Dairy goats are a great source of home produced milk, cheese and ice cream if handled right. Many misconceptions exist about goats – they’re said to be dirty, stinky creatures that eat anything including tin cans. The truth is a much different story!!
Dairy goats are among the pickiest eaters in the barnyard! They will nibble many things – but the best of hay and not on the ground thank you very much. Good quality hay, some good quality clean grain, a mineral block and plenty of water is turned into plenty of milk in a good dairy goat’s life. The world record for milk production is held by a Toggenburg. Generally speaking there is the reputation of the Saanen being the heaviest milkers with the Nubian the highest butterfat. However, goats don’t read books. I’ve had Alpines who have milked heavier than many Saanens and seen LaManchas with higher butterfat production than some Nubians. The truth is there’s good and bad in all breeds. A GOOD dairy goat pound for pound can outmilk many dairy cows. Good management, good genetics and proper handling of the milk means plenty of dairy products for the family.
There are several popular breeds of dairy goats in the US. The Nubian, LaMancha, Toggenburg, Saanen, Alpine, Nigerian Dwarf, Oberhasli – and crosses of these – are among the most productive dairy animals in the world. The bucks do have an odor particularly during the fall months. Properly kept does should not have a bad odor – and should not be run with the buck.
The Swiss breeds – Toggenburgs, Saanens, Oberhasli and Alpine – have upright ears. The Nubian has long floppy ears while the LaMancha has just small flaps without extensive visible ears. The Nigerian Dwarf, as the name implies, is a small stature dairy goat.
The Toggenburg has one correct color – brown with white markings on the face and legs. They are one of the smaller of the standard breeds, hardy, thrifty goats. Saanens are all white, with the occasional “sable” (black) showing up in the herd. Nubians are distinguished by their ears and have a wide range of colors as do LaManchas. Alpines have upright ears and can be several colors including chamoisee (brown), cou blanc, cou clair (black and white), black with white markings like a Toggenburg and sometimes splashes of spots up the side. Oberhasli are a deep reddish brown and black, another of the smaller breeds.
Goats have a few needs – they must be kept dry and have a clean dry place to lay down. This keeps them clean and reduces the chance of mastitis. A clean place to put the feed where it can’t be stepped in or dropped on the ground is needed. A place to milk that is clean is also needed, with clean, sterile milking supplies and practices. Clean goats, clean utensils and proper handling of milk should produce a good quality milk. Be careful what your doe eats – onions for example can taint the milk. Medications and wormers should be kept to a minimum and always watch milk withdrawal times – if it says 48 hours that means for at least two days milk from that doe must not be used for people consumption.
Aside from milk, cheese and other dairy products you can also make wonderful soaps with the milk. Use the milk in cake mixes instead of water for WONDERFUL rich cakes. With a few good goats you’ll have plenty of milk, fresh on a daily basis. Be sure to chill the milk quickly and keep the pails and such clean…this can’t be stressed enough.
Goats are a wonderful addition to a household with room for them. Their manure can be used on the gardens. Kids can be raised as replacement milkers, neutered for meat or for training as a pack animal.
Consider a few good goats for your farm or homestead.