solid or patterned, EXCEPT solid white or solid light cream.

One of the easiest breeds to identify is the LaMancha, which often appears to be earless. The ears are very short. LaMancha goats can be any color or combination, and are generally considered to be fine dairy animals.

Toggenburgs are easily identified by their color pattern, which is always a shade of brown with white markings, most notably stripes on the face. The common generalization is that Toggs have long lactations but with butterfat on the low side.

Alpine goats come in the whole spectrum of goat colors and patterns, which the official breed standard describes in great detail.

Less common is the Oberhasli. These are bay-colored, or reddish-brown, accented with black markings.

And finally, the Nigerian Dwarf. Some people claim they are easy to milk and good producers despite their small size… or even that they’re ideal for people who don’t need much milk and want an easily handled animal.

Goats of any breed and either sex can have horns. It’s best to start with one that is naturally hornless or has been disbudded or dehorned at an early age.

Breed Averages are Meaningless

There is no best breed. There is far more variation among animals of the same breed than there is between one breed and another. Some Nubians produce much more milk than some Saanens. Some Saanens produce more butterfat than some Nubians. And “breed average” milk production means nothing when choosing an animal.

If you just want a little milk for home use, or if you still don’t know why you want goats, there is nothing wrong with starting out with “grade” animals which are often crosses of two or more breeds. Some are very good milkers. More importantly, you will learn from them.

Buying a Goat

Much more important than the answer to what are best goats for milk is the overall health and condition of goats you are purchasing. It would be helpful to get knowledgeable help, but a basic analysis can be fairly intuitive.

Look for a shiny coat. Bright eyes. Good body condition.

The animal should be alert and lively, and it should move easily, without limping or acting stiff or sore. It should have firm, pelleted manure. Be sure it has no abscesses, and of course, you’ll want a well-shaped udder and teats on a milking doe. Check the feet.

This is the minimum. In some cases you might want to go much further, even having a veterinarian examine the goat. This might include tests for mastitis, blood tests to check for CAE, TB, and brucellosis and fecal tests for internal parasites.

Most beginners don’t go to such lengths, but this does demonstrate the importance of buying from someone who is both knowledgeable and conscientious.

Of course, you won’t bring a goat home until it has a place to stay and something to eat.

Housing

Goats are hardy animals, but they do need a dry, draft-free place to sleep and to escape from the hot sun or rain, and an outdoor space to exercise — especially if you want to produce the best goats for milk.

In hot areas where protection from sun and rain is important, a simple roof or lean-to might suffice. In cold climates, the concerns are chilly drafts, drifting snow, and adequate ventilation. And of course, a real, licensed dairy requires what most of us can only dream of electricity, and hot and cold running water and drains separate areas for animals, feed, milking, and milk handling and much more.

Experienced goat raisers recommend anywhere from 12 to 25 square feet of shelter per animal, the lower figure being adequate in warmer climates where they will spend more time outdoors. In cold or wet areas the goats will often be fed indoors and will spend more time there, increasing the space requirement.

Fencing

Outdoor spaces are equally flexible. You might need little more than a small exercise yard for few goats. Or you might want a pasture area that will provide at least some of the goats’ nutritional needs. You might even opt for a complex series of rotational pastures to maximize forage utilization. The number of animals you have and the kinds and amounts of plants available are primary considerations, along with how much time you can devote to pasture management, and how much you want to spend on fencing.

Fencing is the key element of any yard or pasture. (Tethering goats is not recommended.) Goats are notoriously difficult to confine, and they are hard on fencing—especially the cheaper kinds. One good choice for smaller areas is stock panels. These are made of 1/4″ welded rod and come in 16-ft. lengths, 48 inches high. Other options are limited to such fencing as woven wire, chain link, and electric—either the common single-strand type (typically using 2-3 strands), the high-tensile variety, or the netting often referred to as “New Zealand” type fencing. Goats can be trained to respect electric fencing.

Note that one acre will require 825 feet of fencing—and more if it’s not square. Get prices on the kind of fencing you’d like. Don’t forget to include line posts, corner posts, insulators and a fence charger if applicable, gates, and perhaps such items as fence staples, a fencing tool and a posthole digger or post driver. Then base your decision on a cost/benefit analysis — or on your budget.

Feeding

Goats are ruminants. The term refers to the rumen, the large first compartment of the four-part stomach in which cellulose, mostly from forage, is broken down by organisms living there. This is the basis of feeding goats.

Forage, consisting of hay, pasture plants, and browse from trees and bushes, is the mainstay of the goat diet. Such coarse materials are indigestible to the goat, but the rumen microbes break them down. You are feeding the microbes, and the microbes feed the goat.

