When you want a goat for milk and you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and really start looking, you have to wonder about the breed of doe you really need.
All goats produce milk after giving birth, why get a specific breed of goat? Is the fuss over “dairy goat breeds” really something that matters?
All breeds of goats will produce milk and could be milked once the doe (female) has given birth. Only dairy goat breeds will produce a high enough volume of milk per doe to adequately provide for your household needs.
Any breed of goat can be milked
If all you are after is goat milk, then any breed of goat will do.
Most people would be wanting more milk per doe (a female goat that has had a baby). If you are looking for good milk production, the choice of goat should be a well established dairy breed from an established dairy goat breeder.
All female goats produce milk after giving birth
All female goats produce milk for their kids. Even goats kept as a meat breed will still lactate (produce milk) because all goat babies, regardless of breed, need milk for the first few months of life.
Goats producing milk are in their lactation period
For anyone unfamiliar, lactation means milking. When you are talking about dairy animals, you are talking about lactation length or lactation period, meaning how many days does the doe produce milk.
It’s not about if you get milk from the doe, once she has had her babies, you could. The question is, is milking her the best use of your time and resources? Is milking her worth your effort?
Nigerian Dwarf Goats is an article I wrote about a great little dairy breed that is becoming more popular with folks that are new to goats.
Milking a non dairy doe is doable, but will result in less milk
My daughter milked her half Boer half Kiko doe last summer. She was getting a quart per milking until their yard was all eaten then the milk production went to near nothing.
If they had provided grain or nicer hay to the goat, she would have kept milking, but they decided to let her dry up rather than ramp up the feed to get more milk.
They would need to get a dairy goat to get a more reliable milk supply, but that would also require more high energy feed and daily care, as well.
Dairy breed goats will milk more than other breeds
As mentioned above, the most milk for your time and effort of keeping a milk goat will come from a good dairy doe.
Dairy breed goats have been selected over generations to make more milk for the feed you give them than other more meat type breeds of goats.
Additionally, dairy goats have been selected for traits that make milking her easier on you, like good attitude udder support and teat size.
How Often Does A Goat Need To Be Milked gives you the most common milking schedule and the reasons for it.
A good dairy doe will have a longer lactation
While all female goats will produce milk once they have given birth, only goats with dairy based genetics will have persistence in their lactation, meaning the lactation period will be longer for dairy goats than meat goats.
For a dairy goat, a good lactation length is 305 days, this is the same as a dairy cow. For a doe feeding her kids and not being milked by people, she will produce milk for 60 days or so then not milk much at all since her kids don’t’ need it.
Length of lactation will make a big difference in total milk per lactation.
For example: if your goat produces .5 gallons of milk per day for 180 days (6 months) you’ll get a total of 720 pounds of milk for this lactation.
If your doe has a lactation of 10 months instead (this is the 305 day lactation), she will produce a total of 1,220 pounds of milk for that lactation, even with the daily milk total staying at .5 gallons.
The only difference here is the number of days milking.
If you want a good milking doe, not only does she need to milk well, she needs to keep up with the milk volume through most of the year. This requires good genetics and management.
Not all dairy goats are high producers
It is important to get your diary goat from a breeder who has been into dairy goat for a while and is actively milking her goats. Not just a breeder that has goat that would be considered a dairy breed.
This is a big deal. Not all goats are created equally, by that I mean the genetics and performance behind the goat’s parentage.
Some dairy goats are not selected for milk production. As crazy as this sounds, you’ll see this once you start looking for a dairy goat for yourself.
These could be show goats or kept as pets or even from hobby goat herds that are selected to make the owner happy, which is super but not what will serve you the best if you are wanting a steady supply of goat milk.
Here’s a great chart from Penn State Extension on average milk production per breed (scroll down through the article to see the chart). It’s worth your time to take a look, some of the variations are stunning!
|Dairy breed|| Milk production of low to average does|
(pounds per lactation)
(not adjusted for age or 270 vs. 305 days)
|Alpine||790-2,266||2.9x more milk from higher producers|
|LaMancha||740-2,100||2.8x more milk from higher producers|
|Nubian||560-1,820||3.25x more milk from higher producers|
|Oberhasli||930-2,146||2.3x more milk from higher producers|
|Saanen||610-2,577||4.2x more milk from higher producers|
|Toggenberg||940-2,155||2.3x more milk from higher producers|
When looking at this chart, please realize my point is that there is a huge range in production, not that you should expect to get the highest production from your goat.
This comparison was made to give you an idea of the variety in results, due in large part to genetics, but also management.
For more milk, get your doe from an established breeder
If you want good production, get your dairy goat from a breeder that is focusing on milk and high quality goats.
The differences in milk production from doe to doe within the same breed can be stunning! If you are counting on a 305 day lactation, get your goats from someone who is making that happen on a regular basis.
An additional bonus is, you’ll have a super mentor to help you with your goat’s nutrition and management, when you get your doe from an experienced dairy goat breeder.