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                             TECHNICAL PAPER #75
                             UNDERSTANDING DAIRY
                               GOAT PRODUCTION
                           Harlan H. D. Attfield
                           With Contributions From
                             George F.W. Haenlein
                                Jane Williams
                                Earl M. Moore
                             Technical Reviewers
                             Morrison Lowenstein
                                Pam Adolphus
                                 Published By
                    1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 500
                      Arlington, Virgnia 22209 USA
                   Tel: 703/276-1800 . Fax:703/243-1865
                     Understanding Dairy Goat Production
                             ISBN: 0-86619-318-9
                 [C]1990, Volunteers in Technical Assistance
This paper is one of a series published by Volunteers in Technical Assistance to provide an
introduction to specific state-of-the-art technologies of interest to people in developing countries.
The papers are intended to be used as guidelines to help people choose technologies that are suitable
to their situations. They are not intended to provide construction or implementation details. People
are urged to contact VITA or a similar organization for further information and technical assistance
if they find that a particular technology seems to meet their needs.
The papers in the series were written, reviewed, and illustrated almost entirely by VITA Volunteer
technical experts on a purely voluntary basis. Some 500 volunteers were involved in the production
of the first 100 titles issued, contributing approximately 5,000 hours of their time. VITA staff
included Patrice Matthews and Suzanne Brooks handling typesetting and layout, and Margaret Crouch
as senior editor and project manager. VITA Volunteer Dr. R. R. Ronkin, retired from the National
Science Foundation, lent his invaluable perspective, as a volunteer, to the compilation of technical
reviews, conversations with contributing writers, editing, and in a variety of other ways.
Long-time VITA Volunteer Harlan H.D. Attfield, the author of Raising Rabbits, Raising Chickens
and Ducks, and other VITA publications, has spent many years working in agriculture projects in
developing countries. In putting this paper together he drew from the work of Dr. George F.W.
Haenlin, a professor and dairy specialist in the Department of Animal Science at the University of
Delaware; Jane Williams, a former animal husbandry adviser for the Peace Corps; and Dr. Earl Moore,
a former poultry and livestock consultant for the Ford Foundation. Reviewer Dr. Morrison Lowenstein
is retired from the University of Georgia, where he was a goat milk products specialist. Pam
Adolphus is a self-employed dairy goat farmer. Both are long-time VITA Volunteers. Harlan
Attfield's father. Harry E. Attfield, a retired San Francisco lithographer, provided the funds for the
word processing of the initial drafts of the paper.
VITA is a private, nonprofit organization that supports people working on technical problems in
developing countries. VITA offers information and assistance aimed at helping individuals and groups
to select and implement technologies appropriate to their situations. VITA maintains an international
inquiry Service, a specialized documentation center, and a computerized roster of volunteer technical
consultants; manages long-term field project; and publishes a variety of technical manuals and
                    By VITA Volunteer Harlan H. D. Attfield
Goats are among the smallest domesticated ruminants and have served mankind longer than cattle
or sheep. They thrive in arid, semitropical, or mountainous countries. More than 460 million goats
in the world produce over 4.5 million tons of milk and 1.2 million tons of meat annually, besides
mohair, cashmere, leather, and dung for fuel and fertilizer. Goats are friendly animals; with
proper attention they maintain good health and can be managed easily even by children.
More people consume dairy products from goats than from any other animal. Goat's milk greatly
improves the diet of many rural families. It is traditionally valued for the elderly, the sick, babies,
children who are allergic to cow's milk, and patients with ulcers. It is even preferred for raising
orphan foals and other young domestic animals. Goat milk is richer than cow's milk in some important
nutrients: vitamin A, niacin, choline, and inositol; it is poorer in folic acid.
Goats are browsers, preferring the new growth of shrubs and the seed heads of grasses to the
lower quality older growth in a pasture. They are able to select the most nutritious parts of plants,
even from thornbushes and higher tree branches not reached by sheep, and can use a wide range
of forage. For this reason, they are able to survive in areas where other livestock do not.
