Goat types: oh so many! Which types of goats are for you?
Goat types and what type of goat could be best for your little farm/homestead?
In ancient times, goats were called “the cows for poor people”, due to their affordability and small size. However, goats have proven to be excellent farm animals with many valuable qualities that don’t need to be compared to those of the cows. Especially nowadays, when many families wouldn’t want to own a cow on their homestead even if they were given one for free. Goats do boast a more compact, manageable size. They can also offer fantastic quality milk and meat (in large enough amounts to provide lots for you family as well as for you to sell!), and also valuable wool (some breeds, not all). Let’s have a closer look at various goat types and what you can expect from each breed.
In this article:
Goat types: dairy goats
Dairy goat types: Alpine goat
Goat types: Oberhasli dairy goat
Goat types: meat goats
Spanish meat goats
Many people looking for goats are looking for dairy goats. It’s wonderful to be able to provide your family with healthy, nutritious milk on a daily basis, while keeping only a small number of goats. If you are after milk, what types of dairy goats should you look into?
One of the best dairy goat types out there is Saanen Goat. This breed has been originally cultivated in the Saanen Valley in Switzerland, where beneficial natural environment is said to have played a role in formation of this sturdy, healthy, productive and good-natured breed. Saanen goats was first presented at the World Goat Exhibition in Paris in 1856. By 1880 Saanen goats were exported to other countries, such as England, Germany and others, to improve the quality of local goats by crossing them with Saanens. Today, Saanen goats have became very popular al over the world. This is due to its excellent dairy qualities and total daily milk yield, as well their as sturdiness and strong health.
Saanen goats can provide about 4 kg (8lb) of milk per day – these, of course, are numbers on average and they depend on your location, the feed you provide for your goat, goat’s health and other factors. An average Saanen goat weighs around 40-50 kg (80-100lb). They have a compact, light head, rounded body with wide chest, and long and strong legs.
Alpine goats are another excellent dairy goat breed stemming from Switzerland, just like the Saanens. They are called Alpine because they have been pastured high in the Alpine mountains during the centuries of cultivation of this breed. These are compact, graceful goats with straight-shaped heads, short neck, wide chest and straight back. Alpine goat colors range may include white, gray, black, brown, red and anything in-between. Male Alpine goats may reach up to 85 cm in height, while females are a little shorter at 65-75 cm.These goats tend to be very sturdy and healthy. They also tend to be fertile and produce several kids at each kidding. Alpines yield an excellent amount of milk: from 4 kg to 6 kg of milk per day during 9-12 months of lactation.
This is a dairy type goat for people that prefer smaller goats. Nigerian Dwarf goats are very similar to other dairy breeds (graceful, light body with large udder), but they are very compact. A male Nigerian Dwarf can reach just about 58 cm in height while a female Nigerian Dwarf will be closer to 53 cm. If you are an average-sized person, a Nigerian Dwarf goat will be approximately up to your knee level. When it comes to weight, Nigerian Dwarfs can reach about 30 kg of weight: about half of what a standard dairy goat can weight. This compact size and small weight is a great feature of this breed, especially for small homesteads and people that don’t have equipment/vehicles to transport a large goat. If you are a female small farm owner, or don’t have a large truck to take your goat to the vet, a Nigerian Dwarf can easily be picked up even by a woman and will fit into any vehicle. This is why these goats are so popular.
Despite their name, Nigerian Dwarf goats were actually bred in the USA. But the ancestors of these goats were said to be small goats brought by sailors from Africa. The standard for this goat was formed in 1993 – this is a fairly new breed!
Despite its size, this is still a well-producing dairy goat. It can produce about 1.5 L of milk per day with about 305-day lactation period. Their milk tends to be quite fatty at approximately 6% of fat. Nigerian Dwarfs can come in all colors: from white to red to black, brown and any other color combinations.
In addition to their compact size and high milk production, these goats are also valued for their good temperament. They are intelligent, friendly, funny and outgoing. Some owners are even able to potty train them! This is a very popular breed for petting zoos and also for people that prefer to keep goats as pets.
Nubian goat is another (full-sized) type of dairy goat that’s quite popular on farms and homesteads all over the world. As can be deduced from its name, Nubian Goat’s predecessors do come all the way from Namibia, Africa. At the end of the 19th century, some of these African goats were brought to England and cross-bred to the local dairy breeds, which resulted in the creation of today’s Nubian Goat breed. These are large goats with characteristic dairy goat body shape: long, gracefully-built, and quite tall. An average Nubian Goat male can reach up to 75-90cm in height, with females a little shorter.Male Nubians weight anywhere from 55 to 70 kg. Females are slightly “lighter” at 40-55 kg.
Nubians have smaller heads with slightly curved noses. They have longer necks than Alpines, and longer, thinner legs. As is common for dairy breeds, they have a large udder with long teats. Nubian coat is long but thin – these are not cold-proof goats. In terms of color, these goats can be white, black, red, brown and anything in between.
Nubian goats are very fertile: they produce 3 kids on average per kidding, and often kid twice a year. The lactation period may last from 300 to 365 days (!) and yields 2-4L of milk per day. Nubian Goat milk has a characteristic mildly sweet taste and is 4-6% fat.
