Which Breed of Dairy Goat is Best for Your Homestead?
© Copyright 2011 Cindy Murdoch (homesteadbound)
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. It is much easier to persuade a goat to do something he doesn’t want to than it is a cow! 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 ready.
There are six breeds of goats that are recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association. Let’s look at each of these breeds. Here they are listed in alphabetical order.
The Alpine is considered to be one of the Swiss breeds. It is a medium to large breed of dairy goat with upright ears. They can be found in almost any color or combination of colors. They are considered to be good milkers (3 or more liters of milk per day) with a 10 month lactation period. It is a popular breed and adapts well to any climate.
The LaMancha is believed to be of Spanish origin but was developed in California. It has a very interesting appearance. Its ears are so small that it appears that it does not have any. Its ears are often referred to as gopher ears or elf ears. It can be found in almost any color or combination of colors. The LaMancha is a medium sized breed. It is very hardy and strong. Many people have found them to be calm and gentle. It is a good dairy breed, but produces slightly less milk than the Swiss breeds with a lactation period of 10 months.
The Nubian was developed as a dual purpose animal in England. It has been breed to produce both milk and meat. It has long, floppy ears, and can be found to be almost any color or combination of colors. It is one of the larger breeds of dairy goats, and has been found to be more stubborn than most. Its milk has a higher protein content and more butter fat than other dairy goats. The Nubian is known for having multiple births with 3 or 4 kids being common. The Nubian is more heat tolerant and less cold tolerant. It is believed that its ears may have something to do with this characteristic. Its bleat makes it sound as if it's always complaining! The Nubian is the most popular breed of goat in North America. Its milk production is less than the Swiss breeds averaging 2.5 liters per day with a lactation period of 10 months.
The Oberhasli, also a Swiss dairy goat, is medium in size. It is a color known as Chamois (a bay color ranging in color from light to a deep red bay). It also has a black stripe down its back, black udder and belly, with legs that are black below the knees and hocks, and having a head that can be almost entirely black. The females may also be solid black.
The Saanen is considered to be the Holstein of the dairy goat breeds. It is also one of the Swiss breeds and is the largest of the dairy goat breeds. It is usually pure white to light cream in color helping them to tolerate heat better than some of the other breeds, but do well in almost any environment. The Saanen will produce 3 liters of milk over a 10 month lactation period. (I have talked to individuals who have had a Saanen that 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!
The Toggenburg is thought to be the oldest and purest of the Swiss breeds. Its coat can be any shade of brown with white ears and white lower legs. It will also have two white stripes down the sides of its face, and has white on its tail. 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.
She made that look easy didn't she? And I milked my first goat this weekend and it was indeed that easy!
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© Copyright 2011 Cindy Murdoch (homesteadbound)
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