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I cannot tell you how incredibly excited I am to go pick up our goats. I’m counting down the days until we can welcome our beautiful gals to our homestead!
We don’t have a ton of room, but fresh, raw milk is a huge necessity for our family. We drink a lot of milk, and certainly don’t have room for a cow, but desire the health benefits of real, fresh, raw milk. I started researching dairy goat breeds before we could even have goats. That’s how high up on the list raw milk is for our family.
The crazy amount of dairy goat breeds available is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Whether or not they will work for you and your homestead is another story entirely. Just about everyone with limited space says Nigerian dwarf goats are the way to go. And they can be, but there are so many other options available.
I began my research with Nigerian dwarf goats, but soon realized that there are a lot of other breeds that are perfect for a small homestead. Anything between a full-sized dairy goat and a miniature version of just about every full-sized dairy goat breed there is are available. It’s incredible the number of goat breeds to choose from! We, personally, went with a miniature breed. While they can have their downfalls (many do not take production into consideration when breeding miniatures) if you find a fantastic breeder, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
If you aren’t sure what a miniature dairy goat is, it’s a mixture of a Nigerian dwarf buck and a full-sized doe. So, the first generation of a miniature is just that. A full-sized doe bred to a Nigerian dwarf buck. After that first generation, you cross miniatures with other miniatures. After the 6th generation, it is considered a pure bred miniature dairy goat. Which is awesome, but not always the ultimate goal (you want good milk lines and conformation first a foremost, pure bred status isn’t near as important if you must sacrifice those things).
Anyhow, enough of my science lesson haha. If you’d like to learn more about miniature breeds, you can find out here!
While a miniature is not necessary, sometimes it can be incredibly helpful. A lot of areas are beginning to allow miniature goats on smaller lots in urban and suburban areas. Sometimes, you don’t want to be held down to just one breed (the Nigerian dwarf). Miniature breeds also eat far less while still producing about 2/3rds of the milk their full-sized relatives produce.
I mention a couple of miniature breeds here, but all of the breeds mentioned (except for the Nigerian dwarf, which is already miniature) can be found or bred into miniatures. It all depends on what your ultimate goals are and the land you have available.
Looking for excellent dairy lines with a great history are incredibly important when purchasing any dairy goat regardless of breed. You need to do your homework and find a great breeder. Craigslist cheap goats aren’t typically going to fulfill your needs.
6 Dairy Goat Breeds Perfect for Your Small Homestead
Nigerian Dwarf Goat
The Nigerian dwarf is probably one of the most popular dairy goat breeds in existence. I’ve met very few people in the homesteading community that haven’t heard of them. They’re excellent milkers, with milk that is high in butterfat and protein and sweet tasting. The average daily milk production is said to be around 2 quarts a day. Some are of course going to be a little higher (the record is just over 3 quarts) and some are going to be lower.
Nigerians are super sweet and adorable goats. My neighbors have several and they’re too sweet for words. They have a fantastic temperament, but the bucks are known to be some of the most smelly of all dairy goats, so keep that in mind if you plan to keep a herd sire.
Miniature Nubian Goat (mini-nubian)
The first time I laid eyes on a Nubian goat, I fell in love. Those ears… who can resist them? I really didn’t want a full sized Nubian because we simply don’t have that much land. So, I thought I was going to be stuck with a Nigerian dwarf. I was wrong. I discovered that there is a miniature Nubian goat breed. This is what we have ultimately chose to grow our herd with.
Mini-nubians are known for their ease of milking. Their udder is generally well attached and their teats are larger than their Nigerian dwarf relatives. Their milk is high in butterfat and protein and sweet tasting. They can produce anywhere from 1.5 to 4 quarts daily. With the average being around 3 quarts. Their milk is excellent for cheesemaking, yogurt, and even butter.
Miniature LaMancha Goat (mini-mancha)
LaManchas are actually the only goat breed developed in America. So, it’s the only true American breed of goat. Most people recognize them because of their lack of “ears”. Mini-manchas are similar if their breed character is true. The standard does not allow for anything more than what they call “gopher ears”. They’re beautiful goats with excellent temperaments and are a very hearty breed.
Mini-manchas are also known for their ease of milking. You can actually milk them once a day without them drying up and they will continue to produce high butterfat, great tasting milk. Like mini-nubians they will produce anywhere from 1.5 to 4 quarts daily with 3 quarts being the average.
Saanens are known for their excellent temperament. They tend to be much less rowdy and loud as some other goat breeds (ahem- I won’t name any names 😉) and are said to be an amazing goat for people just starting out. They are a very hearty breed and incredibly mellow. They are, however, the largest dairy goat breed. So, you’ll have to decide if you think you have the space, sometimes temperament makes up for space so that’s why I mentioned them here. There is a miniature version of the saanen, of course, which is smaller.
Saanens are known to be easy to milk and produce lots of it. However, what they make up for in volume they often lack in butterfat. Making their milk less creamy than other goats. I’ll note that a miniature saanen also produces a great amount of milk with a higher butterfat content because of their Nigerian dwarf background. Full sized Saanens can produce up to 3 gallons a day.
Alpines are sweet, sweet goats. They are known for their excellent personalities and ease of milking. They average about a gallon of milk a day and have a long lactation cycle.
Alpines are often used in commercial milk production, but have gained in popularity on the homestead due to the amount of milk they produce and the ease of milking. They will give about a gallon a day of high butterfat, creamy milk for all of your dairy needs including ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and even butter.
The Oberhalsi is a smaller dairy goat breed which makes it great for us limited acreage folks. Their milk is sweet, but has a lower butterfat content than some of the others I’ve mentioned. They are amazingly sweet but known as one of the more destructive breeds of goat (they can all be destructive, don’t get me wrong).
The Oberhasli averages about a little less than a gallon a day, making it a great producer.
So, whether you choose to go with a miniature dairy goat breed or a full size, you’ll have an excellent selection to choose from. Right now kidding season is in full swing and kids can be found in abundance. However, we bought from a reputable breeder and I put a deposit down months ago. So, just do your homework.
I hope you find the dairy goat of your dreams!