Roughage is essential for goat nutrition. Grains are secondary.

For many people, the best, easiest and cheapest way to feed goats is to provide good leafy grass or legume hay free-choice, plus 2-3 pounds a day of a commercial goat feed (grain ration). Others prefer feeding their goats on pasture as much as possible. This can be quite simple, or it can become management-intensive, with controlled rotational grazing, pasture maintenance, and renovation, expensive fencing and predator control, to name a few concerns.

Whatever your chosen method, for whatever reason, prudence would suggest that you start small and learn as you go—in every area of goat husbandry.

Goats need a constant supply of fresh, clean water.

Breeding

Dairy goats give milk, but only after giving birth. This means they must be bred, which requires a buck.

Very few beginners would be well-advised to own a buck for reasons including herd improvement, expense, and the infamous buck odor. It’s simply too convenient to locate a good buck and transport the doe when she’s in heat.

Does can be bred when they weigh 85-90 pounds, usually at about nine months of age.

Female goats are only receptive to breeding (“in heat” or estrus) for 2-3 days at a time, every 18-23 days or so, usually from fall to late winter. Signs to watch for include increased tail-wagging, nervous bleating, a slightly swollen vulva, and frequent urination. Take the doe to visit the buck, record the date, and watch for signs of heat again about three weeks later. If you see none the doe is probably pregnant.

Again mark your calendar in anticipation of kidding about 145 to 150 days after breeding.

Kidding

Several days ahead of the due date, put the doe in a well-cleaned pen by herself with plenty of fresh bedding, water, and good hay. Don’t be surprised if you check on her one morning and find her attending to 2-3 newborn kids, even if you didn’t know she was in labor.

At the onset of labor, she might paw the floor and lie down and stand again repeatedly. If she is in actual labor more than two hours or seems to be having trouble, be ready to call for help from either a knowledgeable neighbor or a veterinarian. The best way to learn to deal with rare difficult births is by watching someone with experience.

The normal procedure after kidding is to clear the nose of mucus or membranes to prevent suffocation (the mother will do this if you aren’t there), disinfect the navel with iodine, and dry the kid. Gently draw a small stream of milk from each teat to be sure it’s functional and not plugged. Clean up the soiled bedding and add fresh, if needed. Watch to be certain the kids get that all-important first drink of “colostrum,” or first milk, or milk the doe and feed the kids with a bottle and lamb nipple. This thick, yellowish milk produced for the first few days after giving birth is essential for any newborn.

Raising Kids

There are many theories of kid-raising, most related in some way to why you raise goats. The “natural” way would be to leave them with their mother. This won’t work if you’re raising goats for milk. Kids can ruin udders on show goats. And concerns about certain diseases (CAE) lead many goat raisers to remove kids from their mothers immediately after birth.

Kids to be hand-fed should be placed in a well-bedded, draft-free box, preferably out of sight and hearing of the mother. They can be fed from bottles or pans. It requires time and patience to teach a kid to drink from a pan, but cleaning and sanitizing bottles and nipples are more work.

Most people feed warmed milk (a goat’s normal body temperature is 103°) three or four times a day. Start with 12-14 ounces a day, total, the first few days, working up to as much as 24 ounces a day by the end of the week, if the kid will take it. Some won’t. By the second week, this will probably increase to 36 ounces a day.

Be sure to provide fine-stemmed hay, which kids will start nibbling at when they’re only a week old. This roughage is essential for the proper development of the rumen. They will nibble at grain (18% kid ration) soon after, but the hay is more important. Limit feeding milk at this point will encourage hay and grain consumption, but always offer as much clean water as they will drink.

Wean by weight, not age, usually around 20 pounds. The primary consideration should be whether they are consuming enough hay and grain to continue to thrive without milk.

Milking

Milk your goats every 12 hours on a regular schedule.

The milking area should be away from the dust of the housing and feed areas.

Wash the udder and teats with warm water and an udder washing solution (available from farm stores), and dry thoroughly. This promotes clean milk but just as importantly stimulates milk “let-down.”

Milking might seem difficult at first, but most people get the hang of it after a little practice.

1. Close off the top of the teat with your thumb and forefinger so the milk in the teat will be forced out of the teat, not back into the udder.

2. Next, close your second finger, then the third, and finally your pinkie, forcing the milk out of the teat. Use steady pressure, but don’t “squeeze” in the sense of pinching: be gentle. Do not pull on the teat.

Discard the first stream from each teat, as it will be high in bacteria.

