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This sweetie is a Toggenburg, originally from Switzerland. The breed is chocolate brown with white stockings and facial stripes. Photo courtesy of the Department of Animal Science at the University of California, Berkeley.





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November 2005

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Cheese-Butter-Yogurt


Dairy Goat Breeds

Who’s Responsible For All That Great Cheese?


Unlike the ornery, tin can- and laundry-eating billy goats of our cartoon youth, goats are delightful creatures.

Goats are nurturers. Like many mortals, the Greek gods were nourished on goat milk. Zeus, born in a cave in Crete, was raised by the goat doe Amalthea. Dionysius, the god of wine, was also suckled on goat milk. To the ancients, goats were fertility symbols. The god of nature, Pan, had goat horns and feet, as did the satyrs.

And, as with the ancients, dairy goats provide their milk and their companionship. Goats are curious, friendly and affectionate. “For some wonderful reason,” says writer Bill O'Halloren, “goats not only aren’t afraid, but actually live for fun. Anyone who has seen a goat race headlong across a field then leap sideway into the air for the sheer joy of it knows what kicking up your heels really means. Because [goats] are almost totally fearless, they are splendid companions for the modern neurotic. There is something inherently soothing about watching goats, whether they are simply chewing their cuds or playing king of the mountain. Goats often seem to take immense delight in putting on a show for visitors, kicking, butting, running, jumping and generally raising hell.”

“Goats are always testing you,” says a character in Tom Robbins’ novel, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. “They can tell instantly if you're faking your feelings. So they play games with you to keep you true. People should go to goats instead of psychiatrists.”

Perhaps this is why attorneys, real estate developers, and investment bankers have retired from lives in the limelight, purchased goats, and pursued a “Green Acres” existence, enjoying life on the farm with their herd and making cheese. (If you’ve got a hankering to do so, contact any of the breeders whose goats grace this page.)

Introducing The Goats

Dairy goats that can live comfortably into old age while producing a large amount of delicious milk. Dairies breed species for good milk flavor (other goats are bred for meat flavor).

An average mature dairy goat female weighs 150 pounds, and produces a gallon of milk per day. Top producers can average two gallons (compare that to a cow, which gives ten gallons of milk a day).  You can purchase a mature doe in the range of $350 to $600, depending on breed and quality of production.

While there are hundreds of goat breeds worldwide, five major breeds of dairy goats are used to make cheese in the United States: Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, Saanen and Toggenburg. Most dairies use several and vary them between the high milk producers and the high butterfat producers.  The high butterfat breeds like LaMancha and Nubian make richer cheese, but don’t produce enough milk to sustain a profitable operation: they might yield only one gallon of milk a day. Their milk is blended with that of more prolific breeds, like the Alpine, which might produce up to two gallons a day, to enable a larger production.

Alpine. First imported into this country from France via Cuba in 1922, the Alpine is a popular breed. Its short, fine coat comes in a variety of color patterns, but black with white stockings and facial markings is common. The breed can be highly individual in character.


alpine goat
Photo courtesy of

LaMancha. The LaMancha breed was developed California, and is the only one of the five that lacks an external ear (it has a “gopher ear” or an “elf ear”). LaManchas can be any color from pure white to brown to black to dappled, and tend to carry a bit more fleshing than the four European breeds. Their milk is high in solids and butterfat content. They have an excellent temperament and are an all-around sturdy animal.

La Mancha

La Mancha
A LaMancha buck. Photo copyright Oklahoma State University.

Nigerian Dwarf. The Nigerian Dwarf is a miniature breed of dairy goat originating in West Africa that has been developed in the United States only since the 1980’s. The balanced proportions of the Nigerian Dwarf give it the appearance of the larger breeds of dairy goats, but stands no more than 22.5" high. For a tiny goat, it has exceptional milk production; and even young does regularly give birth to triplets and quads. No wonder the breed is growing in popularity. The goats come in broad spectrum of colors and patterns, as you can see in photos of the herd at Cornerstone Farm, which specializes in the breed.


Nigerian Dwarf goat
Photo courtesy of Cornerstone Farm.

Nubian. This breed is a cross of old English goats with the ancient goats of Egypt and India. It is the most popular breed in the United States, Nubians can be any color. They are characterized by their distinctive head: long, droopy ears and “Roman” noses. They have the highest butterfat and milk solids of the six dairy goat breeds.


nubian goat
Photo courtesy of

Oberhasli. Smaller in numbers than the other breeds, the Oberhasli is rapidly growing in popularity. The goats are born in a beautiful array of colors from chestnut to bay-red (some does are born solid black.). They have a black dorsal stripe and black stockings.


Photo courtesy of Buttin’ Heads.

Saanen. The Saanen originated in Saanen Valley of Switzerland, and is the largest of the dairy goat breeds. Pure white, with short, fine coats, they are known as “the Holsteins of the dairy goats.” Calm-natured Saanens have high yields of milk.

Photo courtesy of

Toggenburg. The Toggenburg, a chocolate brown goat, originated in Switzerland, a country known for...chocolate (of course, that’s pure coincidence). The breed has white stockings and facial stripes. They tend to grow longer hair than other breeds, but when clipped for shows their coats look like brown velvet.


Photo courtesy of

Some content courtesy of Redwood Hill Farm.

© Copyright 2005-2015 Lifestyle Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. Images are the copyright of their respective owners.


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