Choosing the right dairy goat for your needs can be a little difficult at first. Especially if you are new to goats and don’t know which breed is best for what you are wanting to accomplish. If you are wanting milk for your family, choosing the right dairy goat will take a little research to find the perfect one!
Why Dairy Goats?
Most people, like my family and I, love the idea of having fresh raw milk daily. It is full of incredible health benefits and it’s a great way to know where your food is coming from. Goat’s milk has become more popular over the last few years. It’s a better option for those who are sensitive to cows milk. I personally can tolerate raw cow’s milk but find I do better with raw goat’s milk. There are also so many recipes you can make with goats milk such as cheese, soap, and lotions. If you want fresh milk daily, you are going to want to choose the right goat for your family! Researching how to care for your goat and choosing your right goat before purchasing will save you a lot of guessing. There are so many good dairy goat breeds out there, and we are going to over the top 5 most popular dairy goats that we have personally had experience with or researched.
Nigerian dwarfs are a miniature breed dairy goat/ they are known for their high butterfat content (6-10%) and sweet tasting milk. They also have a very fun and playful personality. It’s been said that they can produce up to a quart per milking, some less and some a little more. Genetics do play a huge role in how a Nigerian will produce! Their small build also makes it easier to handle them when you are needing to move them around. A lot of people like that they are miniature and can fit in smaller areas and/or barns if you don’t have a lot of land.
When we first started we didn’t do much research on which breed dairy goat would be best for our family of four. We heard that Nigerian dwarfs were great for milking so we gave them a shot. Despite buying from reputable show breeders, who tested their herds and bred for great genetics, we were a little upset after purchasing these incredibly fun and adorable goats. From our personal experience, we did not get the milk we expected from Nigerians dwarfs. We had a second freshener give us a whopping 12-16 oz of milk. Obviously that’s not enough for our family, who loves raw milk.
We have milked a first freshener two weeks after she kidded and got a quart from her, which was nice! That slowly dwindled down to 16 oz shortly after. This is not to say Nigerian dwarfs aren’t good milkers, they actually can be excellent milkers if you purchase from good breeders who breed for correct structure and milk genetics. I have seen someone get a ½ gallon from a Nigerian but in my experience I have never come close to it, unfortunately.
If you are wanting Nigerians I would suggest finding a good breeder who breeds their goats for great milking genetics. Always ask about the dam and sire’s down line and how much they produced before buying a goat. That way you can know what to expect from your new goat.
The Nubian breed is a bigger dairy goat but they are known for their very calm and fun personality. They are known for their high butterfat content (5%) along with sweeter tasting milk. Nubians can produce up to one- two gallons of milk per day. Not all will produce this much, but it is possible. We currently have two full size Nubians and the previous owner told me they each produced ¾ of a gallon per milking, we have yet to see this in the milk pail as they are pregnant right now and not in milk. (We shall see in March!) I’ll keep you updated on that and the cute babies!
With that amount of milk also comes a higher feed bill, since there is a big demand on their body to produce milk there is also a demand for more food. That’s one downside many people say when raising Nubians, they require a good amount of food while in milk. But, you also get the milk so it really depends on the way you look at it. It’s worth it if you’re getting at least a gallon of milk a day because that is plenty of milk to drink and possibly make cheese or soap with if you like.
Mini Nubians are a mix between Nigerian dwarfs and Nubians. Known for their milk to food ratio because they’re a smaller goat therefore require less food and still produce a good amount of milk for their size. They have the sweet tasting milk and butterfat from both Nubians and Nigerians. I currently have two mini Nubians, one has never kidded (due in February) and the other is a fourth freshener (due in March). Our fourth freshener has produced a gallon of a milk a day. That is pretty incredible for a mini Nubian! Our other doe’s dam is said to produce ½ a gallon a day. So as you can see mini nubians will vary in the amount they produce. Similar to nigerians, they will also be easier to handle if you are a smaller person like myself.
Personally I like the mini nubians the best so far. I love that they have Nigerian in there and that they’re still a smaller animal. Also, I love that they produce more milk than a Nigerian would and still don’t require as much food as a Nubian.
When we first started we had a friend sell us an alpine that produced a ½ gallon at her peak as a first freshener. She dropped down to a quart a day after that. I do feel like if we would have feed her more food, she would have easily produced more. We didn’t understand supply and demand at that time. This was our first big goat so we were used to nigerian dwarfs and didn’t realize that they really needed way more food than a nigerian dwarf. We fed her more but still it wasn’t quite enough for her. Also, a doe will not produce her full potential at her first freshening. Usually at the second and third freshening you will see your dairy goat’s full potential.
Alpines are high producers similar to lamanchas and can produce a gallon- two gallons of milk a day. While two gallons isn’t always the case, one gallon is still great! They don’t have a high butterfat content (3%) like Nubians or Nigerians but still have good tasting milk. It’s pretty great if you ask me! Although their butterfat content isn’t as high as nubians and nigerian dwarfs, you can still make cheese with their milk. Again, you will have to feed the higher amount of grain while they are in milk in order to achieve great production.
Famous for their “twisty” ears, lamancha’s are very similar to Alpines when it comes to milking. They produce around 1-2 gallons a day and require a decent amount of food while in milk. Lamancha’s have a 1-4% butterfat content, it is less than a Nubian or Nigerian but they are still great milkers. They are bigger goats similar to a nubian so won’t be quite as easy to handle like a nigerian dwarf. Some people will breed lamancha’s with nigerian dwarfs. This also gives a smaller more efficient goat, known as a mini lamancha. It also adds in a sweeter tasting milk with higher butterfat from the nigerian dwarf.
Where to Find a Good Dairy Goat?
Now that we know more about dairy goats, here’s how you can find one! You want to make sure you purchase a dairy goat from a farm who tests their herd for CAE, CL, Q fever and Johnnes. These are important diseases to know about since they can be transferred from the milk to humans. You can click here for a list of breeders in your state for pure bred dairy goats. Click here for the miniature dairy goat association to find mini dairy goats.
Do you own or want dairy goats? Tell me which goat and why!