This post is part of the 30 Ways of of Homesteading blog series hosted by the Prepared Bloggers Network during the month of April. Scroll to the bottom of the post and check out some of the 29 other great bloggers participating!
Selecting a goat breed for your homestead is the first step on the road to goat farming. If you’re anything like us you’re reading this blog because somewhere in you lies a desire to live more simply. You’ve probably felt the desire to build a life which resembles that of your ancestors. I know that we have long desired to grow closer to our food, to learn more about where it comes from and what went into making it. But like most people we had NO idea where to start – having zero farming/gardening experience. So you plant a few seeds, it feels good. You read about how easy chickens are to keep in a small backyard, so you get some chickens and soon you find yourself eating veggies you grew from scratch, and eggs that you picked up that very morning — it’s INTOXICATING… and you want more… but what comes next?
In our experience it all REALLY starts with a chicken… We had ours for about a month before I had the overwhelming desire to get a few goats. Roddy was initially not on board with idea. Worse still, we live on my in-laws property (in our own trailer house) and while they are incredibly supportive of my obsessions – my mom-in-law was completely on board with getting chickens – goats were a step too far for them. My in-laws have stories of coming outside in the morning to find goats perched on the hood of cars. Yes, they took some convincing.
But happily they came around in time and finally agreed to let me get muh goats! In the interim I read everything I could get my hands on about goat-keeping… (goat-herding?) By the time we had our “Yes!” I had already mentally designed the perfect, low-cost, no-fail goat pen. Selected the perfect, “easy to contain” goats. Researched feeds. And had even found a few local goat-keepers who had goats for sale. Honestly, I am glad that we had that time. I’ve read so many stories about inadequate housing, mix-ups with feeding, breeding and sick goats coming to their new home to find an owner who is completely unprepared to care for them adequately.
So you want to get a goat? That’s AWESOME! Please, take your time. Don’t rush into goats until you’ve read all you can read on them, have a clear, adequate plan for their housing and feed and care, and have a handful of experienced goat-keepers on speed dial should anything go wrong.
Selecting a goat breed for your homestead is a very important first step.
Let’s start with the basics…
Selecting a Goat Breed that Suits Your Needs
Why do you want goats? I mean I KNOW how awesome they are, but what do you intend to keep them for? Will they be pets? For meat? For milk? This is really the first question to ask yourself. Of course you can eat just about any goat, and you can also milk almost any goat. But if you’re really looking to supplement your family of 4’s meat supply then a pygmy goat probably won’t suffice. Likewise, if your family deals with lactose intolerance and you’d like to keep goats for their gut-friendly milk then a Boer goat is probably not ideal.
There are many breeds of goats in the United States, I will highlight some of the more common ones.
– Nigerian: This is the breed we chose for our farm. Here’s why:
1) We want milk, but we are a family of two, so we’re not going to need a gallon a day. We’re also new to goat milk and so for right now I don’t have a recipe book full of “things to make with goat milk”. Being new to goat milk, taste is important and Nigerians produce a milk that is sweet to taste. Nigerians are also easier to handle, but large enough for me to milk comfortably on a milk stand.
2) We have limited space. My in-laws were skeptical about the whole “goat thing” from the start, so I hardly wanted to prance in here with a herd of Toggenburgs. Security of the pen was important – no more goats on cars!! And we felt that a smaller goat would be easier to contain and easier for us newbies to work with.
3) This one was more important to me than to the hubs — they’re STINKIN CUTE! 😉
– Saanen: Saanens originated in Switzerland, but they’re the second most popular breed of dairy goat in the US. They usually have a large udder capacity and are popular with dairies due to the quality of milk they produce.
– Alpine: Alpines originated in the French Alps and made their arrival in 1920. Alpines are most dairy goat keeper’s top choice because they are the leading milk producing breed.
– Nubian: Nubians have long floppy ears. I feel like this is the breed I see most commonly on homestead blogs and sites. Nubians tend to produce less milk than other larger breeds, but their milk is usually higher in protein and butter fat content. They can be a somewhat stubborn breed.
– La Mancha: La Manchas are sometimes called “the earless goats” but really this isn’t true. They DO have ears, they’re just tiny – about 1 inch. They are known to be a calm and docile breed and are very versatile on a homestead.
– Oberhasli: Oberhaslis are also sometimes referred to as Swiss Alpines. They are a very specific combination of black and brown in color and are a medium-small breed which still produces a moderately high yield of milk for their size.
