Top 5 Dairy Goat Breeds
For the urban homesteader or the country farmer, dairy goats are a good alternative to cows, particularly for those working on a smaller scale. Goats require little or no pasture, do well in smaller spaces, and can still provide an adequate supply of milk. They’re friendly and personable to work with, and don’t require an extensive amount of care beyond the occasional hoof-trim or deworming. Keep in mind the breeding season of each, which will help you determine whether you’ll want to be milking all year. Housing doesn’t have to be large or elaborate, but does need to be clean and well-sheltered. Goats are browsers (not grazers) and therefore not ‘lawn-mowers.’ They’ll do just fine with a grain feed, some hay, and a mineral salt lick.
Between the volume of milk, the desired butterfat content and the size of your farm, there are plenty of options from which to choose the right dairy goat, starting with these ‘top 5’…
(photos courtesy of justchaos via flickr.com)
Alpines are an attractive and hardy medium-sized goat with personality and curiosity. They adapt well to any climate and are great milk producers for both home and commercial use. Weathers in a pack serve as a sort of guard-dog, much like donkeys. They’re able to be milked 1-3 years between freshening (breeding) or milk through; and do well on pasture or hay.
Yield: 1 gallon/day *
Butterfat Content: 3.5 %
Also known as Anglo-Nubian – or the Jersey cow of the goat world – Nubians are better suited to hot weather and able to breed year round; females come into heat every 3 weeks for 1-3 days. Like most goats, Nubians are highly social and talkative animals so it is advisable to keep at least two of them, as a single goat is a noisy goat.
Yield: 1 gallon/day
Butterfat content: 4-5 %
Golden Guernsey goats
Guernseys are an attractive, medium-sized goat from Britain that resembles a golden retriever with an udder. Unfortunately, these are still very difficult to find in the states due to animal health regulations and ‘smuggling’ one from England is illegal, but their population in the U.S. is slowly and steadily growing, thanks to a very small, exclusive group of breeders. Their milk is rich and sweet, with the highest butterfat content you’ll find on this list. Beautiful and good-natured like their bovine counterparts, guernsey goats are likely to gain in popularity here in the States.
Yield: 1 gallon/day
Butterfat Content: 6-8 %
Nigerian Dwarf goats
Nigerian dwarf (not Pygmy) goats are the smallest in this dairy herd but still hold their own in milk yield, which is slightly higher than average in butterfat content. They’ll need adequate fencing because of their smaller size and the tiny teats might be more difficult to milk, but the size/production ratio makes them perfect for urban homesteaders and ‘backyarders’ – a space that would house one larger goat is acceptable for 3 Nigerian dwarf goats. Breedable year round (as early as 7 to 8 months old), they can pay for themselves in offspring given access to a market. Nigerian dwarf goats also make great pets.
Yield: 1/2 gallon/day
Butterfat content: 6.1 %
La Mancha goats
La Manchas are the goats with a serious lack of ears. They are slightly smaller then the Alpines and have a calm, steady personality. They’re healthy, hardy seasonal breeders. The weathers make excellent herd companions.
Yield: 1-2 gallons/day
Butterfat content: 4 – 4.5 %
* Just a head’s up – apparently it is somewhat incorrect to measure the milk yield of a goat in ‘gallons per day’ (tends to be inaccurate) and many prefer to measure in ‘pounds per year’ instead. However, unless you’re operating on a commercial scale, gallons is a perfectly acceptable way to measure your goat’s yield.
Category: Farming & Gardening