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Home » The Homestead Life

Monday’s Homestead Barn Hop #3: Which Breed Of Dairy Goat Is Best??

Submitted by on March 6, 2011 – 8:20 pm 30 Comments
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Hey guys!! I’m so glad you could join me, Jill, Amy, and Megan for another awesome Homestead Barn Hop! It has been so much fun visiting everyone’s homesteads and seeing what you’ve all been up to! Keep the great ideas coming!

This week my mind has been on goats… dairy goats, that is. My husband has finished putting up the fence and  building a mini barn for the goats we are planning on getting (Yay!). But now I’m wondering which kind of goats we should get. At first I figured we’d just get some Nubians. We’ve had them in the past, and really liked them, though I never got a chance to try my hand at milking.

After talking with some like-minded friends about their dairy goats, I’m wondering if I should put a little more thought into which breed we choose. None of the people I know who have goats for milk use Nubians… maybe for good reason?

What I’d really love to be able to do is sit down with a glass of milk from several different breeds and do a taste test. How do I know which goats give the best milk if I haven’t tried them all?

Is there even a difference in taste quality? I know there are several factors that can affect the flavor of the milk: what they’ve been eating, proper handling of the milk, and even having a Buck nearby. But if I’ve done everything right, will milk from different breeds taste pretty much the same?

For those of you who are new to dairy goats, there are six main milking breeds: Alpines, Oberhaslis, Saanens, Toggenburgs, LaManchas and Nubians, although Nigerian Dwarfs are gaining a reputation as good milkers as well.

Saanens are particularly well known for being heavy milkers, and Nubians are recognized as producing milk with a higher butterfat content.

But is there a best breed?? Does one give better milk for making soap than another? Does one give better milk for making cheese?

I need advice from you more experience goat owners. What breed have you come to love, and why? I’m taking a poll here people, so please share what you know!!

And send me a glass of milk to taste while you’re at it.

Oh, and a bar of your homemade goat’s milk soap.

Kidding, kidding! Kinda.

Okay, anyways… what have you been up to lately? Anything in particular you wanna share? Link up below and tell it to the world! Can’t wait to visit your homestead!

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30 Comments »

  • Zahava says:

    We started with Nigerians and though I love their rich creamy milk, hand milking can be a bit frustrating because of small teat size. My Nigerians were bought for size since they don’t take up as much space (we only have a half acre). I though I have some separate pens my buck runs with my does. I have never had goaty tasting milk unless my buck slept right next my does all the time, when I used to lock them up in the barn at night. I don’t do that anymore and they sleep where they want to and my milk doesn’t smell or taste bad. My buck is stinky and courts his girls all the time and they love him.

    Even people who have never tasted goat milk said they couldn’t tell the difference from cow’s milk. I am careful to clean my equipment good but I do not get my milk chilled quickly either many times, I have not noticed any flavor because of it.

    I bought a Nubian last year because my family drank the milk as fast as I could milk it. ;-) Nubians are much noisier than my Nigerians, but the larger teats are so much easier to milk. Her milk tastes different from Nigerian, not as sweet, but just as good. I mix the milk together and use it for whatever.

    I wanted to start making cheese, which I did. Tons of fun… ;-) It is so cool to make cheese, made me feel incredible that I could do that! I want mess with making soap next. We are trying to be more self sufficient and are going to buy a larger farm so we can raise more animals. :-)

    I would like to get either a Toggenburg or Alpine to add to the herd. My buck breeds them all and I have registered minis to sell so it’s all good. I do think that buying registered goats is important, the investment is the a little more but the pay back (kids) makes up the difference and they all eat the same, so it helps pay for feed. Blessings on finding the right goat for you.

  • Rosie says:

    Great info! I’m also looking into getting dairy goats. So far I am leaning toward LaManchas, but nubians are high on my list too. Does anyone have experience with African Pygmies? I read/heard that their milk has the highest butterfat%. I’m currently drinking milk from a toggenburg and a nubian. It tastes delicious.

  • Meg says:

    I just found your site and am looking forward to following! Great blog.

  • Kimberly says:

    THANK YOU EVERYONE!!! This has been so helpful! Great comments and lots to think about. We’ve just bought a little farm in Idaho. :)

  • simplychele says:

    We raise Mini-LaManchas and love them. An abundance of milk high in butterfat, rich and creamy; excellent for milk, soap, cheese and drinking (and yes, we do all of it). A bit smaller than regular goats, they are easily milked on a milk stand, mild natured, and deliver multiple births well. We do bottle feed our babies in order to raise gentle kids that bond well with people. Bucklings are raised for meat purposes and separate from our does.
    Many farms do not keep a buck for breeding; we do. So far it has gone well and he has earned his keep well.
    Feel free to shoot us a question or stop by the blog for posts on the topic..my daughter has a blog linked on my sight where she chronicles our herd.

