Getting Started with Dairy Goats

If you are a potential dairy goat owner, but you are not sure where to start, here are some steps that you might find useful, in terms of gathering information. While not complete, it will assist you be successful.

 

Educate Yourself About Housing and Fencing Needs

Dairy goats need protection from wild and domestic predators, from poisonous plants and shelter from adverse weather. Your specific needs will vary by location.  Do It Yourself books can be found  online. Quality housing and fencing are critical to the safety and well-being of your animals.

Many dairy goat owners use livestock guardian dogs or other guardian animals to stay with the goat herd 24 hours daily. Domestic and feral dogs account for most attacks on dairy goats.

 

Learn About Management and Care of Dairy Goats

Read an introduction to management and care of dairy goats

In addition, you can find your books and resources online as well.

The old proverb “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” couldn’t be more applicable to managing your new dairy goat herd.

 

Learn About Milk Sale Law

Before you sell milk or milk products, you need to be aware of laws regulating those activities in your state and country as it may varies from state to states. You should be aware of the laws in your area as well as the potential risks associated with consuming unpasteurized dairy products.

As a beginner read about the key factors in successful  marketing goat milk products.

 

Learn About ALPHA S1 CASEIN Testing

Read about ALPHA S1 CASEIN Effects on cheese making

The a s1-casein is a protein polymorphism of goat milk, and is one found in all dairy goat breeds.

If you are interested in this testing for your does or buck you can approach ADGA.

 

Learn About Dairy Goats Lactation

Read about Compare dairy goats lactation

Lactation length and milk yield and composition for selected breeds of goats.

 

Understand and Determine which Goat Breeds Best Suit Your Goals

Read about breeds to consider and the basic descriptions of each dairy goat breed

Visit farms that raise the breed(s) of goats you are considering.

 

Conclusion

There’s a lot more to learn about keeping a dairy herd. However hopefully, this overview will help you be mentally prepared as you start your journey with dairy goats.


Understand and Determine which Goat Breeds Best Suit You

 

I recommend that you visit farms that raise the breed(s) of goats you are considering. It is imperatives that visiting farms will enable you to determine local availability of quality sires. And, talking to more than one breeder to gain a balanced perspective.

 

Once you decide on a breed, it is imperatives to learn the breed standards before you make your first purchase. It is also important for predicting goat production characteristics and reproduction consistency. To produce milk, does must be bred and give birth to kids.

 

Alternatively, this list can assist you to understand  and determine which breed(s) can help you achieve your goals.

 

List of dairy goat breeds to consider:

 

  1. Toggenburg – Toggenburg does are at least 26 inches tall and weigh 120 pounds while bucks are at least 28 inches tall and weigh 150 pounds. Hair colour is solid, varying from light fawn to dark chocolate with correct white or cream markings. Does may be black with correct white or cream markings. The ears are erect and carried forward. The bridge of the nose may be straight or dished.

Toggenburgs were among the first purebred dairy goats to be imported into the United States  and registered.

  1. Alpine – Alpine does are at least 30 inches tall and weigh 135 pounds while bucks are at least 32 inches tall and weigh 170 pounds. They have erect ears and come in many colours and colour combinations. The hair is medium to short and the bridge of the nose is straight.

Alpine is known for being a hardy, adaptable animal that thrives in any climate while                maintaining good health and excellent production.

  1. Nubian – Nubian does are at least 30 inches tall and weigh 135 pounds, while bucks are at least 32 inches tall and weigh 170 pounds. The head is the distinctive breed characteristic with the facial profile between the eyes and the muzzle being strongly convex, often referred to as – Roman nose. The ears are hanging down and flaring out and forward at their rounded tip and extending at least one inch below the muzzle. Nubians may be any color, solid or patterned. The hair is short, fine and glossy.

Nubian is also known for the high butterfat and protein content of its milk.

  1. Saanen – Saanen does are at least 30 inches tall and weigh 135 pounds while bucks are at least 32 inches tall and weigh 170 pounds. Saanens are distinguished by solid white or light cream-colored hair. Spots may exist on the skin and a spot in the hair up to 1 ½ inches across is allowable. Saanen ears are erect, and the bridge of the nose is either straight or dished.