3. Repeat the process with your other hand on the other teat. Alternate like this until the milk flow ceases.

Milk should be weighed and recorded. Weight is used rather than volume because the numbers are easier to work with but also to eliminate guesswork caused by foam.

Strain the warm milk using an approved filter, and cool it immediately and thoroughly. Milk should be chilled to 38° within one hour. The best way to achieve this is by placing the milk container in a pan of ice water for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then it can be refrigerated.

Grooming

Like nails on humans, goats’ hooves need regular trimming. In the wild, these growths are kept under control by constant scrambling over rocks. Left untouched, overgrown hooves can cripple an animal by throwing bones out of alignment.

Goat hoof trimming can be accomplished with a sharp knife (and a great deal of care), but the ideal is a hoof trimmer, a shears made for the purpose, available from goat and sheep supply houses. An alternative is an ordinary sharp rose pruning shears. Leather gloves are a good idea. Most people will want to have a helper or a milking stand to help restrain the goat.

Moving the leg back so the hoof faces up, first clean out any manure and dirt. Next, trim off any bent-over parts of the hoof. It should be even with the bottom of the foot, but just take a little at a time until you gain experience. The hoof will show pink as you near the blood supply.

The toe, or point of the hoof, wears down less than the sides and requires more trimming. Heels seldom need trimming, but check them just in case.

Health

Goats are hardy and generally healthy animals. With proper nutrition and management, illness is rare. But of course, any living creature can get sick.

Some people prefer self-medication, for themselves and their animals. This requires a certain amount of information and knowledge, whether gained from a medical school or an experienced neighbor or relative. Most of us are better off relying on trained experts, and many medications are available only to licensed practitioners.

However, you can learn to perform some common tasks. For example, many busy veterinarians might be glad to show you how to administer routine inoculations yourself. (Asking a vet about basic health maintenance programs will tell you what vaccinations are recommended for your area, but will also establish contact before some dire emergency arises.)

The four most common vaccinations for goats are for tetanus, white-muscle disease, enterotoxemia, and pasteurellosis. Remember, vaccines are not cures: they’re preventatives.

The most prevalent goat ailment is probably caseous lymphadenitis (CL), and caprine arthritis encephalitis (CAE) is the most talked-about disease, but there are no vaccines for either of these. They can be controlled by prevention, beginning with purchasing animals from herds known to be free of the diseases.

Goat Farming as a Business

There are several ways to make money with dairy goats. But the few doing it will assure you that it’s not easy, and you won’t get rich.

Selling milk sounds logical. The problem is lack of markets. Selling raw milk retail is next to impossible due to numerous legal and economic barriers. Most goat milk is sold to small cheesemakers, and there are fewer than three dozen of these in the entire country. There are even fewer fluid milk processors. Both of these usually have enough producers under contract, plus a waiting list.

Some goat milkers make and sell cheese or yogurt themselves, while others have found such specialty niches as goat milk soap and goat milk fudge. These, of course, involve all aspects of milk production from feeding and fencing to milking and manure hauling, but also manufacturing the product—after which it still has to be sold, at a profit. They are not enterprises to be taken on without a great deal of research and planning.

Sooner or later every goat breeder will have animals to sell. Registered, pedigreed championship show animals often bring high prices, but buying and breeding champions, attending major shows and keeping up the records that justify those high prices can be time-consuming and expensive.

Milkers with good records are often in demand. A few wethers are sold as pets, and there is a growing market for both milk-fed kids and culls as meat. These are sidelines that might help defray part of the feed bill, but they won’t provide an income.

But most people don’t raise goats to make money. Raise them to enjoy their friendly personalities, to watch the frolicking kids in springtime, and to savor their delicious milk. For the goat lover, that is reward enough. I hope this helps you better understand the best goats for milk and the care they will need.


What are the best goats for pets?

Ready to take the leap into goat ownership? Great! Let’s look at five of the best goats for pets.

Nigerian Dwarf goats

Nigerian Dwarf goats are miniature-sized goats with tons of personality. They’re fantastic dairy producers, so they’re a great choice if you’re looking to get milk, cheese, or yogurt from your goats.

Pygmy goats

Pygmy goats have received tons of attention on social media for their adorable antics. Since they’re small (comparable to a medium-sized dog), pygmies are a wonderful option for families with children.

Nubian goats

Nubian goats originally came from England, unlike the Nigerian dwarf and Pygmy breeds, which originated in Africa. They’re also much larger. Their milk has high butterfat content, making Nubians a top pick for people who want a dairy goat.