  • Nikki says:

    Hi Kendra,
    I just went back and read some of the comments.It seems alot of what I said was already mentioned….sorry about that.Guess I could have read first.
    My 12 year old son does most of our milking alone now.Our little ones all begin milking very young.We have some of the cutest pictures….:)~Nikki

  • Nikki says:

    Hi Kendra,
    We have raised Nubians for nine years now.We love our Nubians.They may give a little less then some of the other breeds but ours still averaged about a gallon a day and we rarely only milked one.We had plenty of milk.:)Currently we have no buck(they will flavor your milk).We always kept two so we could plan who would be with who better.Ours were both old and it is now time for us to do some buck shopping.We have always been careful to keep a closed herd so as to be able to be careful about disease etc.I am thinking that we will be getting a baby buck soon and raise him so as to have kids again next spring.:)
    Our goats milk never tasted odd but you need to be careful to keep it clean and strain it out soon after milking and get your milk cold right away.Warm goats milk often tastes “goaty”.Well I have no idea if this was any help at all.There is not many things cuter then a freshly born Nubian goat kid.The most we had born at one time was a set of quads!!!It was amazing!!!!Let me know if you have any more questions….you have my e-mail I think.~Nikki

  • Trixi says:

    I, too, am very interested in this topic. We have tried goat’s milk before and can not seem to get past the “goaty” taste. We have looked at getting a milk cow but it looks like it would be too overwhelming. We are still researching.

  • Laura-Lisa says:

    If you do not plan on keeping the offspring then it really doesn’t matter if you breed a Saanan to a Nubian or vice versa or another breed for that matter…people will buy the kids anyway…not for as much though…that is the benefit of having purbreds…Purebred ADGA registered Nubian kids go from $200-400 around here…and Saanans about the same. The mixes if dairy can still sell for $150 easy…But like someone else said, make sure they come from CAE free lines and (this is not going to sound nice but it is serious)if you are raising organic don’t let anyone on the pasture that you don’t know for risk of bringing in disease and bacteria that can force you to make decisions you don’t want to make…Other people do not think sometimes and someone that has been at the stock sales could bring something in and not realize it. We learned this the hard way and I would hate for it to happen to anyone else…

  • Kris Sherrill says:

    I have to put a vote in for Lamanchas. I have had several and loved them all. They are all very easy milkers, gove LOTS of great tasting milk, are very quiet, laid back goats. All in all, great goats. I also have a Nubian. She is totally opposite of the Lamancha as far as personality goes. She is a very easy milker and had great milk but not as much as the Lamancha. Their milk together is SO good and rich and creamy. But the Nubian is VERY vocal. She does not like to be alone at all.

    I have also had an Alpine. She had really good milk but real small udders so not very much at a time. But I loved her personality too.

    Mine have about 5 weeks to go and we’ll have some cute little kids around again! Good luck on your search.

  • Kim Walters says:

    We have Saanens and LOVE them. They’re the largest dairy goat breed and therefore in theory give more milk. Which we need, since we sell the milk, specializing in providing goat milk to mommas who cannot, for whatever reason, breastfeed their babies. Goat milk is the closest in composition to human mother’s milk.

    We’ve had most other breeds of goats but Saanens are our overwhelming favorite. Nubians can get really noisy. Alpines can be fairly aggressive, something we were concerned about when we first purchased our current herd; our youngest were toddlers and preschoolers and we wanted them to be safe around the goats.

    Too bad you don’t live in, say, the Portland-ish area of Oregon :). I’d be thrilled to give you a glass of our “good and proper goatie milk”, as my youngest used to call it. Once I offered the neighbor boy, about 10 years old, a cup of goat milk. He finally drank it and said accusingly, “You bought milk from the store and put it in the jar! It tastes just like the milk my mom buys.” He was serious. The milk is THAT good.

    We have a couple of breeding bucks which do not EVER run with the does. In addition, we are big on sanitary measures, picky about what we feed the goats (sprouted lentils, peas, barley along with hay and grass when available), and always bottle the milk promptly after milking. Then we chill it in a cooler with lots of ice. By the time it’s been out of the momma goats for an hour, it’s colder than the milk in the fridge! We encourage our customers to use, culture, or freeze the goat milk within 3-4 days, for best flavor, since goat milk is much more fragile than cow’s milk and will take on that lovely goaty flavor that turns so many people off to goat milk. Because goat milk is naturally homogenized (cream doesn’t rise to the top as in raw cow’s milk but is instead distributed throughout the milk), it freezes exceptionally well. This enables us to sell a combination of fresh and frozen milk to our customers who buy in bulk — and who have abundant freezer space. We’ve also been able to purchase half gallon BPA-free plastic milk jugs from a local dairy, and many of our customers have switched to these rather than the glass jars. They’re easily recycled with household plastics and space-conserving in the freezer.

