In the USA, goat production is basically tailored for different purposes. The system involves employing certain goat breeds for certain types of products. The products are a variety, and among the many are milk and dairy, meat, skin, and fiber. A lot of goat breeds in these productions are imported or brought to the US, pioneered by Columbus in 1493. By 1900, a significant increase in the importation flourished, primarily of dairy goats. From then on, the US has been active in goat farming until today as it became a highly profitable enterprise.
There are a lot of different goat breeds around the world. However, there are a handful of prominent breeds in the US. Among the many, the most popular for dairy production are Alpine, LaMancha, Nigerian Dwarf, Nubian, Oberhasli, Saanen, Sable, and Toggenburg. For meat production, on the other hand, are Boer and Kinder goats. Lastly, there are Angora and Nigora for fiber production.
Each breed has its distinct features when it comes to their production rates. For instance, fat and protein contents among the milk are significant variables. Also, some of these breeds are raised not only for one purpose. They could be raised for both milk and meat, or for milk and fiber. Below is a list of the popular goat breeds in the USA and their distinct characteristics.
DAIRY GOAT BREEDS
Alpine goats came from the French Alps; hence, the purebred ones are called French Alpines. They first arrived in the US in 1920; the ones that came after and were bred are called American Alpines. American Alpines has the physical characteristics and the docile temperament as French Alpines. However, due to crossbreeding, they may have less standard markings or conformation.
Alpine goats have a variety of colors, a unique trait in their breed along with their erect ears. Also, they generally have dark markings, light head and neck, or may have a black stripe down the back. Their hair is short to medium in length, and they have a straight profile. Moreover, they are a medium to large size breed. Male alpine goats are over 81 cm tall at and the females are over 76 cm tall at the withers.
At four to five months after birth, Alpine buck kids reach sexual maturity. It is five to six months for doe kids. However, it is advised that doe kids be not bred until they are at least 75 to 80 pounds. Furthermore, the gestation period of alpine does is around 150 days. Their offspring can amount to two to four.
Generally, alpine goats are friendly, highly curious, but could be independent and strong-willed. They are also typically alert when it comes to adapting to climate change.
Alpine goats are known for their high-quality milk output and long lactation. Alpine goats should be at least 130 pounds for optimal milk production, at most 2,134 pounds of milk per lactation. However, their average milk production per year is more or less 1,500 to 1,600 pounds. Also, alpine goats’ lactation period is around 305 days, peaking at four to six weeks of parturition or kidding.
Moreover, alpine milk has fairly low-fat content, averaging 3.4%. However, its sugar may be higher than that of cow’s milk but is lower in protein in comparison. Alpine milk is used in producing thick substances such as butter, cheese, and ice cream.
This breed is of American origin, despite its Spanish name, which is a result of the history of colonization. In reality, LaMancha is developed from a foundation in California in the 1930s and gained breed recognition in the 1950s. The LaMancha breed was developed deliberately by breeding it with other imported dairy goat breeds.
LaMancha goats look like they almost do not have ears. However, they do, in fact, have ears, but they have really short ear pinna or external portion. The more apparent ears are called “elf ears” and are up to 5 cm long. On the other hand, the shorter ones are called “gopher ears” and are up to 2.5 cm in size. Additionally, LaMancha does typically weigh 59 kg at the least, while the bucks weigh 70 kg.
Moreover, LaMancha goats also come in a wide variety of colors. Their hair coat is typically short, and their conformation is of typical dairy type. They are friendly in nature and have natural hardiness.
LaMancha goats are prized for their high yields of butterfat-rich milk. They can milk continuously through several years after kidding once. However, the trait is used less in the present, as they are currently being mated for annual kidding. Then, they are milked for the subsequent lactation that generally lasts up to 305 days. The breed has a record of 2,770 kg of milk production in 2017. In the same year, the breed has a record of 100 kilograms in butterfat production and 58 kg in protein production.
The Nigerian Dwarf goat breed originally comes from West Africa. It is derived, particularly from imports of landrace-type goats from Nigeria between the 1950s and the 1960s.
As the name suggests, Nigerian Dwarf goats are small goats or a dwarf version of a full-size dairy goat. Nigerian Dwarf bucks are 48 to 60 cm at the withers, while the does are 43 to 57 cm. Also, this breed of goats comes in a variety of colors. The kids are also normally polled.
As they look cute because of their size, many people keep Nigerian Dwarf goats as pets. They are exceptionally friendly and could even be trained to walk on a leash like a dog.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are prolific breeders; hence, they make such good milk producers. However, they produce modest amounts, not like the other full-size dairy goats. Thus, they are more fitting for a home milk production rather than for commercial production. Within 305 days of lactation, they can produce up to 798 kg of milk.