The best part about this breed, apart from their productivity, is their mild, affectionate and friendly personality. They are usually calm, outgoing and very intelligent. Nubians also don’t tend to have a “goaty” smell to them. Some of the downsides of this breed is that they are demanding when it comes to the quality of their feed. They also don’t tend to thrive in cold climates due to their African genealogy and thin coats. They may be less productive in colder climates.
Yet another dairy goat breed that originated in the mountains and valleys of Switzerland is Oberhasli goat. While the ancestors of these goats were first selected and bred in Switzerland, the breed got formed and defined after these goats were brought to North America at the beginning o the 20th century. This is not a very widespread breed that is still considered somewhat rare.
These are medium-sized goats with male goats reaching 76 cm in height and weighing around 68 kg and females standing at 71 cm tall and weighing around 55 kg.
Oberhasli produce characteristic sweet-tasting milk that is quite similar to cow milk. They provide 3-5L of milk per day during their lactation period.
Toggenburg goats are considered one of the best dairy breed of goats out there. This is also a breed that originated in Switzerland, like many other dairy breeds. These goats are smaller than other dairy goats but larger than Nigerian Dwarfs. An average male reaches around 71 cm in height, while females usually stand 66cm tall. An average weight for a Toggenburg male reaches 72 kg, and 54-55 kg for females.
Toggenburgs are easy to recognize by their characteristic coat colors. Most of the Toggenburg body is usually brown/dark gray, while their legs, nose and ears are white. There are usually two white lines stretching from the tip of the nose up to the ears.
Toggenburg lactation period lasts for about 270 days during which they provide 2.5-3 L of milk a day. The fat content of Toggenburg goat milk is 3.5-4%, although sometimes they have been known to make even fattier milk. Although this goat is wonderful milk producer, they are not great if your purpose is raising meat goats. Which takes us to:
Meat goats tend to differ from dairy goats in many ways. Although practically any goat can be used for meat (including dairy goats), some goats are just better suited for that purpose, providing more meat er goat, being easier to raise, more healthy and sturdy, etc. When you are deciding on what type of goat to get for your homestead, this decision should definitely be based on whether you require meat or milk from your goats. Let’s have a look at some of the more popular meat goats out there.
Boer goats are one of the more popular meat breeds out there. It was bread in South Africa at the beginning of the 20th century by breeding some of the local goats with breeds from Europe and India. They were named “Boer” after after the Dutch word Boer that means “farmer”. Since then, this multicultural goat has spread all over the world.
This is a medium-sized goat that is very easy to distinguish from other goats by their colors. Boers are always white with red-brown heads. You can’t not recognize a Boer goat when you see them! Boers are stalky, with massive bodies and short legs.
An average weight of an adult Boer is 80-90kg, sometimes as much as 100kg for some of the females, and up to 150kg for a male! As one of the best meat goat breeds, Boers’ dressing percent is almost 50%, which means that you can get almost 50kg of meat and bones from a 100kg goat. Boer meat tends to be tender and neutral in taste, without a characteristic “goaty” taste, in fact, it almost tastes like veal, which many people find very attractive. Low content of fat makes the meat suitable for those on a diet or trying to lose weight.
As far as goat breeds go, Boer goats are very easy-going, low-maintenance type of goats in terms of their environment. They adapt easily to a wide range of natural environments and aren’t picky when it comes to food. They tend to be pretty sturdy, have a good health and are not particularly susceptible to parasites (although all goat types are, to various degrees.)
Spanish goats is another good meat goat breed. They were particularly popular in the times before Boer goats became widespread. These goats were bred from their Spanish predecessors that were brought to the US from Mexico.
These are average-sized goats with short coats of various colors and usually long, prominent horns. Spanish goats easily adapt to different geographic and climactic zones and are generally fairly low-maintenance (as far as goats go!).
Kiko goats are large-sized goats that were originally bred in New Zealand and then spread throughout the world. They have medium-length coats and are always white-colored. This is a sturdy, hardy animal that can survive in any landscape. They have compact, well muscled bodies that are particularly suited for meat production. Kiko males reach as much as 136 kg of weight upon maturation.
Cashmere goat is one of the two most popular wool goats that you can meet on many farms and homesteads that produce wool. These are medium-sized, compact and graceful animals that normally don’t grow over 60 cm in height. Their main feature, of course, is their rich, long coat with soft and delicate undercoat of exceptional quality. The coat itself is only used to make rough, low quality fabrics. It is the undercoat (the soft down) that is so much valued in clothing industry. Cashmere goat coat colors can be white, gray or gray with white spots. The most valuable Cashmere goats are white.
Cashmere goats have always been highly valued for their high quality down and cashmere wool. They are still highly sought after to this day, all around the world, despite the proliferation of synthetic fabrics and wool.
Angora goats is the second most-popular wool goat type. They are used to produce mohair, which is a fabric or yarn that is used in many high-class, luxury clothing and household items (blankets, throws, etc). Mohair has some unique, excellent qualities such as durability, resilience, special luster and sheen. It is naturally elastic, preserves heat really well and takes dye very well, which makes it such a valuable type of fiber.
Because of the value of mohair, Angora goats are famous world-wide and are a proud poses sion for many farms and homesteads. Originally, Angora goats came out of Turkey, namely its capital city Ankara. They are medium-sized, sturdy and healthy animals that don’t require anything special in terms of raising them. They are good in both hot and cold climates and can be kept out on pastures for most of the year.
This was a short overview of some of the more famous goat types out there. I hope it helps you if you are just looking into choosing a goat breed for your homestead or farm.