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Alchemy Acres
Tip of the Month

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This article by Andrea Green first appeared in the Homesteader's Connection. I appreciate Trish McKee giving us her permission to reproduce it here. We've covered the selection of a good dairy goat in earlier "Tips".If you missed these tips, just click on the "Archive button and rummage thru the stacks. However, it has just occurred to me that we've never really covered choosing between dairy goat breeds. Many people are quite passionate about their particular breed. I am partial to the Nubian breed. However, it is not my purpose here to place one breed above another. Each breed has its own particular beauty and utility. It is up to each individual to find that breed which suits him/her best. This discussion merely covers some of the traits of each breed.

There are several things to take into consideration when starting to look for a goat. First of all, for what do you want the goat? Do you want it just for family milk? Do you want to make cheese? Do you have a child who wants to join 4H or FFA to show the animal? Do you want to go packing, or do you want to pull a cart. Or do you just want a pet? Finally, how much do you want to spend?

To answer all these questions, you need to know what breeds of goats are available. I am assuming you want a big goat - not a dwarf or pygmy. Before starting the decision process, you will have answered the questions above and any other that you can think of that will help you decide on a goat.

If you want a pet or a family milker, the goat does not have to be registered. For that matter, it doesn't have to be of any perticular breed. A good mixed-breed doe can give as much milk as some purebred milkers. That will save money on the purchase price. If you have a child interested in 4H, you will want a registered animal. And the progeny of a registered animal bring higher prices at sale (generally). Now the fun begins. You get to choose your breed.

The American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA) recognizes six breeds of goats - Alpines, LaManchas, Nubains, Oberhasli, Saanen, and Toggenburg. Each breed has its own general personality and temperament. We'll cover that a little later. Registered animals are purebred orAmerican. A purebred animal can trace its history back, and has no other breed or unregistered animal there. Each animal in her pedigree is a purebred. The American of each breed has been "bred up". This means at some point in the pedigree, an ancestor was not registered. So, lets start with the description of each breed.

The first is the Alpine - also known as the French Alpine. The purebred French Alpine can trace its ancestry back to the first French imported goat in 1922. They come in a variety of colors. The only color they cannot be is white. Most of the patterns recognized and designated are:

Alpines are large swiss-type (pointed erect ears) weighing a minimum of 135 pounds. Most will weigh much more. They are alert, hardy, intelligent animals. They will thrive in almost all climates. Alpines like their space, and because of that, will be a little more argumentative. Usually in a mixed breed herd, it will be an Alpine that is the leader or herd queen. When taking them to shows or where they are confined in a small area, fewer animal can be kept together. They produce sweet milk with about 3-4% butterfat. They are a good all-around breed of goat. They make excellent pets, as well as goats for a commercial dairy. They are also used quite a bit for packing.

The LaMancha is the only goat originating in America. It was bred here in the USA in California from Spanish Murciana with Swiss and Nubian cross breeding. They are very adaptable, with very good production - especially over the Winter. They have a stockier build than the Swiss breeds. Their kids are dual purpose. This means they grow faster and heavier than the other breeds, thus making them good for meat.

The main distinguishing trait is their lack of ear lobes. Their "gopher" ears are described as a maximum length of one inch. But no lobe is preferred by most breeders. La Manchas come in a variety of colors and combinations of colors. They generally don't produce as much milk as the Swiss breeds, but they have a higher butterfat content. The LaMancha breed has an excellent dairy temperament. They can thrive under poorer conditions than most other breeds. If you are wanting a goat for cheese and meat, this is a very good choice.

That's it for this month. We'll cover the other four breeds (Nubian, Oberhasli, Saanen, and Toggenberg) next month. You'll surely be able to select an animal that suits your needs from one of these breeds of dairy goat. See you-all next month.

Write us with your comments and suggestions.

Welcome PageDescription of Dairy HerdWhat's New at the Site?Crafts and Nifty StuffAlchemy's MenagerieTip of the MonthPrevious Tips of the MonthOther Resources of Interest