In the nineteenth century, Nubian goats were first bred in England. It was a cross between the Old English milch goat and imported mixed population of large lop-eared goats. The imported goats were from India, the Middle East, and North Africa. Moreover, the. Yet, Nubian goats first arrived in the US, imported to Lakeside, California, in 1909.
Nubian goats can be recognized with their long floppy ears and roman nose. They are among the largest dairy goats with the bucks sizing up to 90 cm and 140 kg. The does, on the other hand, size up to 80 cm and 110 kg. Also, Nubian goats come in a huge variety of colors. They often have intricate patterns of spots, patches, or stripes. These goats are also normally polled.
Nubian goats have a reputation for being a bit bratty and extremely vocal.
Nubian goats can produce milk all year long. Ultimately, they are known for having a higher percentage of butterfat in the milk than the other goat breeds, at 5%. They can produce up to one and a half gallons of milk per day. Moreover, their average milk production per year ranges between 1,300 to 1,500 pounds.
Additionally, as Nubian goats are among the largest dairy goats, they have more meat; hence, they can also be used for meat.
Oberhasli goats were formerly called Swiss Alpine as they were developed in Bern, Switzerland. In 1906 and in1920, goats of this breed were first imported to the US.
Oberhasli goats are chamoisée or brown-colored goats with black stripes. The stripes are prominently in the face, ears, back, belly, udder, legs below the knees, and hocks. They are quite small – the bucks sizing up to 76 cm and 68 kg, and the does, 71 cm and 54 kg. Their size is ideal for farmers in urban settings or in limited spaces.
Moreover, Oberhasli goats typically have very sweet personalities. However, they can cause damage sometimes; hence, they are polled at an early age.
Like their personalities, Oberhasli goats’ milk is also very sweet, and less creamy with 3.6% fat content. Oberhasli goats can produce up to one and a half gallons of milk per day. However, they cannot produce the product all year round.
The Saanen has its origins in the regions of Western Switzerland. Since the nineteenth century, the breed has been exported around the world due to its high milk productivity. It first arrived in the US in the year 1904.
Saanen goats are easily recognizable with their solid white or cream color and an attractive dished face. Also, they typically have a beard, both bucks and does, and are normally polled. They have forward-pointing and slightly floppy ears. Moreover, Saanen goats are among the big goat breeds. Saanen bucks can size up to at least 90 cm at the withers and 85 kg heavy. On the other hand, the does can be at least 80 cm tall at the withers and 60 kg heavy.
Saanen goats have a calm temperament, but they usually require intensive management. Also, being pale-skinned, they do not tolerate strong sun.
In Switzerland and easily in the world, Saanen goats are the most productive among the dairy goats. Their average milk production every year ranges between 1,800 to 2,000 pounds. Also, every day, they can produce at least a gallon and more milk. Their milk generally has 2.5% to 3% fat content, which is relatively low compared to the others. Their milk’s protein content is at an average of 2.7%.
Moreover, Saanen goats can be used for meat production as well, being among the larger goat breeds.
The Sable breed is the purebred, colored derivative of Saanen from Switzerland. They used to be considered undesirable as breeding stock due to their color. In the 1980s, they completely split off of the Saanen breed.
In contrast to Saanen goats, Sable goats are darker-colored. However, they maintain the typical Saanen goat trait of having a beard, both bucks and does. They are also normally polled, have forward-pointing and slightly floppy ears, and big sizes.
Moreover, being darker-skinned in contrast to the pale Saanen goats, Sables can tolerate strong sun.
As the Saanen goats, the average milk production of Sables every year ranges between 1,800 to 2,000 pounds. However, their milk is usually between 3% to 4% fat. Saanen goats can be used for meat production, as well.
Toggenburg or Toggenburger breed is of Swiss origins. The name Toggenburg is derived from that of the Toggenburg region of the Canton of St. Gallen. This is where it is the breed allegedly had originated. Moreover, Toggenburg is one of the oldest registered breeds of animals in the world. This goat breed came to popularity in the US since it was first imported in 1893.
The Toggenburg is a medium-sized breed. Toggenburg bucks are usually 85 cm tall at the withers and weigh 75 kg. The does, on the other hand, are 75 cm tall at the withers and weigh 55 kg at the usual. These goats typically have the same color and pattern – light brown to mouse grey and white Swiss markings on the face, lower legs and tail area. Tassels may be present, and bucks and does alike may be naturally polled. Also, these goats typically have a straight face, full beards, and flaps of skin on the neck area.
