Raising Dairy Goats and the Benefits of Goat Milk

Kris Wetherbee discusses the value of raising dairy goats and the benefits of goat milk which can be used for drinking and making goat cheese, ice cream and yogurt.

| June/July 2002

Recognized by their floppy ears, Nubians are known for their rich milk.

Recognized by their floppy ears, Nubians are known for their rich milk.


Learn about the benefits of goat milk and the value dairy goats provide to the homestead.

Whether your property is one acre or several hundred, sloping or flat, crowded with brush or completely forested, you can still raise dairy goats for milk. Two goats will produce enough quality fresh milk — with each doe averaging 3 quarts a day for 10 months — to feed your family all year. Add a few more goats and you'll have enough milk for making cheese, yogurt and even ice cream.

Goat milk ice cream?  Some of you might be raising your eyebrows right now because you've heard goat milk tastes funny. We could blame the funny-taste fallacy on a conspiracy concocted by those comical Far Side cows. But more likely it is because someone kept the buck among the herd, especially at milking time. A buck can be quite odoriferous, and his strong, musky scent can permeate the milk. The fact is, properly collected goat milk tastes just as good as cow milk. Some people believe it tastes better.

"I have a friend whose brother refused to drink goat milk because he knew he wouldn't like it", says 20-year goat veteran Gail Damerow, editor of Rural Heritage magazine and author of Your Goats and Raising Milk Goats Successfully. Gail's friend bought a carton of cow's milk from the store for her visiting brother. After he emptied the carton, his sister refilled it with fresh goat milk. The scenario continued until a week later, when he noticed the carton looked a bit worn around the edges. She admitted he'd been drinking goat milk all week. He became an instant convert.

More of the world's people consume goat milk than cow milk. Goats are hardy animals: They adapt well to heat and cold, productively forage and graze, require little space, and are inexpensive to keep. Since mature does (females) usually weigh between 120 and 135 pounds (dwarf breeds can weigh between 35 and 85 pounds), they're much easier to handle than hefty cows, which can weigh 1,000 pounds each. Goats may surprise you in other ways, as well. They're highly intelligent, remarkably friendly creatures. And, since they're active, extremely agile and very curious, their antics can amuse you for hours. With all that in mind, it's easy to see why dairy goats can be the ideal addition to today's family farm or homestead.

The Dairy Breeds

There are more than 200 different goat breeds worldwide; six primary breeds dominate the dairy goat arena: Alpines, Oberhaslis, Saanens, Toggenburgs, LaManchas and Nubians. While all breeds generally do well in most of the country, the first four breeds listed are well-suited to cooler climates since their origins can be traced to Swiss mountain regions. LaManchas and Nubians hail from tropical and desert climates where it's warmer, and they tolerate hot summer conditions better than the Swiss breeds.

1/3/2014 12:38:32 PM

I'm buying 5 acres in Morongo Valley, CA. It gets very hot there during the summer. I think Nubian goats would be best for that climate. does anyone know where I can purchase them in Morongo Valley, which is in Riverside county, CA? I intend to grow them for milk and possibly cheese.

8/14/2013 7:25:35 AM

healthimpactnews.com/2013/state-threatens-to-seize-infant-fed-goats-milk-instead-of-approved-gmo-soy-formula   A doctor reported a woman to child protective services for feeding her baby goats milk.  This is because the goat milk folks do not lobby like the dairy industry does.

5/6/2013 9:01:07 PM

Hello all. To those of you wanting a doe that is already lactating, please note that to continue to get milk from a goat, you will need to breed her each year. Goats will give milk for 10 to 11 months, but do not lactate indefinitely. Biologically, they produce milk to feed their offspring. While their natural production cycle is extended to almost a year by milking, they WILL dry up. Obtaining a doe that is producing milk will be a delight, since you will be getting a goat supplying you the product you desire. Please know that you will need to let her give birth yearly to continue sharing her wealth with you. The young will be an added benefit, as you can sell them to help pay for feed, add to your herd, or utilize their meat. But do not invest in a goat thinking that she will be providing only what you want for the rest of her life. You will need to either send her out for mating, own a buck, or borrow a buck for his services. If you only want one or two milking goats (at least two are desirable since they are indeed 'social' aninmals), my suggestion is to either borrow a buck for a couple of months in late fall for mating season, or send them to someone with bucks not related to them for a couple of heat cycles in fall/early winter, so they will be bred. Otherwise, you'll be feeding a male goat all year for a few weeks of service. Also, if you 'own' him, expect him to become somewhat aggressive, as it is his nature- he will treat you as a rival, regardless of how 'nice' you treat him. You'll also have to house him and separate him from the girls to avoid the possible "off tasting" milk people refer to. We haven't had that issue, but it does happen. Please do not buy a doe, then dispose of her when she stops producing later this year. She is a relatively intelligent mammal. She will be affected by changing personal environment when you sell or give her away when she stops producing. Just know what you're getting into before obtaining a "milk producing" goat doe.

Bonnie Whitlock
12/2/2011 12:59:13 PM

I am in the very early stages of research on obtaining a milk goat. If each milk goat has to be milked every 12 hours, how long does it take to milk a goat? What happens if you don't milk a goat every 12 hours? This is making me think of a large time commitment just to get the milk plus taking care of the goats and then making anything else with the milk. Any comments appreciated. Thanks!