LaMancha goats

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Like Nubian goats, LaMancha goats are large in size and popular as a milking breed. Even though they’re big, LaMancha goats are relatively quiet and docile, making them suitable for people with smaller properties.

Alpine goats

As you might expect, Alpine goats originated in the French Alps. They’re known for their big size, dairy-producing ability, and friendliness. When they have babies, does are incredibly nurturing mothers too.


5 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Small Farm

Nigerian Dwarf Goat

The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a miniature breed, but also one that produces a lot of milk for it’s size. It is one of the top choices for those homesteading on a small piece of land.

They can give from 1-2 quarts a day- which is pretty impressive considering they are only around 18 inches in height!

Their milk is also one of the highest in butterfat which ranges anywhere from 6-10%. That means their milk is very creamy and makes delicious cheese, ice cream and yogurt. Because of their size they make great goats for kids as well as those in a more urban setting.

Nubian

Nubians are a medium to large sized goat with adorable cute floppy ears. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and have the ability to produce up to 2 gallons a day, with the average being closer to 1 gallon a day. They have one of the highest butterfat contents of the standard dairy breeds at 4-5%.

If you need a lot of milk and plan on making cheeses or soaps, Nubians can’t be beat. They can be a bit loud at times, I call ours crybabies, so they might not be right for those who live in subdivisions and make sure you neighbors won’t mind before bringing them home. Nubians are my personal favorites!

Alpine

Alpines originated in France and are a steady, dependable goat. They are medium to large in size and are very consistent milk producers with one of the longest lactation cycles.

They average over 1 gallon of milk per day with a 3.5% butterfat content.

Alpines come in almost any color imaginable and are adaptable to almost any climate. The average size of an Alpine doe is 135 lbs.

LaMancha

LaManchas are a medium sized goat that are most easily recognized by their lack of ears! They have a friendly, easy going temperament and are very hardy animals. LaManchas are good producers with an average of 1-2 gallons per day, with a butterfat content around 4%.

Personally, I like floppy ears, but I have heard many LaMancha owners say that if you give them a chance you’ll fall in love and be hooked on them forever!

Saanen

Saanens are the largest of the dairy breeds and are often considered the Holstein of the dairy goats. Saanens can produce a lot of milk- up to 3 gallons per day- with an average production closer to 1.5 gallons per day. While they do produce a lot of milk the butterfat content is low compared to some of the other breeds.

At 2-3% butterfat the Saanen’s milk will not seem as creamy and will not produce as rich of cheese or yogurt. These girls are big, so you will need to make sure you have enough of a pasture for them to stretch their legs in and a fence strong enough to withstand a larger weight.

Saanens are usually all white in color and very mild mannered. This is the breed we started with- on a 1 acre lot in a subdivision!

Related Reading: 5 Overlooked Goat Breeds

Each breed is a little bit different. If you are very short on space or only need enough milk for fresh drinking, Nigerians might be the best way to go. If you need a large quantity of milk to make yogurt, buttermilk, cheese, soap or just to feed a large family you will probably want to go with one of the standard breeds.

If you want to know more about some of the other goat breeds, such as those for fiber and meat, check out my Complete Guide to Goat Breeds.

If you are new to goats, I recommend reading up as much as you can before you purchase. You can find a lot of articles here on The Free Range Life that will teach you about goat care and be sure to check out The Busy Homesteader’s Goat Management Binder– it’s full of to-do lists, checklists, record keeping sheets, and resource pages that will get your new goat herd off to a great start!


What Breed of Goat Produces the Most Milk?

I just moved to a new home with several acres of land, and I'd like to raise goats. What breeds are considered the best milk producers?

K.R., Nipomo, California

The clowns of the barnyard, goats tend to be gentle, intelligent, and inquisitive animals. Though some 200 different breeds exist, only a half dozen are generally raised for their milk. Of these, I'd recommend you focus on Toggenburgs, Saanens, La Manchas, and Nubians.

If milk quantity is your main concern, consider Toggenburgs, the oldest dairy breed in the world, or Saanens, which reign as the most popular choice for commercial dairies but are also well suited for small farms. Should you want a pet as well as a good milker, La Manchas earn praise for their calm, sweet dispositions. Looking to make cheese? Droopy-eared Nubians garner raves for their milk's higher-than-average butterfat content.

Since goats are herd animals, be sure to purchase at least two. And whichever breed you choose, buy the goats locally, as they'll be accustomed to your region's climate and less likely to feel stressed by the move to your property.


Watch the video: The Best Milk Goat Breeds For Your Homestead (September 2021).