Saanen is a favorite for commercial dairies due to its high milk production and calm            temperament.

  1. Sable – Sable does are at least 30 inches tall and weigh 135 pounds while bucks are at least 32 inches tall and weigh 170 pounds. Sables may be any color or combination of colors except solid white or sold light cream. The hair is short, and the ears should be erect. The bridge of the nose should either be straight or dished.

Sables have the same high milk production and calm temperament as the Saanen.

  1. LaMancha – LaMancha does are at least 28 inches tall and weigh 130 pounds while bucks are at least 30 inches tall and weigh 160 pounds. The hair is short, fine and glossy and the bridge of the nose is straight. Any colour or colour combination is acceptable. The distinctive feature of LaMancha is very short ears. Bucks may have ears no longer than one inch with little or no cartilage. Does may have ears up to two inches in length.

LaMancha breed was developed in the United States and is known for its calm nature. It          produces well in a variety of climates and conditions.

  1. Oberhasli – Oberhasli does are at least 28 inches tall and weigh 120 pounds while bucks are at least 30 inches tall and weigh 150 pounds. Oberhasli have short erect ears and the bridge of the nose should be either straight or dished. Oberhasli colour is described as bay, ranging from light to a deep red bay with correct black markings. Does may also be solid black.

This Oberhasli is also known for its calm disposition.

  1. Nigerian Dwarf – Nigerian Dwarf does are at least 17 inches tall and may be no taller than 22.5 inches. Bucks are also at least 17 inches tall and 75 pounds is an average weight. Many colour combinations are common, the ears are of medium length and erect, and the bridge of the nose is either straight or dished. The hair is short and fine. Nigerian Dwarf was also developed in the United States.

This Nigerian Dwarf small does but, the doe produces a proportionate quantity of milk with high butterfat.

 

The volume and composition of milk produced is controlled by the goat’s genetics but greatly influenced by the diet consumed.

 

 

Management And Care Of Dairy Goats

The modern dairy goat produces milk of the highest quality and dairy goats are one of the most useful animals you can keep. Not only are they easy to look after and feed, they produce quality milk to make cheese, butter, yogurt and drinks. Unwanted kids are excellent as a source of meat for the house, the skins tan well and the fat is used to make soap. The female dairy goat is a doe; the male, a buck; the young, kids; and a castrated male, a wether. Their life span is about eight to twelve years.

Some of the basics know how about the management of dairy goats are:

 

Management

Ideally, goats should be dehorned when they are very young. It is advisable to wait until they are 1-2 weeks of age and in good flesh to be sure they are healthy and not coming down with neonatal diarrhea. If discolored skin is fixed to the skull in two rosettes, horn buds are present. Moveable skin indicates a naturally hornless condition.

Hooves should be trimmed frequently to assure proper development of the hoof.

To check the health of goats and determine suspected illness, it is useful to know their normal physiological values. Pulse is about 83 per minute ranging from 50 to 115. Respiration is around 29 per minute with a range from 15 to 50. Body temperature is about 103.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keeping good weight records is important for proper feeding and medication, besides good management. Tapes can be used for estimation of weight by measuring the heart girth behind the forelegs. There also exists normal growth curve to age-weight relationships. For large breed male goats, they are in average as follows: 1 month-25 lb., 3 months-55 lb., 6 months-85 lb., 9 months-110 lb., 12 months-130 lb., 18 months-155 lb., 24 months-170 lb., 36 months-205 lb. For smaller breeds and females, these standards are less, proportionate to the lesser adult body weight.

Feeding

Dairy goats need a year-round supply of roughage, such as pasture, browse or well-cured hay. Winter browse and pastures should be supplemented with hay. Milking, breeding and growing stock need a daily portion of legume hay, such as alfalfa. Kids and bucks need a balanced grain ration and milkers should be fed a standard dairy grain ration. Kids are milk fed until two to three months of age, but should be consuming forages such as pasture grass or hay by two weeks of age and grain within four. All dairy goats must have salt and fresh clean water. Mineral supplements are desirable.