– Toggenburg: Toggenburgs are the oldest registered breed of any kind of livestock. They are lively and spirited <– these are keywords for “hard to contain” and can weigh as much as 120 lbs! They’re average milk producers.
– Boer: I am partial to these guys because they hail originally from my native homeland of South Africa where they were selected for their incredible body shape, rapid rate of growth, and fertility. If they were humans their frame would be described as “thick”, not fat, not thin but full bodied and quite muscular. They are usually white and reddish-brown in color, but I have also seen some with black markings. If I were to add another breed of goat to our stock I would love to have a few Boers. It’s going to take some serious convincing though. lol
– Spanish: Boer goats have only been in the US since the ’80s, but before they arrived on these shores the Spanish goat was the leading meat goat especially where I live here in the South. Descendants of goats brought by Spanish explorers, Spanish breed goats are medium-sized and lanky, mostly short-haired, and come in all colors. They have long, often twisty horns.
– Kiko goats: Kiko’s are native’s of New Zealand – Kiwi goats! 😉 They’re relative newcomers to the US having only arrived in the 1990s. If you’re thinking about doing a little cross-over milking, Kikos are not going to be a good fit for you as they are strictly meat goats. Something to note: Kikos will require more pasture space than most of us with a small/backyard homestead have available.
I have limited knowledge and information on Fiber goats so I did a little digging and found this great resource if fiber goats are what you’re looking for. I do know that there are two main fiber goat breeds:
We’re into goats for production AND companionship so I have limited information on the following breeds. I have linked each to other expert information sources.
So there you have it folks! Hopefully this takes some of the mystery out of selecting a goat breed for your homestead.
Which goat is right for your situation? What things are you considering when selecting a goat breed? Have you had a good/bad experience with one of these breeds? Let me know in the comments below.
The Prepared Bloggers Network is at it again! We’re glad you’ve found us, because the month of April is all about homesteading.
Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by growing your own food, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may even involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale. Most importantly homesteading is not defined by where someone lives, such as the city or the country, but by the lifestyle choices they make.
The Prepared Bloggers are passionate about what they do and they each have their own way of achieving self-sufficiency. Grab your favorite drink and enjoy reading about the 30 Ways of Homesteading!
Crops on the Homestead
Straw Bale Gardening from PreparednessMama
Crop Rotation for the Backyard Homesteader from Imperfectly Happy
Benefits of Growing Fruit from SchneiderPeeps
Succession Planting: More Food in the Same Space from 104 Homestead
Crops to Grow for Food Storage from Grow A Good Life
Winter Gardening Series from Our Stoney Acres
How To Build a Raised Garden Bed For Under $12 from Frugal Mama and The Sprout
How to Save Carrot Seeds from Food Storage and Survival
Animals on the Homestead
Getting Your Bees Started from Game and Garden
Homesteading How-To: Bees from Tennessee Homestead
How to Get Ready for Chicks from The Homesteading Hippy
Adding New Poultry and Livestock from Timber Creek Farm
Beekeeping 101: 5 Things To Do Before Your Bees Arrive from Home Ready Home
How to Prepare for Baby Goats from Homestead Lady
How to Prevent and Naturally Treat Mastitis in the Family Milk Cow from North Country Farmer
Tips to Raising Livestock from Melissa K. Norris
Raising Baby Chicks – Top 5 Chicken Supplies from Easy Homestead
Making the Homestead Work for You: Infrastructure
Ways to Homestead in a Deed Restricted Community from Blue Jean Mama
Building a Homestead from the Ground Up from Beyond Off Grid
DIY Rainwater Catchment System from Survival Prepper Joe
Finding Our Homestead Land from Simply Living Simply
I Wish I Was A Real Homesteader by Little Blog on the Homestead
Endless Fencing Projects from Pasture Deficit Disorder
Essential Homesteading Tools: From Kitchen To Field from Trayer Wilderness
Homesteading Legal Issues from The 7 P’s Blog
Why We Love Small Space Homesteading In Suburbia from Lil’ Suburban Homestead
Preserving and Using the Bounty on the Homestead
How to Dehydrate Corn & Frozen Vegetables from Mom With a Prep
How to Make Soap from Blue Yonder Urban Farms
How to Render Pig Fat from Mama Kautz
How to Make Your Own Stew Starter from Homestead Dreamer
Why You Should Grow and Preserve Rhubarb! from Living Life in Rural Iowa
It’s a Matter of Having A Root Cellar…When You Don’t Have One from A Matter of Preparedness
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