If you are considering raising goats on your homestead, you need to understand the various goat breeds available. There are over 200 goat breeds throughout the world. Choosing one can be difficult. If you know your purpose, selecting a breed that matches your needs will be easier.
Deciding Your Purpose
Before you can choose between all the goat breeds available, think about your purpose for having goats. Do you want to receive milk daily for your family? Then you want a dairy breed. Are you looking to supplement the meat in your freezer, then you are wanting a meat breed. If a pet is all you are interested in then a miniature breed is for you. Maybe you wish to have yarn to knit with. Your choice would be a fiber breed. No breed is really any better than the other as long as it is suited for your purpose.
The Dairy Goat Breeds
A goat that produces more milk than what its offspring can consume is called a dairy goat. The term dairy character is referring to the characteristics that lead you to believe a doe will be a great milker.
Signs of a good milker:
- The udder is soft, wide and round.
- All teats should be the same size and hang evenly.
- The skin should be soft.
- Rib cage should be well-rounded.
- Jaw should close properly and be strong.
- Legs should be sturdy and strong.
- It’s coat should be smooth.
United States Dairy Goat Breeds
The Swiss Goat Breeds
These Swiss breeds of goats include; Alpines, Oberhaaslis, Saanens, Toggerburgs. Most of the goats of this breed have upright ears and dished faces. These goats thrive in colder climates as they originated in the Swiss Alps.
Alpines: These goats have longer necks than most. They have two-toned coats. The front is usually a different color than the back end on these goats. As adults, the doe will weigh around 135 pounds and a buck, around 175 pounds.
Oberhaslis: The coats on these goats are usually a reddish-brown in color with black markings throughout. The doe usually weighs in at 120 pounds and the buck, around 150 pounds.
Saanens: These goats are all white or a cream-colored. If a Saanen is any other color it is called a Sable. The doe usually weighs in at 135 pounds and the buck, around 170 pounds.
Toggenburgs: Toggenburgs are usually shades of light to dark brown. The have mostly white ears, white stripes on their faces, and predominantly white legs. The doe weighs around 120 pounds at maturity and the buck, right around 150 pounds.
Tropical or Desert Goat Breeds
The tropical or desert goat breeds originated in warmer climates, and these include the LaManchas and the Nubians.
LaManchas: These are the calmest of the dairy goat breeds. They can come in just about any color. Their ears are very tiny and sometimes they can’t be seen at all. The doe weighs about 130 pounds and the buck weighs about 160 pounds.
Nubians: Nubians have more energy than most dairy goats. These goats are easy to identify because of their very round faces and floppy ears. A doe averages 135 pounds at maturity and the buck averages 170 pounds.
The Meat Goat Breeds
The number on reason for keeping goats all over the world is meat. Some countries prefer goat meat over beef and pork. Goat meat is packed full of protein and is considered a lean meat.
3 names for goat meat:
Cabrito or Chevrette: This is the meat from a 2 to a 3-month-old kid that weighs around 25 to 30 pounds.
Chevron: Chevron is the meat from a one-year-old wether weighing about 85 to 90 pounds.
Chico or Mutton: This is the meat of older goats.
Brush goats: These goats are sometimes called range goats. They are usually left to roam over brushy locations to clear the land. They are also sometimes called Spanish goats since they were first brought to the America’s by the Spanish. These are a type of goat, though, not a breed.
San Clemente’s: So named because they were abandoned on San Clemente Island by the Spanish explorers. the breed is in danger of disappearing and is under conservation currently. These goats are smaller in size than most meat breeds. They are usually tan or red with black markings. The mature doe weighs about 35 to 75 pounds and the buck, 45 to 85 pounds.
Myotonic Goats: These goats are also not a breed. They actually suffer from a genetic disorder called myotonia. When these goats become scared their legs go stiff. If they fall to the ground, they remain there until the paralyzing in their legs returns to normal, and they can move again. These are more often called fainting goats. Myotonic goats make great pets because they do not jump and climb like most other goats. They are, however, very easy prey for predators. A mature doe weighs around 75 pounds and a buck weighs about 135 pounds.
