So you have made the decision to add goats to your homestead, but before you run out and purchase the first goat you find you will need to decide which of the goat breeds you will be raising. Deciding on a breed will be based on what your ultimate need for a goat is. Consider the following questions:
- Are you looking for an animal to provide milk, meat, fiber or a combination?
- How much space can you devote to your goats?
- Do you just want a pet to eat the weeds and brush on your property?
The Ultimate Guide to Goat Breeds:
Dairy Goat Breeds:
Nubian: The Nubian goat is one of the most popular large dairy goat breeds- and my personal favorite. They are easily recognized by their long floppy ears which are oh so cute! The average milk production for a Nubian is about 1-2 gallons a day, though some can give more. Their milk is also known for it’s high butterfat content- about 4-5%- which makes their milk excellent for making cheeses, ice cream, and soap. Compared to other breeds, Nubians are a somewhat of a crybaby and have a habit of being pretty loud- so if you live on an urban farm, make sure your neighbors won’t mind the noise before choosing this breed!
Saanen: Saanens are the largest of the dairy goat breeds and are often said to be the “queen of the dairy goats”. They have the ability to produce a lot of milk- up to 3 gallons per day, but they also have a low butterfat content. They are large, heavy producers whose milk is best used for fresh drinking. They are usually all white in color and very mild mannered. Compared to our others breeds, I would say that the Saanens were the most stubborn when it came to escaping and were definitely the ones who tested the fences the most- one even jumped a 4 ft chain-link fence and learned how to come into the house through our dog door!
Alpine: Alpines are a medium sized goat that originated in France. They are a steady, dependable goat and are very consistent milk producers with one of the longest lactation cycles. They average over 1 gallon of milk per day with a 3.5% butterfat content. Alpines come in almost any color imaginable and are adaptable to almost any climate.
Oberhalsi: Also known as the Swiss Alpine, the Oberhasli is most commonly a reddish-brown color with black markings. They are a very sweet and quiet breed with good milk production of up to 2 gallons a day. For years our herd sire was an Ober, and he was the sweetest buck in the world. There is some controversy when it comes to the taste of the milk- some argue that it has an offensive aftertaste and some say it’s is sweeter than most. We’ve only even owned a Saanen/Ober mix as a milker, but her milk was much sweeter than her full Saanen mother’s milk. I would suggest trying milk from the goat or mother of the goat you are planning on purchasing- just in case.
LaMancha: LaManchas are a medium sized goat that are most easily recognized by their lack of ears! They have a friendly, easy going temperament and are very hardy animals. LaManchas are good producers with an average of 1-2 gallons per day, with a butterfat content around 4%. Their milk is perfect for soap and cheese making. Personally, I like floppy ears, but I have heard many LaMancha owners say that if you give them a chance you’ll fall in love and be hooked on them forever!
Golden Guernsey: The Guernsey is a heritage breed that is trying to be recovered here in the US. They have beautiful long, golden coats and are known for their efficiency, production, and smaller size. They have higher milk production with less feed intake than some of the other major dairy breeds with a very docile nature.
Toggenburg: The Toggenburg is a medium-large dairy goat with high milk production. A Toggenburg is the currently world record holder for the most milk produced in a year with over 1000 gallons! They are calm and affectionate and I think they are one of the most beautiful goat breeds. Like the Oberhasli, there is some arguments when to the taste of the milk. Myth or fact, you may want to taste the milk of the doe, or her mother, before you purchase to test for yourself.
Meat Goat Breeds:
Image Source: Lone Star Farmstead
Boer: The Boer goat is the number one option if you want a goat for meat. They are bred for growth and reproduction and can consistently produce more muscle in less time than any other breed. They are easy to care for and they often earn their keep by the amount of forage they can consume.
Kiko: Kikos are known for their hardiness. They can gain weight without a lot of supplemental feeding and have great reproductive health. Kikos have shown to be adaptable to most any living situation and give a lot of meat for the amount of money you put into them. This breed is relatively new in the United States but are gaining in popularity.
Myotonic: This breed has a few different names, one of which is the Tennessee Fainting Goat. These animals are very muscular and meaty. They get their name from a recessive trait that they carry called myotonia. This means that when they get startled their muscles lock up causing them to topple over or stand still like a statue for 20 seconds or so.
Spanish: Brought into Mexico and Texas from early Spanish settlers, this breed is bred to be very meaty yet also very hardy. Due to their rugged environment have been shaped into tough animals that are able to survive and thrive under adverse conditions.
Nubian: As I stated above Nubians are most widely known for their dairy capabilities, but also have the potential as a meat goat. Many breeders keep the does for milk production and the bucklings are used for meat making Nubians a good dual purpose breed.
Fiber Goat Breeds:
Angora: Angora goats have long, soft hairs called mohair. These goats are mostly white in color, which makes their fiber easy to dye. Adult goats give between 8 and 16 lbs of fiber a year. They aren’t quite as hardy as your meat and dairy goat breeds, so make sure you have a good shelter to keep them warm and dry.
Pygora/Nigora: These are crosses between Pygmy/Angora and Nigerian Dwarf/Angora. By mixing these breeds you can introduce new fiber colors as well as produce a smaller goat that might be more manageable on a small sized farm. You can expect up to 4 lbs of fiber a year from these mini-fiber goats. And Nigora have the benefit of being dual fiber/dairy goats.
Kashmir: In the US, Kashmir, or Cashmere, goats are not technically a breed but a type of goat that has been bred for the correct quality cashmere coat. Kashmir goats are more hardy and can be dual purpose fiber/meat animals. It can be tricky to breed the correct fiber though.
Image Source: Better Hens and Gardens
Nigerian Dwarf: The Nigerian Dwarf is one of the top choices for those homesteading on a small piece of land. They can give from 1-2 quarts a day- which is pretty impressive considering they are only around 18 inches in height! Their milk is also one of the highest in butterfat which ranges anywhere from 6-10%. That means their milk is very creamy and makes delicious cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. Because of their size they make great goats for kids as well as those in a more urban setting. Another plus is that they can breed year round, which means you can stagger your breedings to keep you in milk all year long.
Pygmy: Pygmy goats are very similar to Nigerian Dwarf goats in size, but tend to be more muscular and stocky. They are more efficient browsers and give a decent amount of milk per day (though usually for a shorter length of time). They are a can be an all-purpose goat for brush control, pet, meat and dairy. They can also be bred year round.
Mini-Crosses: This is not a specific breed, but many breeders are now breeding their full sized does with a Nigerian Dwarf/Pygmy buck to create smaller versions of your favorite breeds. Mini-Nubians, Mini-Manchas, etc. These breeds offer the best of both worlds when it comes to those who want a smaller sized goat yet want more options than a Pygmy or Nigerian Dwarf.
Kinders: Kinders are not quite a small as Nigerian Dwarf goats- their size is somewhere in the middle of a Nubian and a Nigerian. They are a dual purpose breed for meat and milk. This newer breed is gaining in popularity for the small and urban homesteader due to it’s year-round breeding, quality milk, manageable size and easy-to-milk teats. They are said, by those that own and breed Kinders, to be the only truly perfect breed that will meet all of your needs.
These are not ALL the breeds, but most of them. We started with Saanens and now raise an all-Nubian herd, but we plan to add some Angora (fiber) and Nigerian Dwarf (for winter milk) in the near future! If you raise goats, what is your favorite breed? If you are still looking- what breed are you leaning toward?