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

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   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.

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