In this epic guide, we’re going to brainstorm the best dairy goat breeds and the best goats for milk!
But first, there are a few things all homesteaders need to know about the best milking goat breed.
Did you know that more goat milk is consumed worldwide than any other type, including cow’s milk? Some people prefer the taste of goat’s milk over the alternatives, but that’s not the only reason that up to 65% to 72% of consumed dairy milk comes from goats!
Goats are more resilient and easier to keep than cows, making them perfect for homesteaders. Goats can survive hot, arid conditions, as well as cold, frosty ones – all the while maintaining a steady supply of healthy milk. You can’t lose!
Although goat milk still contains lactose, it usually has a lower concentration than cow’s milk. So, goat milk may be better for those with mild lactose intolerance – and some lactose intolerant babies. It also has numerous (rumored) health benefits, although not all of them are scientifically proven.
Goat’s milk is potentially less allergenic than cow’s milk – according to this goatmilk and mice study. Goat milk also contains roughly the same amount or more calcium compared to cow’s milk!
Also – raw goat’s milk has a reputation for promoting healthy digestion – but, there isn’t much scientific data for those claims. (Nevertheless, many swear that goat‘s milk is the best and makes them feel great. I agree!)
Goat milk also contains 170 calories and 9 grams of protein per cup – so you get nourishing energy and strength to help tackle your homesteading tasks and chores.
There’s one more benefit of goat milk that trumps them all. I’m talking about the taste. Goat milk is wildly tasty!
Although we’re not milking our goats at present, when we did, we discovered that goat milk tastes delicious, fresh and that it’s both thicker and creamier than cow milk or plant milk!
I’d always believed that goat milk would have a distinctively goaty flavor, but I’ve since discovered that this only occurs if the milk gets incorrectly handled or is allowed to age.
The creamy texture of goat’s milk comes from its high percentage of buttermilk. Yum! Also – the creaminess varies from breed to breed. Finally, various dairy goat breeds produce different amounts of milk per day, making some more productive than others.
If you’re thinking of getting dairy goats, these factors will no doubt influence your decision.
You’ll also want to bear in mind the characteristics of each dairy breed, including how easy they are to handle, how noisy they are, how much space you need, and how much your goats need to eat! (They get hungry!)
Without further ado, let’s look at the seven best breeds of dairy goat and see who takes the top spot as the Queen of Milk.
Dairy Goat Breeds That Are the Best Goats for Milk
# 1 – Saanen
The Saanen is the Queen of Milk, capable of producing 1.5 to 3 gallons of milk every day for between 150 to 300 days.
Not only is it the most productive dairy breed, but its milk is also lower in fat than that of other breeds. The Saanen is among the heftiest dairy goat breeds.
But, don’t worry!
They’re generally friendly, quiet, and easy to handle, so although you need a reasonable amount of space to accommodate them, you don’t have to worry about them annoying the neighbors. Larger breeds like the Saanen are also more versatile. They’re perfect for meat production, as well as milk.
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# 2 – Alpine
The second most productive of all the dairy goat breeds is the Alpine goat. Like the Saanen, the Alpine originated in Switzerland so, they’re more suited to colder climates.
A generally quiet breed, the Alpine comes in various colors and patterns. They’re also known for their resilience, curiosity, and friendly nature.
Alpine milk has a high butterfat and protein content, so it’s ideal for making goat cheeses and ice cream, especially if you’re getting over a gallon of the stuff a day!
Alpine goats, especially the wethers, also make excellent pack animals and can be used as meat goats if you can bear to slaughter them.
(Once you get to know them – you’ll want to keep them!)
# 3 – Toggenburg
The Toggenburg was the first registered dairy goat breed in the United States, arriving from the UK in 1893 and becoming registered in 1921.
Toggenburg goats originated in Switzerland, however, and take their name from the idyllic valley of Toggenburg. Ranging in color from light fawn to dark chocolate, the Toggenburg is a good-natured breed.
They’re known for their intelligence and gentle demeanor. Like many of the other Swiss goat breeds, the Toggenburg grows a long winter coat. Their coat extends their milk production into the cooler months, with the average doe producing between one to two gallons of milk per day.
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# 4 – Oberhasli
The Oberhasli descended from a breed of dairy goats known as Chamois Colored Goats.
They were introduced to the US in 1936 and registered with the American Dairy Goat Association as Swiss Alpine goats originally. The Oberhasli is lighter and more uniform in color.
Some Oberhasli does have entirely black hides! But – most are bay with black markings, stand around 28 inches tall with a bodyweight of approximately 120 to 150 pounds.
