An Introduction to Goat Breeds

This guide to goat breeds includes dairy goats, fiber breeds, meat goats and more.

| March 2012

Bringing a goat into your life will lead to endless delight at their antics and a wealth of opportunities to turn a profit. Whether you’re interested in a productive dairy goat or one that produces luxurious cashmere, selecting the right goat breed for your needs is paramount. The Joy of Keeping Goats: The Ultimate Guide to Dairy and Meat Goats (Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2011) by Laura Childs is an indispensible tool in researching these charming and lucrative animals. This excerpt is taken from Chapter 4, “Introduction to the Breeds.” 

Dairy Goat Breeds

Of the six common dairy goats, the Swiss breeds (Alpine, Oberhasli, Saanen, Toggenburg) are the hardiest for colder climates. The remaining two (LaMancha and Nubian) are genetically equipped to handle extremely warm and dry climates but may be kept in the north with proper care.

The majority of dairy goats in this country are managed much the same as dairy cows. They require milking twice daily and have a 305-day lactation cycle. This allows a 60-day dry period used by the doe to centralize her energy into the growing fetus and to replenish her body’s store of nutrients. When a doe has her kid (freshens), it is common practice to remove the kids and raise them separately from their mothers.


The Alpine is one of the larger dairy goats and a popular breed for commercial dairies. Discovered in Switzerland, the Alpine breed gained quick favor across Europe. Alpines match the Saanens in milk quantity.

This breed is known for her amiable personality. She has a straight or slightly dished nose and erect ears. Hair is medium to short. Most often seen in variations of black and white or brown and white. Other color patterns include chamoisée (any shade or mixture of brown, often with a black stripe along the back and white markings on the face), two-tone chamoisée (usually a lighter color on the forequarters), cou Clair (a light-colored neck), cou blanc (a white neck with black rear quarters), cou noir (black front quarters and white hindquarters), sundgau (black with white facial stripes, white below the knees and hocks and white on either side of the tail), and pied (broken with white, spotted, or mottled).

12/30/2013 10:40:08 AM

Would like to have seen Kinder goats included in this article. They are a medium-sized milk/meat goat with incredibly sweet personalities and milk! Deb Ezzati Morning's Glory Farm Oakland, OR

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