If you are considering getting an adult dairy goat for milk, the question that is haunting you is most likely, “Which is the best dairy goat for me to get?” Don't fret, the answer is really very simple.
The best goat to get is one that is raised by a reputable breeder.
Choosing a good goat breeder is one of the most important decisions you can make when starting with dairy goats. Find a reputable breeder that is doing what you would like to do. If you want to show goats, is the breeder showing? If you want to drink raw milk, is the breeder drinking raw milk? If you want to make cheese, is the breeder making cheese? If you want to dam raise, is the breeder dam raising? Your goals don't have to line up exactly, but make sure that you like what the breeder is doing with her goats.
The breeder should also test for CAE and be willing to provide you with copies of the negative test results. The breeder should explain to you why her goats are CL negative and whether or not she has ever experienced CL in her herd.
If you are brand new to goats, having somebody who knows goats that is close to you can also be very helpful when you are starting out and have a lot to learn. Find out if the breeder is available to answer questions.
The best goat to get is one that you can first milk yourself.
If you are buying a milking goat, the doe should climb on the milk stand without hesitation (understand if you’re way off her schedule she may be confused). Let her owner milk her first to show you that she stands still and does not lift her feet or shy away. Once you’ve seen how she milks for her current owner, try to milk her yourself. She may not be quite so patient with you if you’ve never milked before and are using her to learn. While your fingers may be a bit sore if you've never before milked, she should not be overly difficult to get milk from. If you are purchasing a kid, see if the dam is available for milking.
The best goat to get is one that you can actually taste her milk to see if you like it.
The raw milk from different goats may taste slightly different if you have a very sensitive palate. Make sure you like the milk before you purchase the goat. And if you are purchasing a kid, see if the dam's milk is available for tasting. This is especially important if you plan to feed the goat the same feed that she is currently receiving.
The best goat to get is one that is friendly and doesn’t challenge you or push you around.
It's normal for a goat to be dominant with her herd mates and push other goats around. But she should not be timid of people or hard to catch. Spend time in the pasture or stall with her and see how she behaves. If she is fearful or aggressive, she may not be a good purchase.
The best goat to get is one that you can breed in the fall.
If you will not have a buck of your own, is there a quality registered buck of that breed around where the owner is willing to let you use his services? It doesn't do you much good to purchase a goat for milk if you can't get her bred.
The best goat to get is one that is healthy.
Does the goat have a healthy looking coat? Are there any lumps? (note – vaccines can produce lumps) Are the hooves trimmed? Does the goat have oozing eyes or nose? Is the goat too thin (you should be able to feel ribs, but not see them too defined) or too fat? Is the goat limping? Make sure there is nothing obviously wrong with the health of the goat.
The best goat to get is one that is not for sale too cheap.
Beware of the “bargain goat” or the goat somebody wants to give you for free. These rarely work out well. If the price of the goat is below what is normal, the owner should have a good reason for it.
The best goat to get is one that has a companion.
You do not want to own just one goat. Goats are herd animals and if you want your goat to stay healthy, you'll make sure it has at least one buddy. If you don't have another goat (which is by far the best), make sure there is another animal that is willing to be friends.
That’s the best dairy goat to get.
I can hear you thinking, “Wait… what about the breed?” No need to panic because I didn’t tell you which breed to get. Breeds have their particular traits, but there is so much variation between individual goats that making a decision based on breed may not produce the results you were looking for. For example, Nubians as a breed have the highest butterfat content of the full-sized dairy breeds. But there are individual Alpines that outperform individual Nubians. In fact, as I write this, our Alpine herd is running over 6% butterfat which is much higher than most Nubians.
So in short, the best goat to get depends not on the breed of the goat, but on the individual goat. Find a breeder with quality, healthy goats and you’ll be much happier on your adventure with dairy goats.
Disclaimer: This information is provided as an example of how we personally raise goats at Goat Milk Stuff. We are not veterinarians and any information on the GMS website should not be taken as veterinary advice. Please seek the advice of a professional vet before making any changes to your herd management or individual treatment of your goat.