Raising Goats: How to Choose a Breed
You have made the decision to raise goats, but before you go out and purchase one you will have to decide on a breed that best suits your needs. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before deciding what breed of goat you would like to raise:
- Are you wanting to raise your goats to provide milk and other dairy products for your family?
- Are you looking for an animal to provide meat for your family or to sell?
- Do you want a fiber animal?
- Are you looking for a pet, with the added bonus of eating weeds?
- How much space will you have devoted to your goats?
Once you've answered those you are ready to decide on a breed to bring home. Here is a run down of some the different breeds you can choose from:
The Dairy Breeds
- Saanen: Saanens are the largest of the dairy breeds and are often considered the "queen of the dairy goats". They have the abiltiy to produce a lot of milk- up to 3 gallons per day- with a low butterfat content. They are usually all white in color and very mild mannered.
- Nubian: The nubian goat is one of the most popular dairy goat breed, easily recognizeable by it's long floppy ears. Their milk is also known for it's high butterfat content, which makes their milk excellent for cheesemaking. Nubains have a habit of being loud- so if you live on an urban farm, make sure your neighbors won't mind the noise before choosing this breed!
- LaMancha: LaManchas are a medium sized goat, also easily recongnized by its ears- or lack their of. They have a friendly, easy going temperment and are very hardy animals. They have good milk production with a slighly higher butterfat content, making them a good choice for those wanting to make cheese and soap.
- Alpine: The Alpine goat is a medium to large goat that comes in many different colors. They are very hardy and do well in most climates. They are good producers and can offer a consistent production rate that other breeds cannot.
- Oberhasli: Also called 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.
The Meat Breeds:
- 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 a breed known for its hardiness. They can gain weight without supplemental feeding and have great reproductive health. They have shown to bed adaptable to most any living situation and give a lot of meat for the amount of money you put into them. Kikos are relatively new in the United States but are gaining in popularity.
- Nubians: Nubians are most known for their dairy capabilities, but also have the potential as a meat goat. Often owners breed their nubians and keep the does for milk production and the bucklings are used for meat making them a good dual purpose animal.
Other Breeds to Consider:
- Angora: If you want a fiber animal, Angoras are a wonderful option that is sought after for their mohair. Angoras are usually sheared twice a year and can proudce up to 6 lbs of fleece.
- Nigerian Dwarf: The Nigerian Dwarf goat is a miniature breed that also happens to be a pretty good dairy goat. They produce a large amount of milk for their size with a very high butterfat content. These goats are a favorite among urban farmers with a limited amount of space to devote to goats. And due to their small stature and easy going manners they are a good choice for children to handle.
- Pygmy: The Pygmy is very similar to the Nigerian Dwarf Goat, except it is more muscular and stocky. They can be used on a small homestead as a dual prupose goat.
- Mini crosses: This is not breed specific, but many people are now crossing various breeds to make smaller versions of the larger dairy breeds, ie Mini-Nubians or Mini LaMancha. This can be a good option for someone with a small space, yet they would like more options than a Nigerian Dwarf or Pygmy.
Other Points to Consider:
Remember that not all goats are the same. If you want milk, of course you will need a doe. If you want pets for brush control, get a pair of withers (castrated males). Unless you plan on breeding goats I would not recommend getting a buck, and even if you are planning on breeding, I would still say to wait on buying a buck. You can often find one to rent for service. Bucks can sweet and gentle, but a buck in rut is not the animal for a new goat owner.
And last of all, please remember that goats are herd animals. They will not be happy alone. So if you plan on one, plan on two. Withers can be found rather inexpensively and are great for keeping lonely does or bucks company.