12 Popular Goat Breeds
This dairy breed originated in the French Alps, and can thrive in nearly any climate. They are the highest producing milkers, with top goats producing up to two gallons per day. Because of the amount of milk they produce, these goats have high nutritional needs and their diets must be monitored closely. PJ Jonas, who raises Alpines to provide milk for her family of 10 and runs a goat product business, says this breed is quiet and curious and tolerates humans well.
La Mancha goats are born with very tiny ears. They are good milkers, producing milk with high protein and butterfat content. One of the big advantages of this breed is that they can be milked for two years without freshening. They are generally easy-going, cooperative, and sturdy.
Nubian goats are easily recognizable due to their long, floppy ears, and convex "Roman nose" muzzle. Because of their Middle Eastern heritage, this breed can thrive in hotter climates than other dairy goats, and they have a longer breeding season. Although they don't produce as much milk per goat as other breeds, Nubian milk is very high in fat content. This breed is also raised for meat, or for both meat and dairy.
Saanen goats are the largest breed of dairy goat, and are second in milk production only to Alpine goats. These popular goats have short, white hair and upright ears, and are known for their easy-going temperament.
Photo courtesy of wideopenpets.com
If you're looking for an economical meat animal or are interested in making a little extra money, consider raising Boer goats. Originally bred in South Africa, Boers are now one of the principal meat goat breeds in the U.S.
When the Spanish came to the Americas in the 16th century, they brought goats with them. However, even though many goats in the U.S. have Spanish lineage, there are few purebred Spanish goats. These meat goats are excellent foragers, and will climb a tree for the last leaf if they have to. They're good mothers, easy birthers, hardy, and resistant to many parasites.
This meat goat from New Zealand is easy to raise, grows to market weight quickly, and will even clean up weeds on your acreage. The Kiko goat was developed in New Zealand by crossing feral goats with dairy goats in the 1980s. The goal was survivability and growth rate. The breed took off in the U.S. around 2000 when breeders started crossing Kikos with Boer goats to combine meat production with mothering ability.
Tennessee Fainting (Myotonic)
This is the only goat breed indigenous to the United States. The term fainting comes from the goat’s tendency to stiffen or tense up when startled or excited, due to a genetic condition called myotonia congenita. The muscle stiffening can cause the goats to freeze in place for about 10 to 20 seconds and, sometimes, fall over. While they are classified as meat goats, many acreage owners keep them for pets because of their docile nature and entertaining ways. They come in a wide variety of colors and coat lengths.
An adult pygmy goat is about as big as a medium-sized dog, which makes these mini goats perfect for acreages. While this breed does produce milk, they are most often raised as pets and for show.
Photo courtesy of Deb Miller
This small dairy breed has big personality! They are often used for showing as well. Deb Miller raises Nigerian Dwarf goats and says she gets about a quart of milk per goat at each milking. Learn more about these goats and Miller's ranch in the link below.
Photo courtesy Texas A&M University
Angora goats produce mohair, often used in making sweaters, scarves, and other garments. These goats require a bit of extra protection from the weather, since they can get hypothermia if their long hair gets wet from cold rain or snow.
Cashmere is the downy undercoat produced by all goats and harvested by brushing rather than shearing. Cashmere goats aren't a specific breed, but not all goats have what it takes to produce cashmere on a commercial scale. Goats raised for cashmere production have been selectively bred to produce high quality cashmere in significant amounts. Still, it takes four goats about a year to produce enough cashmere for a sweater.