7 Popular Dairy Goat Breeds
Raising animals is one of the greatest joys of farm life. If you have a farm or farm (and you’ve already mastered the art of raising chickens), it might be time for you to consider adding dairy goats to the mix. Most breeds of goats are docile, and goat milk can be made into a long list of useful products, from candy to soap. “Goats are incredibly intelligent and affectionate – much more like dogs than other farm animals,” says Louisa Conrad, co-owner of Vermont’s Big Picture Farm, which produces goat milk products, including award-winning caramels.
Mikayla Herrmann, who makes goat milk products on her Oklahoma farm, agrees. “There are so many wonderful benefits to keeping goats, but one thing that surprised me was how fun the goats’ personalities are. Ours are very friendly and playful, but also know how to sow the seeds. discord quickly. It makes them fun to sit and watch.”
To help you decide which breed of goat is best for your farm, we’ve put together a list of the most common dairy goat breeds in the United States, from the smaller, pet-friendly Nigerian Dwarf goats to the larger breeds. which are stellar milk producers, such as Alpine goats and Saanen goats. “If you’re considering raising goats, find out about their dietary needs, which can vary depending on what they’re used for,” says Mikayla. “Also, have a good fence! Someone once told me, ‘If you throw a bucket of water on a fence and the water gets through, so could a goat,’ and that’s true. Goats are the best escape artists.”
Whichever breed of goat you choose, be sure to do your research on the needs of each breed of goat, learn about dairy goat management, learn about breed standards, and buy goats from from a reputable source (visit the American Dairy Goat Association website for more information).
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A breed originating in the French Alps, Alpine goats are hardy and adaptable, as well as curious, intelligent and friendly. They are also excellent milk producers, averaging about 2,715 pounds per year, making them one of the most popular dairy goats in the United States. According to the American Dairy Goat Association, mature Alpines are larger, weighing around 135 pounds and upright. 30 inches high at the top of their shoulders (aka withers).
The Saanen breed originated in Switzerland and is easy to spot as they are always white in color and have erect ears that point slightly forward. Weighing up to 145 pounds and 30 inches tall, they are the largest dairy goat breed as well as excellent milk producers, second only to the Alpines. They are also calm and friendly, making them a good choice for farms with children.
Note: Sable Goats are the same as Saanens except for their coloring, which can be tan, brown, black, or patterned (They are sometimes referred to as “Saanens in evening dress”.)
Nubian goats come in a variety of colors, but you can always spot one thanks to their long droopy ears that look a bit like a rabbit. Nubians are popular with ice cream and cheese makers because their milk is high in fat and protein.
While LaMancha goats have coats in a range of colors, it is their short ears (called elf ears) or a lack of visible ears (called gopher ears) that make them easy to spot in a herd. The best milk producers, LaManchas are also among the sweetest and gentlest breeds of dairy goats, which also makes them great pets.
Toggenburgs are among the first official breeds of dairy goats imported from Switzerland to the United States, and they are generally friendly, calm and inquisitive. With adult goats reaching 120 pounds and 26 inches tall, they are medium-sized dairy goats that produce about 2,237 pounds per year according to the American Dairy Goat Association.
A copper-colored coat with black markings sets these medium-sized dairy goats apart, as do their uniquely calm personalities. While Oberhaslis produce less milk on average than other dairy goats, they still earn close to 2,000 pounds per year.
Nigerian dwarf goat
As their name suggests, Nigerian dwarf goats are rather small at just 23.5” for males and 22.5” for females. Their small size means they produce less milk on average than other dairy goats (about 795 pounds per year), but it also makes Nigerian Dwarf goats ideal for small farms. Some have horns and some are naturally polled (they’re pretty darn cute anyway!)
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