The Oberhasli milk has a higher milk fat content than either the Saanen or the Alpine! Their milk rocks for dairy products like yogurt and ricotta.
Read more: 7 Compelling Reasons for Raising Oberhasli Goats on Your Homestead
# 5 – LaMancha
The LaMancha and the Mini LaMancha are known for their quantity of milk, friendly temperaments, and tiny (adorable) ears.
The miniature breed is a cross of the standard-sized LaMancha and the Dwarf Nigerian. Standing between 24 and 28 inches tall, the Mini LaMancha requires less space than our top dairy goat breeds but produces enough milk to keep a small family happy and healthy.
Their tiny ears are a sight to behold. But where do these goats come from exactly? The answer isn’t 100% clear!
We can’t find a reliable reference citing the precise LaMancha lineage. However, we know modern LaMancha goats developed in Oregon, USA.
We’ve also read from several reliable sources that LaMancha goats may descend from short-eared goats of Spanish origin. If that’s true, then how did the Spanish goats get to America in the first place? Britannica Encyclopedia mentions that Spanish missionaries may have brought the short-eared goats from Spain.
So – are modern-day LaMancha goats direct descendants of Spanish short-eared goats?
(We read another scholarly publication From AgCon Search citing how modern LaMancha goats descended from the goats brought to America by Spanish clergy and explorers in the 17th century. So while the lineage of LaMancha goats is tricky to prove with 100% certainty, we have reason to believe that their forebears are of Spanish descent.)
Read More – 7 Surprising Reasons You Should Raise Oberhasli Goats
# 6 – Anglo-Nubian
The Anglo-Nubian is a British breed of goat that, while not as productive as some of our other top dairy breeds, has gained popularity due to its ability to thrive in hot conditions.
Anglo-Nubian goats tend to carry more weight than the Swiss breeds, making them suitable for meat and dairy.
With their long, floppy ears, Anglo-Nubians have a distinctive appearance! They’re generally known as a friendly and sociable – yet irritatingly noisy breed of dairy goat.
# 7 – Nigerian Dwarf
As far as I’m concerned? I’ve saved the best dairy goat for last! But that’s because I own some Nigerian Dwarf cross breeds and, therefore, naturally believe they’re better than the rest!
Although small in size, Nigerian Dwarf goats have massive personalities and high milk production. They can also produce up to six babies at a time, although the most I’ve seen is three.
Although they can be noisy and have a flair for escapology, they’re also quirky and entertaining. Nigerian Dwarf goats produce creamy milk that’s high in butterfat and ideal for almost every type of dairy product you can imagine, ranging from cheese and fudge to soap and lip balm.
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Expert Answers to Frequently Asked Questions About Dairy Goats
If you’re new to the world of dairy goat breeds and if you’re trying to find the best goats for milk – then you’ll probably have loads of questions.
Hopefully, the following helps!
Best Milking Goat and Dairy Goat Breeds? Our Final Tips!
You don’t need a tremendous amount of land to raise and milk dairy goats, especially not when miniature breeds like the Mini LaMancha and Nigerian Dwarf can produce up to half a gallon of milk per day.
When choosing the right dairy goat breed for your homestead, consider why you want the milk? If it’s because your children are addicted to ice cream, then you might want to opt for a herd of Alpines, but if you wish to make soap, then the Saanen or Dwarf Nigerian is a better option.
Space is also a factor and, if you’re limited in that department, a miniature breed is more suitable. If you’ve got a large homestead but have neighbors close by, a quieter breed like the Saanen or Alpine will be more appropriate than the vocal Dwarf Nigerians and Nubians.
There’s such a wide variety of dairy goat breeds that finding the best one for your homestead shouldn’t be too challenging, especially not now you’ve read this!
If you have any fun stories or tales about raising goats – please share them.
And thanks again for reading this dairy goat breeds guide.
Have a great day.
Read More – When Can Baby Goats Leave Its Mother Safely?
Wednesday 14th of December 2022
There was very little research done for this “article”. For one, LaManchas were developed right here in the United States. Oberhasli are not lighter in color and that goat in the picture is either alpine or alpine/Oberhasli cross as the facial marks are wrong. Oberhasli can be lighter to a darker red color with correct black markings. Alpines aren’t known for being higher in butterfat, in fact most breeders look to Nubians for that. If you’re going to try and educate people, get the facts straight, use pictures that match the breed. For anyone that actually wants to get information about dairy goats that long time breeders can get behind, check out Ringside: An American Dairy Goat Podcast or GG or any other goat podcast or forum that holds weight.
