Milk goats have often been described as the “poor man’s cow.” Now they’re considered more sustainable than cows and more environment-friendly; they cost less to keep, and produce between a quart to a gallon of milk a day, depending on the breed. What’s more, they make great pets, as they’re friendly and outgoing. Here are some of the breeds to consider if you’re looking for dairy goats.
Alpine goats are medium-large goats that produce a large amount of milk for their size. This breed originated in the Alps, hence the name. They have long, erect ears and measure about 30 inches at the shoulder. They come in just about all colors except pure white and light brown with white. They can weigh around 135 pounds.
LaMancha goats are a medium to small breed, ranging 28 inches at the shoulder and weighing somewhere around 130 pounds. An American breed, these goats were bred from Mexican and Spanish goats. Their distinguishing feature is their ears. Some people call them earless, but in truth they have very tiny ears. They are more friendly than many of the other breeds, and often more quiet and more docile.
The Nigerian is a dwarf breed at somewhere between 18 inches and 22.5 inches. Known for their high-quality, high-butterfat milk, their ears are erect and they can be any color. These goats often have wattles below their chins. These are the only goats known to occasionally have blue eyes. These goats do not produce as much milk as other breeds, but still are capable of producing a lot for their size. They’ve been known to produce anywhere from a pint to a half-gallon of milk a day. Many people choose these goats because of their size, and they often can live in a rural suburban area.
The Nubians are a very popular breed with long, drop ears and a sizable height at 30 inches at the shoulder. These goats can weigh 135 pounds or more. These goats come from African and American breeds crossed with English dairy goats. They are noisy and stubborn, capable of making a quiet barn into a noisy one. They are popular because their milk is high in butterfat and very rich.
The Oberhaasli is a medium to small breed that stands about 28 inches at the shoulder. An Oberhaasli does weigh about 120 pounds. Originally called Swiss Alpine goats, they have erect ears and a distinctive color called “chamoise.” They are all brown with a black udder, belly, lower legs, and a black stripe running from the top of their head to the tip of their tail.
Pygmy goats, as their name suggests, are small goats like the Nigerian goats or Nigerian dwarf goats. These goats can measure anywhere from 16 inches to under 24 inches at the shoulder. Originally bred as meat goats, the pygmy actually produces high-butterfat milk. Their colors range from caramel to black and none of them have blue eyes. The adults generally weigh from 50 to 85 pounds. Like Nigerians, they are popular because they can live in rural suburban environments.
The Saanen and Sable goat breeds are the biggest of all the breeds, measuring at least 30 inches at the shoulder and weighing more than 135 pounds. Saanen goats have erect ears and white or cream coats; Sables are colored Saanens, which are rare. They produce a high quantity of milk, but it may have lower butterfat than some of the other breeds. Some do produce a gallon or two of milk a day.
Toggenburg goats are a type of Alpine dairy goats with erect ears and a small body. Their height is 26 inches or less and they weigh somewhere close to 120 pounds. Toggs, as they’re often nicknamed, have white faces and ears and white on their lower body and legs. Their color ranges from dark brown to a very light brown or beige, called fawn. The oldest of any livestock breed registered, they’re known for strong-tasting milk, which makes good cheese. If you’re looking for a goat whose milk makes distinctive-tasting goat cheese, you’ll want a Togg.
Common Breeds of Dairy Goats in the US
Pygmy Versus Dwarf Goats
National Pygmy Goat Association
Choosing a Dairy Goat Breed