Dairy goats are not nearly as numerous as dairy cattle in the United States, but, for many other countries of the world, they are the leading milk producers because they are well adapted to limited areas and require less specialized feed, most of which can be produced by the small land owner. There are actually more people consuming dairy goat products in the world than those consuming the products from dairy cattle. This is because the goat population is large in mountainous areas where they can thrive on grass and browse on brush; whereas, the limited feed in these areas will not support dairy cattle. The goat is very helpful to people in small, hilly, dry, countries. In this country, the dairy goat eats much the same feeds as dairy cattle because we have the land areas to grow these feeds. As our populations expand and there is more competition for land areas, dairy goat numbers may increase. The animals are ideal for the small rural dweller that works in the city and lives in the country.
There are six types of dairy goats that are recognized by the American
Dairy Goat Association. They are Nubians, LaManchas, Alpines,
Oberhaslis, Togenburgs, and Saanens.
ears, instead of being short, narrow, and alert, will be wide, flat, flared forward at the ends, and pendulous. They should extend past the end of the muzzle when held flat along the face. The muzzle should be almost as wide and deep as that of the Toggenburg, and width between the sleepy looking, droopy-lidded eyes should be great, but between the eyes and muzzle is a lot of difference. The bridge of the nose should arch severely forward, forming a strong convex shape, or Roman nose.
Although the Nubian should have the angularity and smoothness of the other breeds, it will have a tendency to more fleshiness, especially in the withers and thighs. There may also be more slope to the rump due to slightly higher hip bones, which may also give the topline a slope downward to the withers.
Their milk tends to be higher in protein and butter fat than other breeds. They tend to be a little bit more stubborn than other dairy goats and make a distinctive sound. The Nubien is also more heat tolerant and less cold tolerant than Swiss breeds which may have something to do with its pendulous ears.
ears are the most obvious breed difference. They almost do not exist. Gopher ears, which are a must on bucks, contain no cartilage. They appear as wrinkled folds of skin that lie close to the head. Elf ears, which may be found on does, come in many shapes and sizes, contain cartilage and skin, and they must look very small in comparison with the size of the doe's head.
The LaMancha may carry a little more flesh than the Swiss breeds do, but not as much as the Nubian. The head and muzzle should be wide, as in the other breeds, and the nose will probably be concave. Any coat color is acceptable, and the hair is short and fine. The La Mancha is of medium size but is very strong and hardy and well suited to Newfoundland or Canadian conditions.
The Alpine is sleek, short-haired, and multicolored. It tends to look larger, "rangier," and more fine boned than the Toggenburg, with more space between the ground and the underline of the body. Although the angularity and width should still be present, they may not be as obvious as in the Toggenburg. The head should be wide between the very alert eyes, but because of it's long body, the width may not be as apparent as in other breeds. The "dish" in the bridge of the nose will be less severe than other breeds, sometimes being almost straight. The Alpine is medium to large in size and is considered a good milker with long lactations. They are popular with dairies due the amount of milk they produce.
The Oberhasli was formerly known as the Swiss Alpine in the United States and is of medium size and has an alert appearance. The Oberhasli is shorter and heavier than the Alpine and has a shorter, wider head. The Oberhasli is also less "leggy" than the Alpine. The face is straight and the ears are upright. Its color is distinctive, being chamoisee, ranging from light bay to dark mahogany. This distinctive color is combined with black ears, facial stripes, dorsal stripe, belly, udder (especially after exposure to the sun), and cannons. Does may be black, but the bay color is preferred. Black bucks are not eligible for registration. Bucks usually have more black on the head than the does, with black hair on shoulders and chest, and black whiskers. A few white hairs scattered throughout the coat are permitted; bucks frequently have more white hairs than does.
Toggenburg may tend to be the most angular of the major breeds, being small and compact and showing a lot of width and depth. The head is wide between mellow eyes, and it supports short, narrow, alert ears. The muzzle is deep and wide, and the bridge of the nose is strongly concave or "dished".
The breed has very specific color requirements. The coat may be long when not trimmed, and the hair is fine. The color is some shade of brown with white lining on the ears , white facial stripes, white lower legs, and white triangles at the base of the tail. They are the smallest of the dairy breeds and are noted for their hardiness and adaptability to all climates.
Saanens are usually pure white. The Saanen may appear almost as rangy as the Alpine, but will be larger and heavier, containing more "substance". The length of the head resembles the Alpine, but the ears may be longer and the eyes more mellow. The muzzle will be wider and deeper, and the bridge of the nose will be nearly straight, with less "dish" than other breeds. The Saanen must be pure white with no markings, although shades of cream may be acceptable. The hair often grows long, and it may tend to be heavier and perhaps coarser. The pure white color refers to hair color only. Spots of black pigment on the skin, like freckles, are normal. They are also very adaptable and can do well in almost any environment.
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