As browsers, they are useful for clearing brush in small areas. However, because they strip the
leaves and bark of young trees, they should be used in settled areas only if good fences can be
provided. One or two animals can usually be controlled with a tether, but they must be watched
carefully lest they get tangled in brush or wind their tethers around small trees.
Most efforts to improve dairy goat management have been designed to provide more and better
milk. These efforts include:
1. Breeding and selecting to produce more and better milk.
2. Better feeding and pasturing practices.
3. Better housing for extremes of weather and climate.
4. Improved sanitation of milk and milk products.
5. Control of internal parasitic diseases that often lead to
   poor health and decreased milk production.
6. Improved marketing of dairy goat products.
7. Development of information and research services.
All goats, even those selected for milk production, eventually are used for meat unless they die or
are destroyed for other reasons. Many people prefer goat meat to mutton, beef, or pork; it is the
principal source of animal protein in many North African and West Asian nations. It is also important
in the Caribbean area and in Southeast Asia, and relatively more so in developing tropical
countries than in the temperate regions. The world production of edible meat from cattle, buffaloes,
sheep, goats, swine, and horses is estimated at 17.9 million tons, 5.7% of which comes from
The major breeds of dairy goats are listed below:
Saanen, originally from Switzerland, where they were bred for odor-free

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milk, are totally white. Like other Swiss breeds, they may or may not have
horns. They are usually short haired. Saanen goats are used around the world
as leading milk producers.
Toggenburg, brown with white stripes on the face, ears and legs, are mostly

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short haired, erect eared goats. They too are of Swiss origin and are 10 cm
shorter and 9 kg lighter than the Saanen. Pure bred for over 300 years, they
are reliable milk producers summer and winter, in temperate and tropical
Alpine (including French, Rock and British), another Swiss breed, are short

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haired and as tall and strong as the Saanen. They are colored white on black,
and produce less milk than Saanen or Toggenburg.
Anglo-Nubian is a breed developed in England from native and from Indian

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and Nubian goats. They have heavy arched noses and long, pendulous ears,
spiral horns (when horns are present), and short hair. Anglo-Nubian goats
are as tall as Saanen, but give milk that is less in amount and higher in fat
content. They are less tolerant of cold but do well in hot climates. They
"talk" a lot, and are in numbers the most popular breed in the United States,
Canada, and many parts of Asia. They often produce triplets and quadruplets.
Goats of this breed show many colors and are often spotted.
Oberhasli (also called Swiss Alpine. Chamoisie, or Brienz) goats, of Swiss

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origin, are usually solid red or black, have erect ears, and are not as tall as
Saanen. They are very well adapted for high-altitude mountain grazing and
long hours of marching. Milk production is variable.
Before selecting a breed consult local agricultural extension authorities for advice. Regardless of
the breed selected for milk production, individual animals should have body characteristics as
shown in Figure 1.

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Goats may breed at any month of the year, but in temperate climates they breed seasonally, generally
showing estrus in the autumn as the days become shorter and producing young about five
months later. Seasonal breeding is much less marked in the tropics. Most breeds reach sexual maturity
at about five months; dwarf or pygmy goats as early as three months. In the tropics female
goats often produce first young by 12 to 15 months even if poorly fed and not well developed.
The usual birth interval is about a year in the United States and Europe; in the tropics under good
management the interval varies from 260 to 290 days.
A female goat is called a doe, males are bucks, and the young are kids. Mature does of most
breeds produce more twins than single kids; triplets and quadruplets are common and are success-reared.
The usual litter size varies from 1.4 to 2.2 kids and in the tropics the kidding interval is
about 280 days. A female should produce young three times in two years, or 2.1 to 3.3 kids per
Swiss goat breeds are the world's leaders in milk production. Indian and Nubian goat breeds are
dual-purpose meat and milk animals. Spanish and South African Boer goats are best known for
meat producing ability. The Turkish Angora, Asian Cashmere, and the Russian Don goats are kept
for mohair and cashmere wool production. In addition, Pygmy goats from Western Africa are of
increasing interest as laboratory and pet animals, and as successful meat and milk producers in
areas infested by tsetse flies.
