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Raising Dairy Goats In The City

What Breed Of Dairy Goat Is Right For You?

This is our Nigerian Dwarf Doe named Honey.

There are many types of Dairy Goat breeds recognized in the United States such as the:

Nubian, Nigerian, Lamancha, Oberhasli, Saanen, Toggenburg and Alpine.

We raise the Nigerian Dwarf Goats. They originated  from West Africa, and don’t mind the desert heat. The Nigerian Dwarfs are easy to handle and care for living in city. Nigerian dwarfs only require 1/3 to 1/4 the amount of space and feed as the standard size dairy goats. The average weight is around 75 pounds. One thing to keep in mind is that the Nigerian dwarfs have small teats, that makes it hard to milk by hand, a hand vacuum pump is a great solution for you and the goat. The Nigerian Dwarfs can produce up to a half a gallon of milk per day. Also the Nigerian goats have a higher percent butterfat than full sized goats, which is desirable for making cheese and makes the shelf life of the milk last longer. These goats are easily recognized by their upright ears. They live for 10-14 years on average and have lived to age 20.

Here is the hand vacuum pump that we use to milk our goat. Click the image to see how it was made.

Another breed of dairy goats used for dairy production is the Nubian goat. They are commonly recognized by the goats long drooping ears and Roman noses, and can be any color or pattern. The Nubians goats are also known for being quite loud, and require lots of attention. They are full sized goats with the does weighing and average 135 pounds. Milk production is lower than any other dairy breeds on average matching the Nigerians milk production at around a half a gallon a day.

Here is our simple goat cheese. Click the image to see how we made it.

The Lamancha dairy goats are a medium sized breed of dairy goats. An easy way to recognize the Lamancha goats are by the ears, they are very small ranging from one to two inches. When the goats have around one inch long ears they are called “gopher ears”, when the ears are around two inches in length they are called “elf ears”. The Lamanchas make for good pets because of their gentle temperament. On average the Lamanchas produce about three quarts of milk daily.

Oberhasli dairy goats are from Swiss origin and are great milk producers, averaging one half gallon to a gallon and a half daily. Not all, but most Oberhasli goats have a rust red coloration with black markings on the muzzle, forehead, facial stripes, belly, tail, backs and legs. These dairy goats are also a medium sized breed of goats and have upright ears. One thing to know about the Oberhasli is that they are docile and very hardy goats.

The Saanen dairy goats are one of the most popular and the largest breed of dairy goats and are often used commercially. They are white or off-white in color with upright, forward facing ears. The Saanen goats produce an average of one gallon per day. Another things to know about this breed is, they easily get sunburn because of their white coats, cooler climates and lots of shade is necessary for raising them. The average Doe weighs about 150 pounds.

The Toggenburg dairy goats are known for being the oldest dairy goat breed and are often referred to as “Toggs”. Medium in size, does weighing an average of 120 pounds. Toggenburgs have a shaggier coats than most dairy goats and the fur is silky. They do well in cooler climates and in proper conditions produce about three quarts of milk daily. They have a two to three percent butterfat content which is low for making cheese.

Alpine dairy goats are used commercially as well, producing just shy of a gallon of milk per day. The Alpine comes in a combination of colors, with no particular markings and erect ears. The average doe weighs about 125 pounds. Alpine goats do well in any climate. They seem to do the best in a good sized herd.

Where To Get Dairy Goats?

We purchased our Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats off of craigslist. The best place to start is by searching the internet for the breed you are looking for in your area. You will find that there are farms that raise goats just to sell every year. Some websites even show what goats they have for sale, listed with age and price. An important thing to ask the person or farmer you are buying from is about the mother of the goat you are getting, how much milk does she produce daily. We made sure that our goat Honey had good milking lines before buying her. Here is a tip, if you want a buck and a doe and are buying both from the same farmer, make sure they aren’t related, as it is not good to inbreed your goats. Other places to get dairy goats locally would be by contacting the 4-H groups and FFA groups nearest to you. Our local feed barn always has ads posted on a bulletin board with lots of dairy goats and other livestock as well.

Zoning Issues With Goats In The City?

Before purchasing your goats, call your city and ask questions about the regulations they have, as every cities regulations varies. Here are some good questions to ask: How many goats can I have? If the goats have babies how long may I keep them? Is there specifics to how I house my goats? Is there any size requirements for the goats? If I get complaints about the goats, is there a fine to pay? Is there separate requirements for dairy goats vs meat goats? Is there certain property requirements? How much room is required per goat?