Miniature Goat Breeds
MIiniature goats are much smaller and are usually easier to handle. They do give less milk, but they also require less space. There are 2 breeds of miniature goats, a Nigerian Dwarf, and an African Pygmy. Although both types look a lot alike, the Nigerian is a dairy breed and the Pygmy is a meat breed. The Pygmy, however, produces just as much milk as the Nigerian.
Miniature goats provide about 300 quarts or 600 pounds of milk in a year from one doe. This is about half of the amount you would get from a regular sized goat. Milk seems to taste sweeter from the miniatures, perhaps from it’s much higher fat content.
African Pygmy: These breeds have dished faces and a two-toned coat, much like the salt and pepper look. A mature doe weighs around 35 to 65 pounds and the buck, 50 to 75 pounds.
Nigerian Dwarf: These goats are more lean and muscular than the Africans. Their faces tend to be flatter and only slightly dish shaped. They are smaller than the Pygmies. Their necks are much longer and their hair is finer and shorter. Mature does weigh around 35 to 50 pounds and the buck, 35 to 60 pounds.
Fiber Goat Breeds
There are two kinds of fiber goats that are known for their fine hair. These are the Angora Goats and the Cashmere Goats. Both of these goats provide fiber than can be spun into yarn.
Angora Goats: These goats originally came from the Himalayan Mountains, then later, were moved to Turkey. They derive their name from the capital of Turkey, Ankara. Angora’s are very calm and gentle coats. they have floppy ears and shorter faces that can be slightly rounded or straight.Their hair is called mohair. Their long silky and wavy hair is sheared two times a year, usually in the spring and again in the fall. The average doe produces around 10 to 14 pounds of hair per year. The wether produces slightly more.
When choosing these goats, you simply part the hair and take a close look for their pink skin underneath. Angoras that show a lot of skin are not the best choice, as you want to see as little skin as possible. Make sure the face and ears don’t appear chalky.
The long straight hairs that you will see are call kemp. Pure mohair will be a creamy white color if there are other colors the goat has been crossbred and the hair will not be as valuable when selling it. Angora does weigh on average about 75 pounds, whereas the buck, weighs about 150 pounds.
Cashmere Goats: Cashmere is not really a breed of goats. The term cashmere comes from the Himalayan state of Kashmir and stands for the softer, finer, downy coat hair that is found on Cashmere goats. The downy coats that these goats grow are common to goats from this area of the world, as they need it to stay warm. like mohair, cashmere is usually white but can come in tan, gray, black, and brown. The average cashmere goat only produces about 1/3 pound of down per year, the reason it is so valuable on the market.
There are around 68 different breeds of cashmere goats in the world. In the United States, cashmere usually comes from Spanish goats and myotonic goats.A high-quality cashmere goat can bring you a few thousand dollars in the marketplace.
Finding a Seller and Purchasing
When you are ready to purchase the goat breed of your choice, try and find a seller close to home. These goats will be well-adapted to your area. Also, having a seller close to home allows you to have someone to go to if you have problems or questions in the future, not to mention you will see where they came from and the health of the rest of the goats.
If you don’t know where to find a local seller, check with the local feed stores for a recommendation, your local veterinarian, or the local ag center in your town. One of these people will probably be able to recommend someone reputable for you to talk to. Make sure your goats look healthy and strong and show no signs of bad health before you purchase.
Download and print your free PDF “Inspection Checklist” here. Using this checklist will help you identify whether the goat or goats you are thinking about buying are healthy and happy, therefore making them a wise purchase to make.
Registered Goat Breeds
It is not necessary to buy registered goats unless you plan to show your goats, or if you prefer to have papers for yourself. Cost may help make the decision in whether to purchase a registered animal. These animals are usually higher in price than those that are unregistered. If you do prefer a registered animal, make sure the seller can provide the animals papers upon purchase, don’t allow them to mail them or deliver them later. It is not unheard of for a seller to say they will give the papers later and it never coming to pass.
Understanding a bit about the different goat breeds available to you and the area where you live will help you make the best choice not only for you but for your goats also. Do you have a particular breed you want to raise? Do you raise goats already? Tell me your preferences and why you chose the breed or breeds you did in the comments below to help our readers gain more information so they may make a better choice.
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