The goat is a ruminant, having a four-part stomach like the cow and sheep. The first part, called
the rumen, is the largest; it receives food that has been swallowed without much chewing and
stores it until it is regurgitated and chewed again. The food eventually goes to the third and fourth
stomachs, where it is more completely digested. The rumen contains bacteria that break down
plant fibers to soluble sugar and manufacture certain essential nutrients that may be absent from
the diet. Digestion is completed in the small intestine.
Although the goat has a great capacity for consuming fibrous feed (roughage), it needs to be given
forage or good quality, such as legume hay. In India this often consists of berseem (Egyptian clover,
Trifolium alexandrinum), alfalfa (lucerne), groundnut hay, acacia beans or leaves from legumes
(pulses). It is economical to give goats all the good quality hay they will consume, because
this is often the cheapest source of nutrients for ruminants. Dry hay should be stored for use when
green fodder is unavailable. Goats also like vegetable leaves and peelings; for example, cabbage,
cauliflower, carrot tops, and turnip tops (potato peelings can be toxic). These should be fed with
the regular forage, not in place of it.
The forage diet of dairy goats is often supplemented with a mixture of seeds and other materials,
called "concentrate." Farm by-products are sometimes fed to goats. Among traditional by-products
used in Africa are cassava waste, cottonseed meal, and rice bran. Nonconventional sources include
bagasse, poultry litter, and sawdust.
The main nutritional requirements are as follows:
Energy sources, Most of the goat's energy comes from the breakdown of the plant fiber. The rest
comes from the oxidation within the body of starches and fats from concentrate. The energy content
of the diet is studied in the laboratory by burning a sample and measuring the heat that is
generated. The results need to be refined, because some of the energy in food is lost to the animal
in the feces, urine, and gases. Moreover, the body uses some of the energy just to do the work of
digestion itself. In recent years energy measurements have been refined to account for the special
needs of body maintenance, weight gain, or milk production.
A continued shortage of dietary energy sources will lower milk production. Goats at the very early
stages of lactation (milk production) need more energy.
Protein - Protein is the main source of dietary nitrogen, makes up the basic cell and tissue structures
of the body, and is vital for growth, milk production, disease resistance, reproduction, and
general maintenance. Protein quality, a term nutritionists use when referring to the amino-acid
content of food, has no significance in ruminant nutrition except at exceptionally high levels of
milk production. This is so because rumen microorganisms manufacture all the amino acids needed
by the host animal. Excess protein, if any, is oxidized in the body for its chemical energy and
the nitrogen is eliminated by the kidneys. Since protein is generally the most expensive part of the
ration, it is unwise to feed more than is needed. Protein requirements vary from 12 to 16 percent
of the ration dry matter the larger figure represents the need during high milk production.
Urea and other nonprotein nitrogen products can be used by the microorganisms of the rumen for
the production of protein. However, they are not generally recommended for goats because the
animals adapt slowly to foods containing them.
Minerals - Most of the minerals needed by goats are obtained from forage and concentrate. The
major minerals are calcium, phosphorus, and sodium (as salt). These may be added to the concentrate
or made freely available. The ratio of calcium to phosphorus should be kept around 1.5 to 1.
Equal parts of salt and dicalcium phosphate are recommended for free-choice feeding. Selenium is
essential in very small amounts; in some areas of the world it must be added to the diet.
Vitamins - The only important vitamins in ruminant nutrition are A, D, and E. Generally, goats
on green pastures with plenty of sunshine require no vitamin supplements. When goats are confined
indoors, vitamin mix, which is not very expensive, should be added to the diet. Stored forages
are poor vitamin sources.
Fats - Fats are of little importance in the ruminant diet. Practically all feeds contain small
amounts of fat, and added levels are not practical. Levels beyond 5 percent in the grain mixture
are not recommended.
