The “Best” Choice for Great Milk Production
Last month was my first goat blog post and I hope everyone enjoyed the general information I provided. One of the comments left last month asked about the breeds that are best suited for milk production, as well as what climates these goats thrive in. I enjoy writing about what our readers would like to learn, so in this post, I will do my best to talk about some of the most popular breeds used for dairy operations, as well as what climates are best for these animals.
“Best” Milking Breeds
As a goat owner for close to 10 years, I can tell you that everyone has their own opinion on what breed is “best.” As I mentioned in my first post, goats are mainly used for dairy, meat or fiber production. Here in the United States, milk production has become a very popular goat application. You can visit virtually any farmer’s market or health food store and find goat milk products. As the need for goat milk products has increased, farmers have no doubt done their research about which breeds produce the most and the best quality milk. While all dairy goats produce milk, some breeds do tend to produce more than others and in an operation that wants to remain profitable, the amount of milk and the quality being produced is very important.
It is probably safe to say that the Nubian breed is one of the the most popular breeds among goat owners. You’ve all probably seen them—they’re most recognizable because of their long floppy ears. Nubians are also unique from other breeds because they come in a large array of colors and markings. You can easily have a Nubian who is solid black, or have one covered in white, black and brown splotches. When it comes to milk production, Nubians aren’t usually at the top of the chart for the amount of milk they produce, but the butterfat content of their milk is generally the highest of all breeds, which makes them a desirable choice for milk products such as cheese, lotions and soaps. The Nubian breed was originally developed in Africa, which, as we all know, has a very hot climate. While they do well in most climates, including warm areas, Nubians aren’t quite as hardy as some of the other breeds I will discuss. They are certainly a very popular choice amongst dairy producers because of their rich and creamy milk.
Like the Nubian, this is another very recognizable breed due to its ears. Ever been to your county’s 4-H fair and seen a goat with “no” ears? That’s the LaMancha! These sweet goats are easily identified by their tiny, nubby ears. This breed was developed in the United States from goats of Spanish origin. They are extremely healthy, sturdy and excellent dairy producers. LaManchas are known to produce a lot of milk as well as milk that is high in butterfat, similar to the Nubian. They are a perfect choice for farmers who want high-quality milk, and a lot of it!
The ‘Swiss’ Breeds
I am going to lump these four breeds together because of their similar ancestral background and their general qualities. Toggenburgs, Alpines, Oberhaslis and Saanens are all known as “Swiss” breeds because they developed from the Swiss and French Alp regions of Europe. Because of this, Swiss breeds are extremely hardy and well-suited for, and often prefer, life in colder climates. You may think that because they originated in colder environments that they may not be ideal milk producers, but this is not true. In fact, Saanens in particular are known as the “Holstein” of dairy goats because of the amount of milk they produce. An average Saanen doe can produce around 3 liters of milk a day over a 10 month lactation period. That is a lot of milk.
Toggenburgs, Alpines and Oberhaslies are all excellent dairy animals not only for the quality of milk, but for their hardy nature and calm temperaments. I personally have a special spot in my heart for Toggenburgs, affectionately known as ‘Toggs.’ My first 4-H project was a big, beautiful Togg doe named Faith who took the blue ribbon in almost any show she entered and completely stole my heart with her sweet face and feisty attitude. I can vouch for the amount of milk she produced because for the majority of the years I had her, I milked her by hand. At the height of her lactation, I would overflow a 4-quart pail twice a day!
Do Your Homework
As I mentioned, there is so much information about goats and you will find that everyone has their own opinions about how to raise them, which breeds are ‘best’, etc. I always advise people who are interested in raising goats to do their own homework to determine what sort of setup and operation is best for you, your family or your business. While browsing the internet is helpful and certainly has a lot of valuable information, I think the best way to learn about what will work for you is to visit local farms and talk to people who have been raising goats for a while. Going to county fairs is a great way to meet people who enjoy their animals and their products, and you will learn more from them than you will from a bunch of internet articles.
Do you currently raise goats for milk production? What breeds do you think produce the best milk? As always, please leave comments and suggestions for next month’s post!