Finding the Best Dairy Goats

Learn what to look for when buying a dairy goat.

| March/April 1977

Over the past decade or so, dairy goats have become enormously popular among back-to-the-landers, and even some small town folks, who've decided to become milk self-sufficient. And no wonder: Goats cost only about a third as much as dairy cows, yet — pound for pound (of body weight) — nannies produce more milk than their bovine peers, eat only a sixth to an eighth the feed, require less space, and are a whole lot easier for a woman or child to manage. (Besides which, of course, goats are charming and intelligent "people!")

Finding and buying a good dairy goat can be a confusing task, however, unless you're fortunate enough to have the assistance of someone like JoAnn Salmonowicz of Lapeer, Michigan. JoAnn is a longtime nanny-raiser, a licensed American Dairy Goat Association judge and the author of the following article.

Unless you know what to look for, buying a dairy goat can be downright risky, especially the first time around. Prices vary tremendously, and it's easy for the inexperienced buyer to be conned into paying hundreds of dollars for an inferior cull.

You needn't make a bad purchase, though — even if you've never shopped for a goat before — as long as you know how to properly evaluate exaggerated milk production claims and determine for yourself whether a given animal is (or will be) a healthy milker. With the advice I'm about to give you here, you should be able to do both.  

Three Ways to Go

Before you begin to look for a goat, you should decide whether you want to buy a female kid, a dry doe (that is, a non-lactating adult female) or an actively producing milker. Each kind of nanny has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance ...

Kid Goats: Cute but Risky

As cute as kids are, they're a risky buy, particularly if the dam (that's the mother) isn't around for your inspection. Because unless you know something about the mother's characteristics, there's no telling how the youngster will turn out. You may very well find — after feeding the animal for a year, paying to have her bred and (perhaps) becoming attached to her — that your goat only gives a pint of milk per day. (Such performance is, unfortunately, quite common.)

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