Toggenburgers have an annual average milk production of between 1,500 to 1,600 pounds. Their milk usually has 3% fat content, which is relatively low. Also, these goats breed well; hence, they can keep producing regularly.
MEAT GOAT BREEDS
The Boer goat is a breed that was primarily developed in South Africa in the early 1900s. The name Boer is derived from the Afrikaans word Boer, which means farmer. In 1993, Boer goats were introduced in the US.
Boer goats are typically white in the body and red in the head. A white blaze is also noticeable running down the front of the face. However, some Boer goats are completely brown, white, or paint – meaning large spots of different colors are on their bodies. Moreover, Boer goats have a Roman nose and long pendulous ears like the Nubian goats. They are also normally polled.
Additionally, Boer goats are noted for having a docile temperament and a high rate of growth and fertility. Boer does are superior in mothering skills compared to other breeds. Moreover, these goats tend to gain weight at about the same rate as their fathers. Hence, a buck from a fast-growing bloodline is relatively pricey, as its offspring is potentially fast growers. The primary market for slaughter is between 22 to 36 kg; it could be a Boer kid if it reaches a marketable size at its age. Typically, a kid of a proven fast-growing buck may weigh at around 36 kg at 90 days.
Also, Boer goats are characteristically resistant to disease.
Boer goats are usually bred with dairy breeds does. This is in order to get a meatier kid out of them. They also tend to reproduce often, which calls for greater productivity. Boer bucks can weigh up to 118 to 137 kg while the does can weigh up to 98 kg.
The Kinder originated from a cross between a Pygmy goat and a Nubian goat in Washington state.
Kinder does weigh between 50 to 57 kg. Kinder bucks, on the other hand, weigh a little more at 61 to 68 kg. Moreover, at the withers, Kinder does grow up to 66 cm while the bucks can grow up to 71 cm.
Furthermore, Kinder goats are aseasonal breeders, which means that they can breed all year round. Also, they normally have multiple births, from three to five offspring. In fact, there have been reports of sextuplets.
Kinder goats can also be classified as dairy goats. Their milk has a high butterfat content, up to 7% and above. Also, they have high amounts of milk solids, yielding larger amounts of cheese. However, in spite of this and their relatively smaller size, Kinder goats are generally more muscular than full-size dairy goats. Frequently, they yield over 60% dressing percentages.
FIBER GOAT BREEDS
The Angora goats are thought to be direct descendants of the Central Asian markhor, Capra falconeri. They were first introduced in the US in 1849. Over time, more of them were imported, and they began to thrive in the southwest, particularly in Texas. Texas, to this day, is the largest producer of mohair due to the abundance of Angora.
Angora bucks and does have horns and long droopy ears. They do well in dry climates and eat twigs and bushy plants. They can be kept with a range of cattle or sheep.
Moreover, Angora goats are susceptible to external parasites due to their dense coats. Also, they are not prolific breeders and not very hardy. They are particularly delicate at weaning age. Further, Angora goats require a high nutrition diet due to their rapid hair growth; otherwise, it will curtail mohair development.
Angora goats produce a white and curly fiber called Mohair. It grows an inch every month. A single goat produces around four to five kilograms of hair every year. Mohair, like wool, is used for weaving and spinning. In the present, Angora goats produce white, black, grey, silver, red, and brownish fibers.
Nigora is an American goat breed. It is the result of crossbreeding does of mohair breeds such as the Angora with Nigerian Dwarf bucks.
Nigora goats are of small to medium sizes. They grow up to around 48 to 74 cm in size. They are considered dual-purpose goats that are raised both for milk and for fiber.
Nigora goats produce fibers of any colors – white, black, grey, silver, red, and brown. As wool and other goat fibers, Nigora fibers can be used for weaving and spinning.
Why are the most common goat breeds in the USA dairy goat breeds?
The USA is not one of the countries whose culture involves eating goat routinely. Goat is mostly consumed as meat in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Central Asia, Middle East, and some parts in Europe. However, Americans love milk and other dairy products such as cheese and butter. Hence, it is still a wise choice to enter the goat farming enterprise. Moreover, the international market highly demands goat milk and meat production.
What goat breed is best as a pet?
Many goat breeds are typically friendly, and this trait attracts many people to obtain goats as pets. However, in terms of friendliness, LaMancha is reported as the best. In terms of size, on the other hand, Nigerian Dwarf and Pygmy are the most popular. Other than being naturally cute because of their size, they can also be trained to walk on a leash like a dog.