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6 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Homestead

Growing up on a farm and helping to manage her and her husband's homestead, Cindy has a wealth of knowledge to share with others.

As I study further about what animals to add to a homestead, I often stop to consider whether to add the mischievous little character that we all know as the goat. This guy has quite a reputation to uphold! Cartoons depict him eating tin cans, and butting anyone who happens to bend over anywhere in his vicinity. Almost anyone would be willing to share with you how they have heard that fencing will not keep them in. If you watch the following video, you will see why that might be rumored.

If I had not seen this behavior with my own eyes, I would find it hard to believe. It’s amazing how they can jump from branch to branch. This video demonstrates their browsing behavior, preferring leaves and small branches to grass. It is one of the reasons that goats’ milk is more nutritious than cows’ milk.

Other than health reasons, why would a person consider using a goat for milk production instead of a cow? Since a goat is smaller, less pasture space is required, and they are easier to handle. Compared to a cow, it's much easier to persuade a goat to do something it doesn’t want to do. When in my teens, I had a cow step on my foot, and stop. No matter how much I pushed and shoved or screamed and yelled, the cow was not moving until she was good and ready.

There are six breeds of goats that are recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association. Listed alphabetically, let’s look at each of them.

Alpine

The Alpine, one of the Swiss breeds, is a medium to large breed of dairy goat. It has upright ears and can be found in almost any color or combination of colors. They are good milkers (3 or more liters of milk per day) with a 10 month lactation period. It's a popular breed and adapts well to any climate.

LaMancha

The LaMancha, believed to be of Spanish origin, was developed in California. This medium-sized breed has a very interesting appearance. Its ears, often referred to as gopher ears or elf ears, are minuscule, making this caprine appear earless. It can be found in almost any color or combination of colors. It's very hardy and strong, yet also calm and gentle. It's a good dairy breed but produces slightly less milk than the Swiss breeds and has a lactation period of 10 months.

Nubian

The Nubian, one of the larger breeds of dairy goats, was developed in England as a dual-purpose animal -- bred to produce both milk and meat. It has long, floppy ears and can be found to be almost any color or combination of colors. The Nubian is more stubborn than most other breeds of dairy goats.

The Nubian is the most popular breed of goat in North America. It's known for having multiple births -- 3 or 4 kids are common. It's thought that its ears cause it to be more heat-tolerant and less cold-tolerant. Its characteristic bleat sounds as if it's always complaining! The Nubian's milk has a higher protein content and more butterfat than other dairy goats. Its milk production is less than the Swiss breeds averaging 2.5 liters per day and has a lactation period of 10 months.

Oberhasli

The Oberhasli, a medium-sized Swiss dairy goat, is a relatively new breed, formally recognized in 1978. Although fairly uncommon, it is becoming a popular dairy breed that has a docile disposition and excellent milk production. It has a coat that is Chamois colored (a bay color ranging in color from light to a deep red bay) with a black stripe down its back. It has a black udder and belly, legs that are black below the knees and hocks, and a head that is almost entirely black. A female Oberhasli may be solid black.

The Oberhasli is strong for its size, with powerful rear legs. Because of this strength and their courage, Oberhasli goats are frequently used as pack goats. An Oberhasli can produce 2 or more gallons of milk each day. Its milk is sweet-tasting and has a high butterfat content.

Saanen

The Saanen, a Swiss breed, is considered to be the Holstein of the dairy goat breeds. It is also the largest of the dairy goat breeds. Although they do well in almost any environment, their pure white to light cream coloration enables them to tolerate heat better than some of the other breeds. The Saanen will produce at least 3 liters of milk each day over a 10 month lactation period. (I have talked to goat owners whose Saanen continued to lactate indefinitely as long as they continued to milk her.) The Saanen holds the world record of dairy goat milk production, averaging approximately 10 liters of milk/day over a 10 month period!

Toggenburg

The Toggenburg is the oldest and purest of the Swiss breeds. Its coat can be any shade of brown with white ears, white lower legs, two white stripes down the sides of its face, and a portion of its tail is white. The Toggenburg is fairly large and has a shaggy coat. It has no problem averaging 3 liters of milk per day over a 10 month lactation period, but many have been known to produce 4-6 liters per day.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Cindy Murdoch

Comments: "Which Breed of Dairy Goat is Best for Your Homestead?"

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on January 07, 2012:

Eiddwen - Goats are so much fun and are so cute! Thanks for the votes, and for stopping by. Hope you have a great weekend.