Water - This may be the least expensive feed ingredient, but a deficiency will affect milk production
more quickly than the lack of any other nutrient. Water is not only the largest single constituent
of nearly all living plant and animal tissue, but it also performs exceedingly important
functions during digestion, assimilation of nutrients, excretion of waste products, control of body
temperature, and production of milk. Ready access to fresh water is important. Goats with free
access to water produce more milk than those watered twice daily.
Although goats can sustain themselves in dry climates better than cows and sheep, their milk production
also is considerably less.
Feed Formulation in India
Researchers at Ludhiana in North India suggest a diet of high-quality roughage (fiber) and concentrate
(grains). The concentrate provides sufficient protein, minerals, and vitamins. The relationship
of concentrate to the quality of roughage is shown in Table 1.
                                Table 1
    Quality of Roughage and Protein Level Needed in the Concentrate
    Quality      Description                                     needed, %
    Poor         Dry wild grasses, maize fodder, millet,            24
                wheat or rice straw.
    Fair         Late cuttings of legume hay (without leaves)       20
                mixed hay, silage from grass or maize.
    Good         Alfalfa, berseem, groundnut hay, good pasture      16
    Excellent    Extra leafy fine-stemmed alfalfa hay, berseem,     14
                or excellent fertilized pasture containing
                some legumes.
A typical concentrate contains the following ingredients, in percent by weight: maize 40, molasses
8, wheat bran 20, rice polishings 13, groundnut cake 15, salt 2, and mineral mix 2. Another formula
contains: maize whole kernels or sorghum or other cereal 60; soybeans raw or (better) roasted,
other legume or whole cottonseed 36, dicalcium phosphate 2, salt and trace minerals 2.
Feed materials were classified according to their protein content as low, medium, high, or very
high. Examples are listed below:
* Low protein: maize, maize and cob meal, wheat, oats, barley, millet.
* Medium protein: wheat bran, rice polishings.
* High protein: copra meal, brewers dry grains, legumes.
* Very high protein: cottonseed meal, linseed meal, groundnut oil cake, soybean oil meal, dried
  milk, meat meal, blood meal.
It was found that, in making up a diet, any item could be substituted for another in the same class.
A suitable mineral mix contained the following ingredients, in percent by weight: sterilized bone
meal 35, finely ground high-grade limestone or oyster shell 45, iodized salt 20, and trace
amounts of copper sulfate, cobalt sulfate, zinc sulfate, and iron chloride. This formula can be
made commercially or mixed at home.
Free-Choice Feeding Experiment in Germany
German scientists studied the diets that were freely chosen by five Saanen goats over a 24-month
period. Such long-term studies are important, but infrequently performed because of their high
The feeds offered were mixed grass and legume hay, a concentrate mixture, fodder beets in season,
or chopped grass, dried beet pulp, water, and--for three weeks--alfalfa leaf meal. The low
protein content of the hay was supplemented by a concentrate made of ground oats, wheat bran,
seed meals, leaf meals, and dry yeast.
Milk production in the first year was good and in the second year was well above average. The
results showed clearly that free-choice feeding of dairy goats leads neither to their eating too
much concentrate nor to unprofitable production costs. Furthermore, it was shown that goats require
liberal amounts of water and lush feeds for high milk production. Free-choice feeding can
result in good milk production, although yields may vary among animals. Moreover, high milk
production is cheaper than lower milk production under free-choice feeding.
Common Feeding Systems
Feeding systems for goats are linked to local methods of growing feed crops and are classified as
Village systems - It is traditional in tropical countries to maintain goats in small areas (1 to 2 ha)
of land. They are tethered for limited grazing or are fed kitchen wastes, usually by women and
children. Concentrates are rarely used.
Primitive extensive systems - These allow limited grazing or browsing on larger areas of land of
low crop productivity. Herds of up to 15 animals are usually made up of smaller herds and are
controlled and kept together by a goatherd. The goats eat what is immediately available. There are
usually one to four animals per hectare. Often the goats migrate from area to area in a pattern that
uses the sparse vegetation without continuous grazing. The seasonal movements, inadequate feed
supplies, and infection by parasites seriously affect live weight and cause high mortality. Very
extensive systems of this type are found in Africa and parts of West Asia.