Wednesday 28th of December 2022
Thanks so much for your comment about LaMancha goat lineage!
We're sorry that you didn't enjoy our goat article. We try our best to deliver accurate homesteading information that's also fun to read!
We've been researching more and trying to find where LaMancha goats originate. We agree with you! Modern LaMancha goats got developed in Oregon, USA. Sorry for any confusion!
However, we also wish to note that several reliable sources (including Encyclopedia Britannica and scholarly articles published in AgEcon Search and elsewhere) indicate that the LaMancha goat lineage likely branches from Spanish goats brought to America by Spanish settlers, clergy, and missionaries.
That's the basis for our initial assessment that LaMancha goats likely descended from Spain. However, we concur with your feedback and have amended the article for better clarity.
Thanks so much for reading. And for your honest critique!
Wednesday 20th of October 2021
You list them in a different order than what is pictured, so I thought that was the order that you believe is the best (#1 Saanen, etc.) But then, the last one you say is the best...so, I'm confused! My question, which you sort of hint at : which one (s) are the least likely to try to escape? I am older and live alone, and have chosen NOT to raise goats because I can't afford nor care to, chase after ones who have gotten out. Also, do you know if you can get cream from goat milk? I have heard that the cream gobules are so small they can't be screened out from the milk. Thanks for answering. I'm retiring soon and will have more time and energy for raising animals on my 5 acres.
Monday 8th of November 2021
Sorry for the confusion, Carol. In objective terms, the Saanen is the best dairy goat breed but, because I own Nigerian Dwarf goats, I’m somewhat biased towards them. They are, however, the most likely to escape and very noisy which is why most people consider them to be good milkers but not necessarily a good breed for homesteaders.
From what I’ve read, Alpine or Pygmy goats are the most docile and least likely to escape. Both breeds are relatively easy to handle - the Pygmy because it’s small and friendly and the Alpine because it's docile and easy to train. Both breeds are also decent milkers, with the Pygmy producing between 1 and 2 quarts of high-quality milk per day and the Alpine closer to 4.
While it’s possible to get cream from goat’s milk, it’s not as simple a process as separating the cream from cow’s milk. Most people use a cream separator machine for the process but, even then, you’re unlikely to get a big enough yield for a pat of homemade butter.
I hope this helps and, again, I’m sorry for confusing you in the first place. Good luck with your endeavors and let us know how you get on.
Friday 22nd of October 2021
Hey there Carol, I've asked Nicky, the amazing author of this article, to provide a detailed response for you! Thanks so much for visiting - talk soon :)
Sunday 26th of September 2021
Do you have any tips on purchasing a Nigerian Dwarf goat? I’m new to goats and reading every thing I can. I have only ever had goat cheese, which I have not developed a taste for yet. I have smelled goat milk before and did not like the smell. It smelled the same way the goat smelled. I have read that it depends on many factors. What is your experience with the flavor of your Nigerian Dwarf goats milk? Thank you for your time in answering my two questions.
Thursday 7th of October 2021
Hi Rebecca, Thank you for getting in touch.
I do understand where you’re coming from with regards to that goaty flavor! It’s not the nicest but if you keep your milking station and equipment clean and are meticulous about cleaning the udders before you start milking, you’ll get a mild, creamy, and sweet-tasting milk from your Nigerian Dwarf goats. The fresher it is, the better it tastes as that goaty flavor comes from the enzyme caproic acid which becomes stronger with age.
You might want to consider pasteurizing your milk so it tastes fresher for longer. You can find out more about the pasteurizing process here.
As with any livestock, I’d recommend getting your goats from a reputable breeder. If you specifically want milking goats, you can find out more about the best dairy goat breeds for the homestead here.
Once you’ve located a potential breeder, speak to them about what you want from your goats and they should be able to advise you accordingly.
You’ll need more than one goat if you don’t want to be deafened by their loud complaints! The Nigerian Dwarf isn’t a quiet breed so, if you’ve got neighbors, you might want to consider getting a Nigerian Dwarf buck and a couple of La Mancha does. This will give you a steady supply of tasty milk that’s high in butterfat while giving you the benefits of having the quieter, friendlier disposition of the Mini LaMancha.
The Nigerian Dwarf is renowned for its creamy milk, while the LaMancha will give you sweet, clean-tasting milk without that strong goaty flavor (assuming you handle the milk correctly, that is).
Good luck with your research and let us know if you have any further questions. We’d also love to hear how you get on!
Kind regards, Nicky