    It’s true that having dairy goats DOES tie one down to the farm. We get around this by doing everything between the a.m. and p.m. milkings. Also we’ve trained a couple of goat-loving friends to milk for us on the rare weekend that we can get away. It helps that our oldest son is 17; part of his school day is doing the a.m. milking — we use a milking machine — which frees up Dad. Evan also fills in when Dad is working out of town. Our youngest daughter Elianna is nine and physically not quite large enough to do the milking on her own, though she shows her dairy goats in 4-H at our county fair and is a pretty good goat wrestler :). And just this morning, our resident Goat Midwife Elianna delivered one of the first baby goats of the season ON HER OWN. (She’s apparently too cool for school and is taking the day off from our regular homeschool studies in favor of Goat Husbandry 101!)

    That’s an experience you just can’t get in the city!

    Kim Walters

  • Michelle says:

    I have a Nigerian Dwarf and a LaMancha. I much prefer the taste of my ND’s milk. It’s sweeter and creamier. I often drink a tall glass as a meal for breakfast or lunch! :D The LaMancha milk is perfectly fine, it’s just not as sweet. I use it more for making yogurt and cheese, and keep my ND milk for drinking.

  • DogsMom says:

    We have been looking at companion goats, or possibly fiber goats but way far back in my mind is the potential for soap maing, etc at some point in the future. Thanks for opening up a discussion that is showing me questions I need to consider.

    I wonder if the 4H leader or county ag dept. can help answer some of your questions. I would also talk to the FFA leader at the high school and we have AG studies at tech colleges near by.

  • Susan B. says:

    Here’s my take on goats: We’ve raised and milked Nubians for ten years now. As you are probably aware, they do have a higher butterfat content than other breeds. I agree that the flavor of the milk is certainly affected by what the goats eat, and also how the milk is handled. We are always very careful to 1) wipe the goat’s udder (we use either a baby wipe or washcloth and warm water) 2)milk each goat into a clean stainless steel milk bucket and then immediately pour that milk into a covered container, thus lessening the amount of dust that can get into the milk, 3) strain the milk right away into glass half-gallon canning jars and 4) cool down the canning jars with ice water for at least 20 min.

    We have sold milk as well for quite a few years and I have had quite a few customers who were thrilled to find out that we were selling Nubian milk~ they had less than pleasant experiences with goat milk from other breeds. I know that other breeds can definitely out-produce my Nubians, but I do love that Nubian milk for drinking, cheese making and soapmaking too!

    Happy goat hunting!

  • morgan Leary says:

    I grew up with dairy goats and am currently starting a new creamery.
    The higher the butterfat the better tasting the milk is. So nubians would have better tasting milk. A more important question than what breed though is to make sure you buy from reputable breeders. It will save you headache and heart ache. Please make sure anything that you buy is CAE and Jhones free.
    As for small goats Nigerians or Kinders would be a good choice- you can cross them with standard breeds to make a small non-mini goat .
    Happy farming!

  • Mary says:

    This is so strange, I just spent the entire weekend researching this very same thing! I have been leaning toward Alpines, but does anyone have any mini-dairy goats? I am looking for something smaller, but not dwarfs. We are short on space here. Another thought that’s been brought up is, how hard is it to find a buck to breed with? I don’t want to buy the billy, just pay for his “services.”

  • I have only had experience with two different breeds of goats. I have had Kinders (cross breed) for a year. I love their milk because the butter content is really high but the quantity is really low. I would get about a quart a day from each of my does. I recently bought a LaMancha and I have to say I am really happy with the goat and her milk. Her butter fat is really high right now because she just kidded and it’s really tasty. Both breeds have milk that tastes just like cow’s milk. Not sure if it’s the breed or the fact that I chill the milk really fast after milking. I do know that just like with cows the smaller the goat the more butter fat it will have.
    So I vote for the LaMancha :)

  • Mandy says:

    Kendra,
    I am no help with your goat question (heck, I don’t even know what to do with the cow I just bought!) but I wanted to say thanks for cohosting the Barn Hop. I just found it a few days ago and I’m glad I did. I love seeing what everyone is doing. Good luck with whatever breed you choose!