Semi-intensive to intensive forage systems - The goats graze on cultivated grasses and sometimes
on legumes. However, intensive grazing of pasture is not very common, mainly because the land is
valuable for other purposes. Goats can efficiently use cultivated pastures for either meat or milk
production. A hectare can support 16 to 60 goats depending on the type of pasture, the amount of
fertilizer applied, and the presence of legumes. Available farm by-products are sometimes used to
supplement the intake from pasture.
Very intensive system (stall feeding) - Requiring higher labor and capital investment, this system
is not commonly practiced in the tropics, but has commercial potential. It assumes continuous
management of goats and is justified by the presence of abundant supplies of farm by-product
feeds. The system also enables greater control over the goats. It is common in many countries of
Latin America and parts of West Asia.
Integration with cropping systems - The nature and the extent of integration depend on the types
of crops (annuals or perennials) and on the relative importance of goats in the local economy.
Usually the integration of goats is more common with such perennial or tree crops as coconuts, oil
palm or rubber. It efficiently uses herbage undergrowth, including mainly grasses, weeds and
legumes. The dry matter production of the undergrowth is variable (400 to 1,200 kg/ha). An advantage
is that the land becomes more fertile due to return of feces and urine, reduced fertilizer
used, control of waste herbage growth, and easier management of the main crop. Success of the
system may depend on the amount of dry feed produced from herbage.
Feeding tree leaves - Tree leaves are fed to goats throughout the tropics. The amounts fed vary
according to availability of material and the time needed to harvest it, as well as the duration of
grazing. Leaves provide variety in the diet as well as meeting part of the requirements for energy,
protein and minerals. Many tree leaves are important sources of dietary nitrogen. In Africa, these
include acacia (Acacia spp.), leucaena (Leucaena leucocephala), and cassava (Manihot esculenta).
These and other tree leaves are an important and underused resource.
The use of farm by-products - Farm by-products can be used effectively for feeding goats. These
materials are often abundant and are not suited for human consumption. Some examples are listed
above, in this section.
Although goats have adapted to diverse and adverse climates without the aid of man-made shelters
and support, maintenance of good health and dairy productivity require minimizing the stresses
associated with excessive heat, cold, humidity, and wind.
Protection from Cold and Moisture
Shelters are needed where temperatures remain below 5[degrees]C, especially if there are kids. Wooden
walls and roofs are better than stone or metal constructions, which tend to accumulate condensation
water, thus adding to respiratory and other health problems because of increased humidity.
Open buildings or sheds are satisfactory as long as their length and depth exceed the height and
the location of exits and open windows does not cause excessive drafts.
The build-up of ammonia in the shelter from the bedding, urine, and feces is easily avoided with
small roof vents or rafter louvers that can be opened and shut. Roof insulation is necessary only
when condensation cannot be controlled in this way. But the greatest need for insulation is on the
floor, where the goats tend to lie against the cold, wet ground. Slatted false floors made of treated
5 cm x 10 cm lumber 2 cm apart on 10 cm x 10 cm cross pieces will reduce the risk of infection.
Wooden slatted floors reduce the costs of bedding. Concrete floors must be avoided, even when
poured upon plastic insulation sheets. A sleeping platform helps to keep the goats clean and dry.
In parts of India, dairy goats are kept in small sheds, often with a portion of the structure closed
off to store feed and equipment. Bedding material is usually provided to keep the goats clean and
healthy. Available bedding materials vary in their capacity to absorb urine. Spaced wood boards
(as described above) make excellent bedding. Sawdust or shavings, bagasse, paddy husk, groundnut
hulls, wheat straw, crushed maize cobs, and dry grass are all good, cheap, and available in
many tropical countries. If nothing else is available, coarse sand can be used. To increase
the effectiveness of the litter rake the droppings into it.
The depth of the litter will partially depend on the price and availability of suitable materials. If
they are cheap and available, use 7 to 10 cm. If less than 2.5 cm is used it will not absorb all the
urine and the floor may become wet. Used bedding can be spread in fields and vegetable gardens
to increase plant growth.
