5 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Small Farm

Best dairy goat breeds for the small farm

Next to chickens goats are the most common animal added to a small or urban homestead. They have the ability to provide you with milk, meat and fiber depending on the breed you choose. Today I am going to focus on the 5 best dairy goat breeds for the small farm or homestead.

When choosing your breed you need to consider a few basic questions:

  • How much space do you have to devote to your goats?
  • How much milk would you like to get each day?
  • What are you planning on doing with the milk?

Once you know the answers to these questions you can  begin looking at the different breeds and decide which would fit best with  your needs

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5 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Small Farm


Nigerian Dwarf

The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a miniature breed, but also one that produces a lot of milk for it’s size. It 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.

nubian dairy goat


Nubians are a medium to large sized goat with adorable cute floppy ears. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns and have the ability to produce up to 2 gallons a day, with the average being closer to 1 gallon a day. They have one of the highest butterfat contents of the standard dairy breeds at 4-5%. If you need a lot of milk and plan on making cheeses or soaps, Nubians can’t be beat. They can be a bit loud at times, I call ours crybabies, so they might not be right for those who live in subdivisions and make sure you neighbors won’t mind before bringing them home. Nubians are my personal favorites!


Alpines originated in France and are a steady, dependable goat. They are medium to large in size 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. The average size of an Alpine doe is 135 lbs.


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%. 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!

saanen dairy goat


Saanens are the largest of the dairy breeds and are often considered the Holstein of the dairy goats. Saanens can produce a lot of milk- up to 3 gallons per day- with an average production closer to 1.5 gallons per day. While they do produce a lot of milk the butterfat content is low compared to some of the other breeds. At 2-3% butterfat the Saanen’s milk will not seem as creamy and will not produce as rich of cheese or yogurt. These girls are big, so you will need to make sure you have enough of a pasture for them to stretch their legs in and a fence strong enough to withstand a larger weight.  Saanens are usually all white in color and very mild mannered. This is the breed we started with- on a 1 acre lot in a subdivision!

Each breed is a little bit different. If you are very short on space or only need enough milk for fresh drinking, Nigerians might be the best way to go. If you need a large quantity of milk to make yogurt, buttermilk, cheese, soap or just to feed a large family you will probably want to go with one of the standard breeds. I would also suggest looking for quality animals as opposed to the first craigslist ad you see. You will be much happier if you purchase a quality goat with a strong milk lines. If you are new to goats, I recommend reading up as much as you can before you purchase. You can find a lot of articles here on The Free Range Life that will teach you about goat care and I always recommend Storey’s Guides as a good basic set of information.

© 2013 – 2016, Sarah R Toney. All rights reserved.

41 comments on “5 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Small Farm

  1. We’ve been discussing getting a milk goat! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

  2. aclarkmeyers says:

    I love this post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Love this, but from my own experience with 2 Niggies, we only got at peak 2 cups of milk per day…I can’t figure out how everyone else gets more. I must be doing something wrong!

    • Our Saanens were not from good milk lines (they were hasty craigslist purchases!) and they didn’t even give 1/2 gallon a day….we paid for quality milkers when we bought our current Nubian does!

  4. We have had Nubians and Alpines for milking and goat packing!

  5. Great post, we have talked about getting goats for milk, and help cut the grass. This is very helpful, guess I have to create a goat board now. Thanks for sharing on Tuesdays With a Twist.

    • One of the main reasons we got goats in the first place was for weed control- especially poison ivy! We figured we’d milk eventually, but it wasn’t the main reason. Thanks for commenting!

  6. Penny says:

    Great post! We are hoping to add goats to our farm this spring or summer. We do want a dairy goat, so this will help us to determine what type. Thanks!

  7. Deborah says:

    Going to get goats the summer..Guess we will start with Nigerians and see what happens…Thanks for the information..

    • Sheryl says:

      We love and raise Kinder goats! Lots of creamy, rich milk, amazing for soap and cheese, etc. Dual purpose for meat.

