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How to Choose Dairy Goat Breeds

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A goat.

A goat.

Photo © Flickr user 2-Dog-Farm, used under a CCC license.

If you're raising goats with the aim of producing delicious goat milk or value-added fresh chevre, you'll want to pick from the standard dairy breeds, known to produce plenty of milk. Beyond that, choosing among breeds means deciding what size, look, and personality best fits your small farm. There are more than 200 breeds of goat, but these are the standard dairy goat breeds that are most commonly found.

After you choose your goat breed, you will want to learn all about how to buy a goat so that you get a healthy, hardy herd for your small farm.

Alpine

Also called French Alpines, these goats are large and come in a rainbow of colors and patterns. They are hardy goats with friendly dispositions who are consistently good milkers. Alpine wethers are often used as pack animals.

Nubian

Nubian goats are one of the most popular dairy breeds. With their floppy, long ears and rounded, Roman noses, they are large, but loud - they have a distinct cry that may annoy neighbors. Nubian milk is high in butterfat, so they're often chosen by cheesemakers. (They're sometimes called "the Jerseys of the goat milk world," because like Jersey cows, they are a breed with a richer milk than most.)

Saanen and Sable

Saanens are the largest standard dairy goats. White or off-white in color, with erect ears. The Sable is a Saanen that isn't white due to a recessive gene: it can be black, brown or gray and have some white coloring.

LaMancha

Friendly goats that come in a variety of colors and patterns, LaManchas have very small ears of two types: gopher ears, small and rounded, or elf ears, shorter than two inches.

Oberhasli

These were originally called Swiss Alpines, and were a variation on the Alpine. But they are now recognized as a separate breed. They are a medium-sized goat with erect ears and reddish-brown color with black markings on their backs, tail, belly and legs. These are sweet, mellow goats that are easy to milk.

Toggenburg

Toggenburg goats, or Toggs, as they are sometimes called, come in a variety of colors: from chocolate brown, to a light fawn. They have attractive markings and are a medium-sized goat with erect ears. Toggs aren't super producers, but they have extra long lactation periods. Their milk is on the lower-fat end of the spectrum.

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