Protection from Heat
Goats, especially dehorned goats or those originally from temperate zones, begin to seek relief
when the temperature reaches 32[degrees] C by reducing feeding activity, sharply increasing respiration
and open-mouth ventilation, seeking shade, and resting on the north sides of stone walls or buildings,
and inside ground-depressions, ditches, and open dirt pits. Goats with horns or coming from
hot and arid zones suffer less, use the rumen as a water reservoir, and adapt with more concentrated
urine, wool cover insulation and variable body temperature. Shelters in hot climates need to
provide shade and plenty of air circulation through open walls. Trees can serve these functions
very cheaply. Straw or hay stacks on the upper story of a shelter provide excellent insulated shade
Metal roofs should be painted with white sun-reflecting paint. Tropical thatched roofs are excellent
if they shed rain and don't harbor too many flies and other bothersome insects. Soil covered
roofs, used in some countries, are excellent insulators, but they require strong supports and may
grow grass, which invites undesirable grazing of goats on the roof.
Stilted or elevated housing is popular in hot and humid climates. Slatted board walls and flooring
provide good ventilation. They also allow for clean maintenance, with easy automatic separation
of feces and urine from the goats. This, in turn provides some control of internal parasites and
clean udders for low bacterial counts in the milk. Overhanging roofs keep out driving rains. The
feeding trough is usually placed on an outside wall and is also covered with an overhanging roof.
In the tropics, a typical elevated shelter for 20 or more goats measures 20 to 80 sq m. The shelter
is supported 60 to 90 cm above the ground. The roof is 150 to 200 cm above the slatted floor,
sloped at about 28[degrees] (53 cm rise for each 100 cm level measure). Roof materials may include clay
tiles and palm leaves. Treated floor boards or bamboo pieces are secured a finger-width apart.
Space and Fencing
Goats need and enjoy exercise. The herd manager will have fewer fence problems if space allotments
are liberal and daily fresh, palatable feeds are provided generously. The minimal interior
space, 2.5 sq m per adult animal, is commonly provided in tropical countries. Ten square meters is
considered ideal.
A fenced area that allows 40 sq m per animal with a fence 1.5 to 1.8 m high per animal is common
in most tropical countries. Fencing should allow maximum air circulation for hot weather, but
should offer some winter protection against cold winds. Posts should be placed not more than 1.5
m apart, and the bottom strand of wire needs to be close to the ground to stop kids from crawling
underneath. High-tensile fence, barbed wire, turkey wire, timber bamboo and sticks all have pros
and cons. Some sizes of wire mesh fence may be hazardous if they allow kids with horns to insert
their heads and become trapped. Vertical wood or bamboo pieces also invite trapped heads. Horizontal
wire on fencing invites climbing; vertical-only stockade-type fences may be too expensive
or keep out cooling winds in hot weather.
A sheltered container filled with clean water should always be available. Outside hayracks should
be sheltered against sun and rain, with a bottom trough to reduce waste. The same applies to
outside feed troughs, best placed below hayracks and along fences to reduce hay wastage, keep out
feces, and facilitate filling and cleaning.
Extensive goat management systems based upon pasture feeding and migration sometimes use only
night-time shelters. Goats may travel far during day-time grazing; night shelters are traditionally
provided in many countries for safety and comfort.
The world's dairy goat production has grown partly because of a trend toward increasing self sufficiency
by people in many countries. A goat eats little, occupies a small are, and produces
enough milk for the average unitary family (an average doe will give about 2 L a day); whereas
the prospect of maintaining a cow at home is often more than the homeowner can cope with.
Hence the growing popularity of goat as the "poor-person's cow."
As the interest in dairy goats continues to rise, it is important to address many misconceptions and
exaggerated claims. A comparison of cow and goat milk will erase some prejudices against goat
milk. And while goat milk is somewhat unique, it is certainly not a magical elixir.