What Type Of Living Environment Do Dairy Goats Need?

Goats need to have a sturdy pen to live in, a hoop building, barn, or shed, that allows them to have plenty of air. Not enough fresh air effects the health of your goats. It is also important that the living environment protects your goats from the weather, sun, wind, rain and snow, depending on where you live. Make sure the housing you have for your goats has a roof. It is best to have the housing set up before you bring your goats home. Always keep your goats living environment clean, especially where they are sleeping. There are several options for bedding such as hay, straw, and wood shavings. Don’t forget to have a easy way to get to your goats such a gate or door.

What About Dairy Goats Diet, Health and Nutrition?

Every person who has or raises goats will tell you something different on how to feed your goats. The most important thing is to keep your goats healthy. Keep goat food away from the ground. Also make sure they have fresh water all the time. We feed our goats alfalfa pellets, alfalfa hay, corn, oats, barley, fresh sorghum, banana leaves, and extra leaves from the garden. Goats must have a mineral lick at all times because regular feed doesn’t give the goats enough minerals. You can mount it in the goats housing, it is important to keep to mineral licks clean. Don’t worry if your goats eat really fast in a short time. It is normal for goats to swallow their food with little chewing, they do this because they have a four chambered stomach, like a cow or sheep. Cud is a portion of food that gets regurgitated and the goats chew the food for a second time.

Do Goats Need A Lot Of Maintenance?

Goats do not require that much maintenance. Deworm your goats, depending on what brand you purchase you may need to deworm every six months to a year.  Take them to the vet yearly and bring stool specimens  to be checked for worms and parasites. Trim their hooves with goat shears every 4-6 weeks. You may need to brush out the shedding hair in the spring. Keep the bedding clean in the living environment and give them fresh food and water daily.

Do Dairy Goats Need Companionship and Exercise?

Dairy goats are herd animals, it is best to at least have two. One goat on it’s own is not healthy for the goat, even if you have other animals, such as dogs, cats or chickens. You will have a much happier goat if you get two of them and have fewer behavior issues. It doesn’t matter if the two you get are two females, a male and female, but two males may or may not get along.  As for exercising your goats, it is also important for your goats health. If you have a pen that doesn’t have a field or lots of room for them to roam, what you can do is buy a dog leash and take your goats for walks. The first few times you do this the goats might get confused, they are smart animals and will catch on quickly. Goats do well with routine, just like dogs. By walking your goats it is good exercise for you and the goats.

Baby Goats?

Our adorable bucklings.

The gestation period for our goats was just five months. The Nigerian Dwarf goats are great goats for birthing their kids. They can 99% of the time do it on their own with no human assistance. Honey our doe had two kids in January and she did the birthing her self with no help from us. After delivering her two babies and eating the vitamin filled afterbirth,  she was up and ready to nurse. We cleaned off the kids for her and she was a great natural mother. You won’t always find that is the case. If you see the mother abusing the babies, you can take the babies away and bottle feed. Some goats do need help birthing, so be prepared to help if the time comes. The babies are fun to watch jump around. At about 6-8 weeks they should be weaned from the mother. This enables you to either sell the kids or keep them for breeding. Young bucking can breed as early as 8 weeks of age. Doelings can be breed as early as two months, it is better for the doeling to wait until 7-8 months to breed.

Birthing Video

Here is our goat giving birth to her first buckling. As you can see, the goat is able to kid herself.

Video streaming by Ustream

Milking Goats?

Here is our milking goat, Honey, on her milking stand. Click the image to make this stand.

Using your goats milk once the babies are weaned is great. You can make yogurt, cheese, butter and drink the milk as is. There are a few ways to milk your goats, either by hand or a hand vacuum pump. There are portable commercial milking units as well. Being as we only have one goat to milk, the hand vacuum pump and milking by hand is just fine for us. We milk our doe Honey twice a day. We use our goat milking stand to make the process easier. Now that we have been milking her for a while she knows the routine and climbs right up the milking stand. You must always clean the teats before and after milking. Once you get into the swing of things milking doesn’t take long at all. Our goat produces one half gallon a day, which is more than plenty for our family of five. Goats milk has so many benefits also, it has more calcium than cows milk, less sodium and goats milk is easier to digest.

Class: Raising Dairy Goats In The City
Recorded LIVE
Who: Danielle McClung
When: March 12th, 2012
Where: The Garden Pool in Mesa, AZ
Length: 33 minutes
This video was recorded live in a classroom setting. To be a part of our classes in person, join our meetup group.

Instructional Video