      • Amanda says:

        We looked into Kinder goats but couldn’t find many around our area.

      • Leah says:

        Do you have any pictures of that type of goat? I am searching types for dual purpose?

  8. Great info, Thank you for linking up with the Clever Chicks Blog Hop- I will be featuring you this week, so please feel free to grab a featured button for your blog!
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  9. […] 5 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Small Farm from The Free-Range […]

  10. Congratulations, you were picked as featured post from Simple Saturdays Blog Hop! Don’t forget to stop by and grab your button and we look forward to seeing you again this week! Kat

  11. […] The Free Range Life […]

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  14. How about Kinder goats as a compromise, best of both worlds goat?

  15. Lauren Ann says:

    Great post. We’ve been contemplating the Nigerian Dwarfs but are still a little unsure if it’s the direction we want to go. :/

  16. […] good basic dairy goat information.  For more information on quality dairy goat breeds you can visit this link from The Free Range Life.  For more info on what you need to have in your milk barn/shed, you […]

  17. Tina says:

    The Oberhasli should be on your list. These beautiful medium sized goats are alert in appearance with friendly, gentle dispositions that remind me of a dog. Oberhasli produce a sweet-tasting milk with a butterfat content of around 3.5 to 4 percent. With their striking looks, they also have plenty of appeal as lovely pets and bramble mowers. Powerful rear legs help the Oberhasli excel as a pack goat, with the proper training.

  18. Adi Diwani says:

    I am very much interested on dairy goat raising. I would like to know the availability of frozen semen from those five breeds you have been recommended.
    Thank you.

  19. Tracy johnson says:

    I am looking into small goat or small sheep must be gentle personality easy to care for and produce sweet milk for my family. Are sheep more gentle than goats? And small size is important because of feed cost. Also very important is the cost of worming and such. Polled would be best cause I don’t want to remove horns or transport to get. What sheep are best for milking and don’t have to be sheared ?

    • I would say a Nigerian Dwarf is your best bet for a goat- small size, gentle, good milk. I don’t know too much about sheep since I’ve never raised them. Hair-sheep breeds do not need to be sheared.

    • Dianne says:

      There are very few polled goats. The only way to have hornless goats is to disbud them at a week old or so. Right now I have 10 goats. I can’t bring myself to do the deed myself, but I load all the babies in my Subaru and drive 60 miles to a friends place ( a long time goat owner) and she does it. The 2 times I have waited too long to disbud, I’ve been sorry because horns are dangerous to goats and people alike, they get stuck in fences and a horned goat will bully the other goats who don’t have them.

  20. shams says:

    i need some saanen goat semen

  21. […] 5 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Small Homestead by The Free Range Life […]

  22. Simone says:

    We breed Kinder® goats. Their milk by volume is less than a big producer like their relative the Nubian, however the butterfat content is higher and they tend to be much quieter than Nubians. Thankfully! I love that our goats are hardy. Sturdy and do fairly well for meat. Dressing out at up to 60%. Nigerians have itty bitty teats and are scrawny, not worth butchering.

  23. […] 5 Best Dairy Goat Breeds for the Small Farm […]

  24. Simone says:

    I wish Kinder goats are on the list. They are a great dual purpose breed. Their teats are bigger than Nigerians and the they produce more milk, high butterfat content, plus of course they are also a meat goat.

  25. Raain says:

    I Breed with the boer Bok goat and the red Kalahari Goat…..but its very dry in our region, Kinder Goats I would love to breed with it….but where can I find them??

  26. abhishek says:

    is the environment in india is good for those breeds

  27. Joy says:

    I have a Saanen and she did produce over a gallon per day. Wasn’t as pleased with the taste of her milk as compared to the Nubian or LaMancha. I can’t seem to get her bred for some reason. She’s not too old and had kids when I got her. Don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

  28. Karla says:

    Looking for help have an alpine and her milk is bitter and nasty tasting, and not much fat at all in her
    milk. Any suggestions?

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