A persistent objection to goat milk is that it has a peculiar "goaty" odor or taste. The presence of a
buck among does at milking time can result in this objectionable feature. Another major cause of
off-flavored milk is low-grade udder infection (subclinical mastitis).
Diet affects the taste and odor of both goat and cow milk. Although the diet of cows is usually
closely watched. goats are often allowed to consume a great variety of materials at any time. Such
unmonitored feeding may allow objectionable tastes or odors to be transferred to the milk, if it
occurs within two hours of milking. If goats and cows are similarly managed, the smell and taste
of both milks are sweet and neutral.
Goat milk is similar to cow milk in its basic composition (see Table 2).
                              Table 2
                Average Composition of Goat and Cow Milk
           Dry matter,     Percent of
           Percent         Protein    Fat     Lactose    Mineral matter
     Goat 12.1              3.4        3.8     4.1         0.8
     Cow   12.2              3.2       3.6     4.7         0.7
However, there are also differences that give goat's milk a special place in human diets. For example,
in Third World countries where meat consumption is low, goat milk is an important daily
food source of protein, phosphate, and calcium not available otherwise because of a lack of cow
milk. Calves can consume large quantities of goat milk while similar amounts of cow milk may
cause dysentery. Goat milk can, therefore, be used not only for growing veal, but also for raising
valuable dairy replacement heifers, which will benefit from the high milk intake and show superior
The Saanen breed is best known as the Holstein (a very productive dairy cow) of the goat world,
producing a large quantity of milk with somewhat low fat levels. At the other extreme is the Jersey
of the goat world, the Nubian. This breed produces a lesser amount of milk with a high fat
content. The Toggenburg, Oberhasli, and Alpine give milk with intermediate values, as does the
La Mancha, a breed not listed above.
Whether goats are milked by hand or by machine, care must be taken to produce a clean, wholesome
product and to prevent injury to or infection of the udder.
Non-commercial herds use mostly hand-milking, which requires few facilities and little equipment.
There is no minimum number of goats required for machine milking, because the convenience
and reduced discomfort to the person's hands, wrists and arms may outweigh considerations
of efficiency or economics. Portable single or double milking machines are easily assembled,
washed, and maintained. Although machine milking is not covered in this paper, a brief description
of hand milking follows for the goat herder who wants to produce a quality product.
In contrast to cows, the milking of goats is routinely done in different ways and schedules, depending
on tradition, convenience, and budget. In most countries goats are milked twice a day, 12
hours apart. Routine, once-daily milking is not recommended. The doe's udder produces milk
throughout the day and night, but production is slowed as milk accumulates. During the height of
lactation heavy producers can be milked three times a day at eight-hour intervals to relieve pressure
in the udder. This procedure often yields more milk.
Milking equipment should include a strip cup, a seamless milking pail, and a milk strainer with a
filter that is thrown away after each milking. Goats should be milked in an environment free of
dust, odors, dogs, and disturbing noises.
To produce clean milk it is necessary to have clean equipment, a clean area for milking, healthy
goats, clean clothes, and clean hands. The milker's hands (short fingernails) should be washed with
hot water and soap before starting, and before moving from one animal to another. Hands should
be washed after cleaning feces from the udder. The udder can be washed with a clean cloth, but
both the udder and hands should be dried before milking.
The first stream or two of milk should directed through a fine wire mesh, such as a tea strainer,
into a separate strip cup so that the presence of flaky milk, which is often an indication of mastitis
(discussed later) can be detected.
Dairy goats should be milked dry at each milking. When some experienced milkers think they
have milked the goat thoroughly they will often push the udder gently a few times and run the
index finger and thumb down each teat until they have "stripped" out the last drop of milk. The
advantages of this procedure are not entirely clear.
As soon as the milk has been collected from the doe, it should be poured through a single-use
filter. The milk should be cooled promptly and rapidly (to as near 0[degree]C as possible) to ensure good
flavor and retard the growth of bacteria. Air cooling is not recommended; the closed container
may be cooled by immersing it in ice water with frequent stirring. After cooling, the container of
milk should be taken promptly to the consumer, stored in a refrigerator, or immersed in ice water.