Dairy goats have fastidious eating habits and are particular about the cleanliness of their food. Their natural curiosity may lead them to investigate newly found items by sniffing and nibbling, but they quickly refuse anything that is dirty or distasteful.

 

Pasture

Dairy goats will graze grass pastures, but prefer to browse brushlands and a varied selection of pasture plants, including non-noxious weeds. Dairy goats seldom thrive when tethered. They may be kept in a dry lot if fed adequate roughage and allowed shade and space for exercise. Dairy goats are curious and agile and require well built fences for containment and protection from predators.

In temperate climates, one-half acre of land per milking goat should be plenty. Under arid conditions, people must guard against the danger of overgrazing. Overstocking in temperate climates is also bad for goats, since it increases reinfestation of internal parasites. Rotational pasturing is one of the successful controls.

 

Housing

Dairy goats can be kept successfully in all climates. They do not need elaborate housing, but do require clean, dry, well ventilated, draft free shelter. Dirt pen floors are preferred over cement. At least 15 square feet of bedded area should be provided for each goat. The outside exercise lot should provide a minimum of 25 square feet of space per animal, well-drained and properly fenced. Dairy goats have a strong herd instinct and prefer the companionship of at least one other goat.

Bucks should be kept in separate quarters away from milking does.

 

 

 

Compare Dairy Goats Lactation

 

The table below represent the lactation trend curve for goat  milk yield in total kg, over time, represents actual records in the database for selected  animals that had a record of 230-305 days in goat milk.

 

Lactation length and milk yield and composition for selected breeds of goats.

 

Breed,Length,d  Total milk,kg  Milk yield%, Milk fat%, Milk protein%, Lactose% Total%Energy

kcal/kg

Alpine    248    106  2.66   3.33   3.10   4.53   11.05    679
Anglo-Nubian 270–305     592  0.90   3.71   3.29   4.23   12.10    716
Boer      –       –  1.72   5.88   4.02   4.95   14.73    907
Canaria (Canary)   251     183  0.79   3.96   3.72   4.66   12.77    754
Damascus   270     378  1.88   4.46   3.82   3.60   12.94    795
La Mancha 270–305 720-800  2,63   4.95   3.34      –   13.67    807
Maltese   250     283  2.23   3.77   3.14   4.60       –    713
Murciana-Granadina   231     368  1.70   4.59   3.48   4.84   13.01    788
Nordic 250–300 600-700  1.92   4.28   2.87   4.29   11.25    736
Saanen   250     615  2.55   3.28   2.94   4.28   11.52    667
Toggenburg   245     424  1.82   3.37   2.96   4,26   13.14    675

 

The six major dairy goat breeds are the Saanen, Nubian, Toggenburg, LaMancha, Oberhasli, and Alpine.

 

Volume and composition of milk produced is controlled by the goat’s genetics but greatly influenced by the diet consumed. To maintain milk production and good health, goats should be fed a diet balanced for energy, protein, minerals, and vitamins based on requirements. To reduce costs, forages such as hay, silage, and pasture should constitute a majority of the daily diet. Goats are efficient browsers and can select a high-quality diet from lower-quality forages, especially when consuming nontraditional pasture plants.

 

Supplementing the diet with grain mixes to provide additional energy and protein is important, especially during lactation. Grain mixes may also contain supplemental minerals and vitamins. Feeding grain should be limited because a high-grain diet with low fiber intake can lead to rumen health problems (e.g., indigestion, acidosis) and lower milk fat content. Availability of dietary energy is important for high milk yield, while protein and fiber affect milk quality. High-producing does require quality forages and supplemental grain at a rate of 1 pound per 2.5 to 3 pounds of milk. Forages generally do not contain sufficient minerals to meet dietary requirements, so supplements are usually required.

 

To ensure efficiency and productivity of a dairy goat enterprise, the three most important recommendations are as follows:

 

  • Manage young does to have them ready for breeding at 7 months of age. This increases the total lifetime herd production of milk and meat and reduces the number of non-producing animals in the herd at any one time.
  • Encourage freshening of the does over as wide a time span as possible. This provides the customers with a year-round source of milk.
  • Cull animals to eliminate low producers. This can increase the herd productivity if animals are culled for genetic reasons.