  • Laura-Lisa says:

    There are some other things to consider that you have not mentioned here that may or may not sway you one way or another. Do you plan to hand milk? If so, teet size makes a difference to some people. Nubians tend to have larger teets than Saanans. Which for someone like me who has very large hands for a woman makes a difference because it is a LOT harder for me to milk my Saanan and very easy for me to milk my Nubian. Another factor is do you plan on keeping the offspring of your goats? If not which breed sells the best in your area. I find more people like Nubians here but Saanans sell for more money. Also are you going to keep a buck for breeding? If so you will need an area that is secure and away from your does. The bucks smell will without a doubt ruin the taste of your milk. If not keeping a buck do you have someone in the area that does keep bucks of the breed that you have so that you can bring your does or lease the buck for breeding? At first we did not keep a buck here but later decided to get a Nubian buck (when we made a separate paddock far away)to breed to both our Nubian and Saanan does as I was more interested in the milk than having purebred kids. The plus is the ADGA will register the Nubian/Saanan mix as an experimental breed. What kind of milk your family prefers to drink will also will depend on the right breed for you. The plus of our Nubian is her high butterfat allows me to get a lot of cream and butter from her milk where the Saanan we use only for drinking and some cheese making. One last thing is if you are planning on getting milk goats you may want to keep your eyes out for a cream separator it is almost essential for cream and butter making as goat milk does not separate like cow milk and it can talk a long time to collect enough cream from the top of your goats milk enough to make anything with. Hope this helps.

    • Thanks Laura-Lisa, that is helpful! I have thought about the buck thing. I have a friend who breeds Saanens, and we could use her buck. That was the problem I had when we had our Nubians… I tried FOREVER to find somebody with a Nubian or Boer Buck that we could borrow, and never had any luck, and so had no milk as well. We’ve been considering getting a buck of our own, so it’s good to know we’ll need a separate area for him. Thanks!

  • Deanna says:

    Well I know nothing about goats but I do know alot about cows. Different breeds give different qualities of milk. Jerseys more cream and better quality cream etc….What they eat is what your milk tastes like. Onions in the spring, onions in your milk. Also different cows from the same breeds milk tastes different. I can taste milk and know which cow it came from. Keeping your equipment clean is essential. Milk will not last long if you don’t keep buckets and containers spotlessly clean. This is the biggest annoyance for me of milking. You are constantly washing something.
    I would say your biggest problem is finding one. In our area people rarely sell a good milking anything. You have to start with babies or get someone’s rejects. You might find someone who has too many and is will to part with some. Again though, I wouldn’t sell a good milk cow. If I’m selling there is a reason. Livestock in our area is through the roof right now. It is usually better to wait until late summer when prices go down. Most people don’t

  • I could have written this post :-)

    We are planning for goats in a few months and I was thinking of Nubians but now I’m having the same questions as you. I do love the way the Nubians look and like the butterfat content but sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t be smart to get a goat that gives a better yield. I’ve heard good things about LaManchas too. So I think I’m deciding between Nubians and LaManchas. I do know that where I live Nubians are easier to find so that will probably end up making my choice for me.

  • I gotta say, I love our Nubians. (we have 4, with babies due this week!)
    Their milk tastes great. And, I like the floppy ears, ha.

    I’ve heard Nubians compared to Jersey cows in terms of butterfat in the milk, while Saanens are compared to Holsteins. Less cream, but more production.
    I’ve also heard people say Toggenburgs tend to have more goaty tasting milk- which is why it’s preferred for some types of goat cheese. Although I think that feed/enviromental factors play the biggest role in the taste of the milk.
    Ours tasted awesome until we put the buck in with them this fall. Then it definitely had a musty, goaty aftertaste until he left.

    Honestly though, since we’ve only milked Nubians, I can’t testify to noticing any differences first hand.

    I think whatever breed you choose, you’ll have a blast. Goats are a hoot!

  • Kimberly says:

    THANK YOU! I can’t wait to see what everyone says. I’ve been wondering the very same things about the different breeds. I was hoping for Nubians as well, but no one I’ve met around here has them. One complained about the noise they make, but really seems to just not like their noses. Others are raising more for meat than milk, or for pack animals. I’ll be back to see what everyone has to say!

  • We have a Nubian that is due to kid next month! It’s all very exciting but a little nerve racking at the same time. She’s our first to have babies so we’re newbies to this! I’ve been told Nubians are wonderful. Honestly, I wanted a Nubian because I love her floppy ears! ;)

  • marcia at Child in Harmony says:

    I’m interested in what others have to say too. I would love to get a few goats in the future. We were planning to get some a few years back but realized we needed to spend more time on the animals we had before we added any others.

    We were thinking about the Saanens as they are excellent milkers. Some goat people told me you have to be very dedicated though and are a bit tied down because you *have* to milk them often.

    I’m also looking at fiber goats as we have angora rabbits too and I am learning to spin and knit.

    happy day!

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