Unnecessary temperature changes can cause bad flavor.
All milking equipment should be rinsed in warm water immediately after use and then washed in
hot water to which a mild chlorine solution and detergent are added. Finally the utensils should be
rinsed in clean, preferably boiling, water and kept in a dust-free place to dry.
Although often considered one of the healthiest of all domesticated animals, goats are susceptible
to the same diseases that affect cattle and sheep. If infected cattle or sheep are nearby try to prevent
contact with them. The occurrence of disease may be affected by locality, amount of space
given to each goat, the feeding program, and housing, as well as the general health of the individual
goats and the amount of exposure to infected animals or parasites.
In many parts of the tropics vaccinations against goat pox, rinderpest, and foot-and-mouth disease
are generally advised. In addition, goats are usually tested routinely for brucellosis
(Malta Fever, Bang's Disease), tuberculosis, and mastitis. Diarrhea, caused by bacterial infections,
viruses, or coccidia, can also be troublesome. In addition to infectious diseases, goats sometimes
suffer from such noncontagious ailments as pneumonia, wound infections, milk fever (parturient
paresis), bloat (tympanites), external and internal parasites, and plant poisoning.
Ideally, the diagnosis and treatment of goat diseases should be left to a veterinarian. The importance
of an accurate diagnosis cannot be over-emphasized because the treatment is determined by
the cause of the ailment. However, veterinary services are often too costly for people who keep
goats, except in the most urgent cases. Fortunately, most goatkeepers can acquire enough basic
knowledge to cope with basic problems.
No doubt, it is always better to prevent disease than to have to treat infected animals! Some precautions
needed to maintain the health of a goat herd are listed below:
1. Avoid involvement in goat trading or trafficking.
2. Buy young kids preferably from healthy goat farms where diseases are under control and
   the animals look healthy.
3. Separate kids from adults immediately at birth and feed them pasteurized milk.
4. Isolate a goat that becomes sick.
5. Do not allow equipment to be brought to the goat farm from locations where the goats are
6. Keep visitors from walking around in the goat house or corral.
7. If possible, get an accurate and early diagnosis from a qualified veterinarian if evidence of a
   disease appears.
8. Use medications only when necessary.
9. Consider goat droppings as a potential source of disease.
10. Eliminate ticks, lice, and mites, and control predatory animals.
11. Keep the goat herd separated from sheep and cattle.
12. Use good business ethics and do not sell diseased goats to an unsuspecting buyer.
13. Keep the goat house clean and dry.
14. Trim hooves at least four times yearly. Brush goats when needed to remove loose hair and
    dirt that might contaminate the milk.
15. Keep feces out of the feed and water: keep goats' feet out of hay racks and keep feed and
    water containers above tail level.
16. Keep fresh water available and uncontaminated.
Belanger, J., Raising Milk Goats the Modern Way. Charlotte, Vermont: Garden Way Publishing
Co., 1975.
Child, R.D., et al.. Arid and Semiarid Lands: Sustainable Use and Management in Developing
Countries. Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 1984. Also, Morrilton, Arkansas: Winrock
International, 1984.
Haenlein, George and Donald L. Ace (eds.), Extension Goat Handbook. Washington, D.C.: U.S.
Department of Agriculture, 1994. Also, Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware, 1984.
Mackenzie, David, Goat Husbandry. Boston: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1980.
National Research Council, Committee on Animal Nutrition. Nutrient Requirements of Goats:
Angora, Dairy and Meat Goats in Temperate and Tropical Countries. Washington, D.C.: National
Academy Press, 1981.
Sands, M and R.E. McDowell. The Potential of the Goat for Milk Production in the Tropics. Ithaca,
New York: Cornell University Press, 1972.
Sinn, Rosalee, Raising Goats for Milk and Meat. Little Rock, Arkansas: Heifer Project International,
Thedford, T.R., Goat Health Handbook: A Field Guide for Producers with Limited Veterinary
Experience. Morrilton, Arkansas: Winrock International, 1983.