Goats are trendy right now, and with good reason. These little powerhouses of nutrition pack a powerful punch and do it efficiently. Goat meat is widely consumed around the world and gaining popularity here in the US. Goat milk is enjoying a surge in popularity because of it’s health benefits and all of the amazing cheeses you can make with it. Goats make sense for people interested in creating a more self-sufficient life; they don’t require a lot of inputs or space, and with millions of Youtube videos showcasing goat antics, you can see how just plain fun they are to have around. From a dairy perspective, if you’re thinking of adding these useful animals to your farm, you need to ask yourself these three questions first:
- What do you want to do with the milk? We wanted to produce healthy, nutritious milk for our own consumption, free of antibiotics and hormones, and also to experiment with making goat cheeses and soap, along with helping to raise a couple pigs with excess milk and whey. Milk with a high butterfat is best for cheese because the yield will be higher. Saanens have about 2-3% butterfat, La Mancha 4%, Alpine 3.5%, Nubian 4-5%, Oberhasli 3.9%, and Nigerian Dwarf 6-10%.
- How much milk do you want? With all the things we wanted to do with the milk, we knew we’d need a good amount of it. Dairy goat breeds vary widely in how much milk you can expect to get. Saanens will average 1-1/2 gallons per day, Alpines, Nubians, La Manchas and Oberhaslis will average about 1 gallon a day, while Nigerian Dwarf goats average 1-2 quarts per day.
- How much space do you have? If your space is limited, Nigerian Dwarf goats might be a good choice for you. If not, any of the other breeds will do fine. We have several acres of pasture and woods for our goats to roam.
After answering these questions you can begin to narrow your search for the best breed for you. If you mainly want cheese, a Nubian might be a good choice. If you need large quantities, maybe a Saanen. A lot of it will come down to personal preference because at the end of the day, they all make good cheese, they all produce well, and they all have endearing personalities. An additional factor we considered was choosing a heritage breed of dairy goat as we feel it’s important to keep these genetically diverse livestock breeds around. That worked out well because I was immediately drawn to the beautiful color of the Oberhasli breed, and they are a heritage breed. So for us, the Oberhasli is the perfect choice–they’re good producers of milk with an average butterfat content that tastes great and makes wonderful cheese, and we’re helping to preserve a beautiful breed of dairy goat.