6/22/2011 6:38:27 PM

We bought a couple of goats last year to raise for 4H. Our Toggenburg gives the worst tasting milk ever. We had no bucks, we fed the same hay as our neighbors gave to their goats, and used very clean utensils and milking practices and nothing helped. Our neighbors have great tasting milk from most of their animals, so I just think that some goats give off-tasting milk - maybe more so with Toggs. I have two more things to consider if you are thinking of getting a goat for milk - you will need to be home on a regular basis to milk 2x/day for up to 10 months of the year - and if you need to travel - who will know how to milk the goats when you're gone? Also, you need to breed your doe to get kids and milk, and that means finding a good buck and making those arrangements. Even though we enjoy our goats, both of these issues are causing us to rethink having them.

Jan Steinman
2/14/2011 6:45:21 PM

The key to fencing ANY animal: make life more attractive INSIDE the fence than outside it! If your goats are in a muddy, eaten-down hole, of course they're going to try to escape! Rather than put a lot of time, effort, and money into goat-proof fencing, we use cheap, easy-to-move electric fencing, and then we move it often. We control a small herd of Nubians with just two strands of electric, because we keep moving them so they don't get bored inside the fence. Since electric is so cheap, you can better afford making a "paddock" system by cross-fencing your pasture. Then rotate goats through the paddocks as needed -- daily to a few weeks, depending on how fast the browse recovers. Then you'll have goats that are not bored, and they'll stay put. Being both intelligent and highly sensitive to pain, goats are easily trained to electric fencing. The only ones we have trouble with are the kids and the bucks. The kids eventually stop challenging the fence, but the bucks need a "waterproof" fence, especially if you're trying to keep them away from fertile does!

4/10/2010 5:18:49 AM

Thanks for sharing such a great article. Just bought a property want to run some goats.Your site has provided great information thanks

4/7/2009 12:00:20 AM

Well, I've been raising dairy goats for 15 years, have worked with and owned several breeds, and I have to disagree with a few things on this article. First, I keep my bucks with, or in adjacent pens to my does all year round. My experience (and I've owned several bucks over the years) is that when the bucks are raised IN a herd, and are kept in such close contact with others, they don't feel the need to 'perfume' themselves so much, and are MUCH less ordorous. I also have NEVER, and I mean NEVER had a problem with the buck making the milk taste bucky. Poor milking practices, handling, nutritional imbalances, and pasturizing (especially ULTRA pasturizing that the commercial dairies often use) are all contributors to making goat milk taste bad, and have been the main reasons goat milk has a bad rap. Second, the LaMancha goat did NOT originate in a warm, humid climate!! They were developed in Oregon state in 1930 by Eula Frey. They are the ONLY USA developed large breed of dairy goats that is registered with ADGA. And lastly, you DON'T need a separator to get your cream from your goat milk! Breeds with lower butterfat will take much longer, but my little dwarf breeds (Nigerian, Kinder, and Mini Lamanchas ~ all testing at 8% and higher), their milk after sitting in the fridge undisturbed for as little as 36 hours will have cream risen to the top. I have never owned a separator, but have made butter, sour cream and have plenty of creamer for coffee and tea. We also use the cream for making gravies and other heavy, creamy dishes. I hope this helps in correcting some of the mis-information here. Kim Smith ~ k_frog100@hotmail.com Blessed Farm, WA

1/19/2009 8:37:13 PM

we just bought a home in kansas with some acreage and are interested in raising goats for milking. We would also like to make ice cream and cheese. However, I am a little confused on which type of goats we need to buy and which one is more suitable for the kansas climate. Can you give me any information?

1/21/2008 2:50:52 PM

If raising goats seems like too much, you can also buy goat milk products. I am lactose intolerant and I only eat laloo's Goat Milk Ice Cream when I need a sweet fix. it has less fat and calories than regular moo milk ice cream brands and it tastes just the same. (Its better if you ask me!) Check out their website to find a store near you.Trust me, this stuff will revolutionize your ice cream eating habits! www.laloos.com

8/16/2007 11:26:33 AM

I am interested in raising a few goats for milk & cheese. We already have a cow and some chickens, but I'm all new to the goat thing. LOL Can anyone give me some advice? Thanks!

8/12/2007 9:19:42 AM

Hi my name is Kasandra Griffin. I am looking for a milking goat. I wondered if you had any for sale.I'm looking for a Nubian with different colored patches on it.I need it this spring to milk.It needs to be milking already.Thank You,Kasandra.

7/17/2007 7:35:08 PM

Hi my name is Eli. I am trying to talk my mom into buying us a milk goat. What breed's milk taste the best to DRINK or most like cows milk? We are not interested in making cheese or butter, just to drink and have with cereal. Also do you sell goats? Thank you so much, Eli

5/22/2007 1:27:21 PM

hi my name is brenda prewitt, i live in caneyville ky . i have been digging the internet looking to buy a good female milk goat, that is ready to milk now , do u have any for sale thank u ,

3/7/2007 7:26:33 PM

http://www.motherearthnews.com/Livestock-and-Farming/2002-06-01/Want-Milk-Get-Goats.aspx On this page, when you are first listing the breeds of dairy goats most widley kept, you call my sweet saanens "sadness" goats. Please fix this...... Blessings......

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