Toggenburg goats: to have or not to have

Toggenburg goats: to have or not to have
Toggenburg goats: to have or not to have

Toggenburg goats: should you raise Toggenburgs on your homestead?

Toggenburg goats is another dairy goat breed that deserves a lot of attention. This is a healthy, sturdy breed that adapts well to a variety of climates and will thrive no matter where your farm or homestead is located.

Toggenburg goats origins

Toggenburgs have originated in the Toggenburg region of Switzerland and are quite an ancient breed.  Toggenburgs are said to have been bred simply by centuries of crossing several of the local breeds that showed the most promise in terms of milk productivity. Nowadays, Toggenburgs can boast very high dairy productivity, along with Saanen goats, Nubian goats and Lamancha goats.

Toggenburgs are somewhat smaller than other dairy breeds

Toggenburgs are somewhat smaller than other dairy breeds

Toggenburgs were first documented as a breed around 1890 in Switzerland.  By 1950s, there were more than 20000 Toggenburg goats in Switzerland. Due to its excellent dairy productivity, the breed soon became known in other European countries and then spread across the ocean too. Nowadays, Toggenburg goats are raised everywhere around the world, including the US and Great Britain.

Toggenburg goat breed profile

Toggenburgs are somewhat smaller than other dairy breeds. Male Toggenburg goats grow as big as 71 cm high, while females only reach about 66 cm. In terms of weight, the males can weigh up to 140lbs, while females are usually around 108lbs.

Toggenburgs usually have very distinct coat coloring patterns. Most of the body, including the back, sides and neck, are usually dark colored: it can be black, gray or brown. The legs, nose and ears are usually white. The white spot around the nose usually grows into two lines going from the nose to the horns.

Toggenburgs tend to have thicker, voluminous bellies with wider ribs. Their bodies are somewhat barrel-shaped even though the goat itself may be quite skinny.

Since this breed originated in the mountains of Switzerland, they have thick and silky coats that are thick enough to protect them from the cold. Most of the coat is short, with longer areas around the chest and legs. The males often have beards.

Toggenburgs have smaller, longer ears that usually stand up straight on their head. The head is medium-sized, the neck is long and the body itself is compact, but can sometimes be quite wide. Very often Toggenburgs don’t have horns (not even the males).

Toggenburg goats are one of the world's leading dairy goat breeds.

Toggenburg goats are one of the world’s leading dairy goat breeds.

Toggenburg goats milk productivity

Toggenburg goats are one of the world’s leading dairy goat breeds. In terms of productivity, they are close to Saanen goats. They can produce close to 900L of milk per year, during the lactation period that can last anywhere around 250-270 days a year, depending on the climate and the environment, as well as nutrition. They tend to offer as much milk during winter months as any other month of the year. The fat content of the Toggenburg goats milk is around 4% or more. This is a great basis for excellent cheese, yogurt and other dairy products. Remember that the quality of the feed may influence the taste of the milk!

Toggenburg goats as meat producers

Toggenburg goats aren’t really used to produce meat. With their modest size and limited meat yield they are not worth raising for meat but are raised extensively for their wonderful milk. Of course you can still use your Toggenburgs for meat if it’s for your own consumption. Their meat does have a tender, pleasant taste.

Toggenburg goats yarn production

Toggenburgs do have lovely goats that can make good yarn provided you have large amounts of it. There might even be a market for it. However, one Toggenburg goat would not produce nowhere near enough yarn for it to be worth shearing it so normally Toggenburgs aren’t used for their yarn.

Toggenburg goats fertility

Toggenburgs, like other dairy breeds, are very fertile. A Toggenburg goat can have up to 4 kids in a litter and they often do. Some people breed their Toggenburgs more than once a year but it’s better for the does’ health if they are only bread once a year.

The kids grow and gain weight quickly: by the age of 8-9 months they can reach as much as 60-80 lbs in weight, which is almost half of the adult weight.

Toggenburgs, like other dairy breeds, are very fertile.

Toggenburgs, like other dairy breeds, are very fertile.

Choosing the best bucks is important if you want to get good litters as a result of the breeding. Bucks at the age of 1.5 to 7 years old tend to be the best for breeding. Older bucks aren’t recommended for breeding. And of course, you will need to make sure the bucks you choose are healthy and belong to good, quality lines.

Raising Toggenburg goats

Toggenburgs are quite a good goat for a first time goat owner: they are not too hard to raise. This is a hardy goat, well adapted to various climates. They do especially well in colder climates, but don’t like heat too much. They don’t do very well in extremely hot climates and need cool spaces to rest in during the hottest summer months.  On the other hand, they often don’t need any heating in the barn during the winter months and do just fine even if it’s quite cold outside. Like any other goat breed, they hate damp, wet areas and the barn needs to be always dry and well-ventilated.

As with any goat breeds, Toggenburgs like their living areas to be clean. Keeping good hygiene also helps protect your goats from disease and infection. The barn should be regularly clean and needs to have enough light and access of fresh air.

Feeding you Toggenburg goats

Toggenburgs are great at foraging their own food provided you have a large pasture. If you do, letting your goats feed out on pasture is a great way to keep them happy and healthy. An adult Toggenburg will eat 8-10 kg of fresh grass during the summer and up to 3 kg of concentrated food during winter months. You should also add vegetables to your goats menu: Toggenburgs love carrots, beets, potatoes, apples etc. Don’t forget to add minerals such as salt. You may also need to add selenium and copper, but that is really highly individual and depends on the quality of the water your goats are getting and how rich in minerals it is.

Toggenburg goats pros and cons

If you are considering getting a few Toggenburgs and starting up your own herd, here is a summary of the good and bad that you should remember about Toggenburg goats.

Toggenburgs are calm and friendly goats that are easy to get along with

Toggenburgs are calm and friendly goats that are easy to get along with

Toggenburg goats pros

Toggenburgs are calm and friendly goats that are easy to get along with. They are non-aggressive (even the bucks are usually pretty friendly, although you need to be careful of them if they are not confined). Toggenburgs will follow you around the farm and generally do what you want them to do. This is a good breed for a first-time goat owner.

Good milk yield

Toggenburg goats are very productive as a dairy breed. They offer a good yield of milk, almost comparable to Saanen goats. The milk boasts delicious taste and high fat content and is great for consuming as is, or making cheese and other dairy products. Toggenburgs also boast a long lactation period.

Toggenburgs are well-adapted to cold climates

If your farm is in the Northern climate and you have to deal with snow and frost for a large part of the year, don’t despair. Toggenburg goats may actually be perfect for your setup. They do really well in cold climates and don’t require much in terms of heating. (But they do need to be dry!)

Toggenburg goats are cute!

Toggenburgs are classically beautiful goats. Enough said!

Toggenburg goat cons

The main con that we should touch here is that Toggenburgs really dislike the heat. They are not a great breed to raise if you live in a very hot climate.