Goat milk is richer in protein, fat, and minerals compared to cow’s milk. One of the top reasons for its increasing demand among lactose-intolerant people is that goat milk has low lactose and casein content. There are 570 known breeds of goats around the world. Among them, about 69 are ‘dairy breeds,’ and others are fiber-producing ones or used for meats. If you are only interested in milk, choosing a dairy goat would be ideal. Even meat breeds of goat produce milk, but their quality might just not be that good compared to the dairy goat. Dairy goats are much calmer and leaner compared to other goats, and they produce milk in large quantities. However, they also need supplemental feed to maintain their quality of production in the lactation period.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Dairy Goats
Dairy goats are perfect for farmers and breeders looking for a steady production of dairy animals but do not have enough housing or resources to raise cows. Before you go about picking a dairy goat, it is important to know something about them –
- Dairy goats need to be milked every 12 hours.
- They need to be bred yearly and give birth to be able to maintain the production of milk.
Thus, before you purchase dairy goats, irrespective of the breed, you need to find bucks for mating every fall and then determine what you are going to do with the kids born every year if you wish to keep milking your goat. Dairy goats will also require high-quality grass hay, grain, alfalfa, pasture, and minerals. Quality nutrition and balanced food are critical for dairy goats as they are usually pregnant or lactating throughout their lives. The flavor of goat milk is usually similar to that of cow milk, but when pasteurized, they get a ‘goaty’ flavor to it. It has a slightly tangy flavor to it, something you will taste in goat cheese or Greek yogurt.
The Best Dairy Goat Breeds
Even though all goats produce milk, here are some of the top dairy goats in the US.
Saanen Goat Dairy Breed
Saanen goats are among the best milk-producing goats in the world. These first originated in Switzerland but were then exported to other parts of the world in the 1990s because of their high milk-producing capacity. Most of the current Saanen goats in the US are direct descendants of the pure breed Saanen that first arrived in the country. Saanen breed goats are medium to large in size and weigh anywhere from 110 to 200 pounds. They have rugged bones and have front-facing Alpine ears. Their coats are white or cream in color and are known for their calm and easy-going temperament.
Alpine Goat Breed
Alpine is another popular dairy goat that originated from Switzerland and is widely used for goat milk production worldwide. These are the second-best dairy goat after Saanen and similar in size and weight to them. Alpine goats have a straight face with erect ears. They come in many different color combinations and can easily adapt to any climate while maintaining good health and milk production. They have a gentle temperament and are great around humans too.
Oberhasli Goat Breed
Oberhasli is a medium-sized breed that produces lesser milk compared to other dairy goats, but its milk contains high butterfat content. They are not just excellent dairy goats; they also gel in well with other farm animals because of their pleasing attitude. This breed has a straight face with ears erected to have an alerting appearance. They usually have chamois color – a rich reddish tone, with black strips down their face and small white hairs around the ears and throughout the coat.
Nubian Goat Breed
Nubian breeds are among the most easily recognizable dairy goats with long and droopy ears and convex muzzle noses. They have an African origin making them perfect for hot climates. Nubian also have a longer breeding season than other dairy goats and can be bred all year round, making them a desirable breed. They do not produce as much milk as other dairy breeds, but their milk is high in fat content and is much sweeter. One problem with this breed is that they are high-energy breeds and are very loud when they are separated from the herd or need food.
LaMancha Goat Breed
LaMancha breed is the only dairy goat breed that originated from the US. Eula Fay Frey first created this breed in the early 1930s. They are a mix of Nubians and Spanish goats, resulting in short ear flaps of two different kinds – gopher ears and elf ears. However, their ear types do not have anything to do with their milk-producing capacity. Among all other dairy goats, LaMancha milk has the second-highest content of butterfat. They have a soft and easy-going temperament and provide a reliable supply of milk without the need to freshen up.
Toggenburg Goat Breed
Toggenburg is one of the oldest recognized dairy breeds in the United States. They originated from the Toggenburg Valley area in Switzerland and are a playful breed. Toggenburg has a grayish-brown coat and cream-colored stripes that start from their eyes up to their nose and their lower legs. Many goat owners say Toggenburg have short and erect years. They do not produce a large amount of milk but are persistent milk producers over long periods.
Nigerian Dwarf Goat Breed
Nigerian dwarf is a small breed but has a great personality. They come in a variety of different colors and have medium-length ears that are erect. They have a dished or straight year with short and fine hair. Even though they are the small dairy goats in the US, they produce the highest butterfat-containing milk. It also contains a high amount of fat. Nigerian dwarf is an extremely playful breed and is very easy to maintain, making them great around kids.
The list above is just a few of the top dairy goat breeds. There are many other dairy goat breeds with their own characteristics and specialties. You need to do your research and find out more about them to help you pick the best one to go perfectly in your farm surroundings and match your farm’s needs.