Eiddwen from Wales on January 07, 2012:

Oh how I have always loved goats,ever since I was small a little old man who lived just down the road kept them and used to allow me to see them and stroke each one before I set off for home again.

I have to vote an up u and away for ho,one.

Take care and enjoy the rest of your day.

Eddy.

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on January 06, 2012:

The dwarf ones are really cute. Goats have very interesting personalities. They have such a playful nature.

Sunnie Day on January 06, 2012:

Thank you Cindy...That is good information to know..I think the babies are so cute..I was looking at the dwarf ones as well..

Take care and thank you

Sunnie

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on January 06, 2012:

When I attended a homesteading class near Waco late last year, I was able to milk a Saanen. She was very calm and gentle. They did recommend that unless you were going to have a least 6 goats that you might not want to get a Billy. They are a lot of trouble. So that is something to consider, if you have somewhere where you are able to take your goat to get her impregnated, or have someone around who can do artificial insemination. Your vet could help with this last bit. But obviously, this would only be important if you were looking to milk, or have kids. I hope your dreams are able to come true.

Sunnie Day on January 06, 2012:

Hello Cindy

I am in the first stages of trying to convince my husband about buying a couple goats. We have six chickens that we adore but still not sure..I have an acre but have made it our little homestead farm. We grow many of our vegetables and then the chickens..Thank you for a very useful hub. Look forward to reading more.

Sunnie

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on October 13, 2011:

stephaniedas - They are very easy to fall in love with. I hope we are both able to get our goats. Thanks for stopping by!

Stephanie Das from Miami, US on October 13, 2011:

Nice hub! I like the way it is written and I love the content! Last year I had one of my first encounters with goats, and I feel in love with them. They were very playful and affectionate. I didn't know anything about the breeds, but I can say that when I settle down, I plan on getting a few goats because they seem like wonderful pets. Good luck, I hope you get your goat and milk from her. Voted up :)

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on October 13, 2011:

lindsy - I would probably think about calling it Cutie Pie but my husband would probably veto that. So then I would consider Cupcake, Spicy or Dewdrop and see what kind of personality it had and chose one of those three. What would you name it if it were yours?

lindsy lohan222 from no where on October 13, 2011:

awww well if it was yours what would you name it if you owned it?

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on October 12, 2011:

lindsy lohan222 - that first baby is really, really cute, and unfortunately it is not mine. Just a picture I found on flickr that I feel in love with. As far as age goes, it is probably around 2 weeks.

I do wish it were mine!

lindsy lohan222 from no where on October 12, 2011:

oh well then i will try and make more understanding im sorry:

well that goat is it yours and also does it have a name, age, birth, mother, and dad oh yeah and favs for it?

~~lindsy lohan :)

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on October 10, 2011:

Pollyannalana - It really is scary when you think about our foods and what are being done to them. I am worried about the new GMO foods that will be used more and more. It might be amazing we are all sick all of the time. Thanks so much for stopping by once more!

Pollyannalana from US on October 10, 2011:

I know what you mean, I trust little of anything anymore! I would love to be self sufficient! Good luck to you.

Polly

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on October 10, 2011:

How fortunate to have been to Greece. That is one of those romantic spots for me - one of those spots that just causes me to sigh when I see pictures because I long to be there in person.

As for the foot, that was 40 years ago and I have suffered no ill affects. I'm sure it hurt for a while at the time. But what I remember most about that incident is being frustrated that I couldn't get her to move. It's not fun being at the mercy of something so large.

Thanks for stopping by and for the votes.

SanneL from Sweden on October 09, 2011:

The Saanen goat on the picture looks very much the same as the goats that roam around the thyme covered hills here in Greece.

This was a great hub and it was fun to learn about the different goat breeds.

Voted up and interesting!

Oh, by the way! I certainly hope your foot is ok?

Sannel

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on October 09, 2011:

lindsy lohan222- I'm not sure I understand the question?

Cindy Murdoch (author) from Texas on October 09, 2011:

Yes, Pollyannalana, the butter is also more healthy. I'm looking forward to the time when I can have a goat or cow of my own and know what has gone into the animal and know that the product coming out will be more healthy. Thanks for stopping by!

Pollyannalana from US on October 09, 2011:

Great info, I had a mama and baby goat a few years back and it is true about the goat butting, I found out a couple of times! Strange the baby goat was pretty big and it didn't, maybe it has something to do with having kids. Wish I had thought to try some goat milk. What I am hearing about cows milk, well, that you buy, has me off it now for quite awhile. How about goat butter? I guess it is good too?

lindsy lohan222 from no where on October 09, 2011:

awww what is its name and is it a boy or a girl?