Alpine Goat

When I was a child, in 4-H, there were French Alpines, and Swiss Alpines. My mother had a French Alpine goat at one time, before she was taken by Nubians, and swept up in the encouragement of that breed. Now, the French Alpines are referred to as Alpines, and the Swiss Alpines of my childhood are known as Oberhasli. In earlier days, the Saanen and Toggenburg were also referred to as Swiss Alpines.

So, out of that tangled history, we have the Alpine goat, which was bred for high milk production. It is, in many ways, the Holstein of goats, with higher production, but high feed needs, and lower fat and protein levels in the milk. They have the lowest butterfat percentage of any dairy goat, but the protein level is midline.

Alpines are a top choice for many dairy producers, though they are more common on the west coast than the east coast of the US. They frequently birth twins, and have a longer than average breeding season for a seasonal breeder. They are hardy, and energetic. Their size is substantial enough to justify their use as a dual purpose breed for milk and meat.

  • Type - dairy
  • Size - Medium to Large
  • Production Capacity - Top producer of milk among dairy goat breeds in the US.
  • Special Features - Seasonal breeder with longer than average breeding season, allowing better staggering of breeding for continuous milk production in a herd.
  • Best for Farms - A good choice for farms with a need for high milk production with a lower number of animals.
  • Eggs, Milk, Meat Features - Fairly low milkfat percentage (3%).
  • Other Products - Not applicable
  • Historic or Contemporary Significance - One of the better established breeds in the US
  • Housing and Space Requirement - Typical
  • Regional Adaptations - Adaptable to a range of conditions.
  • Feed Requirement - Requires good grain or sprouted grain supplementation for high production.
  • Other Considerations - Alpines look so similar to other breeds which originated from the same mountain regions, that you'll never be quite sure what you are getting without pedigree papers. Look for a well attached udder on these girls, because heavy producers benefit from that.


Dairy goats and meat goats are two very different things in most cases, though the kids from dairy goats are often wethered and used for meat. 

Meat goats have a heavier carcass, but do not produce much milk. They will produce enough to nurse twins or triplets, but do not produce for an extended period of time and will dry up quickly.

Generally dairy goats require some extra feed - either grain, or sprouted grain - to produce well. All breeds are not equal in this, and higher producing breeds are often fairly feed inefficient, requiring a LOT more grain to produce a little more milk.

There is no such thing as a true dual purpose goat, they always tend to be stronger in dairy when they are classed as dual purpose.

For the purposes of listing here, weed eating is not sufficient reason to warrant a listing. Wethers are not classed here as utility animals, except for meat production, because keeping an animal just so it can eat is kind of silly, when keeping a milker or regularly replacing the wether so you can produce meat is a much wiser use of resources (yes, even scrub brush is a resource).

I am not a fan of meat goats, though many people are. Goat meat must be aged prior to consumption, to break down the muscle fibers or it is fairly tough. My sister, who raised meat goats, recommended freezing the meat for at least a month, and stated that this will work in lieu of aging the meat.

When comparing breeds, remember that top producing breeds rarely produce that heavily. They generally produce much less than they are advertised to produce. A few quarts of milk per day is considered to be good average output for a milk goat, and 1-2 is more realistic, because they do not produce heavily for an extended period of time, and their milk production will wax and wane as they go into heat, breed, and then building up again after they kid. 

To keep good milk production through the year, you need more than one goat, and they need to be bred at different times. Those breeds that are NOT seasonal have an advantage here, because you can stagger the breeding more, and maintain a more consistent production through the year. The disadvantage to breeds that are not seasonal breeders is that they will go into heat a few months after they birth (or sooner), and plague you once a month or so with a heat cycle that will slightly reduce their milk supply for a day or two and set them to bawling. 

Mini breeds usually give only 1-2 cups per milking, and while they can fit into smaller spaces, they are also much more difficult to milk - they are so small that hand milking is extremely difficult. Some full sized breeds are more difficult to milk for the same reasons.

Milking machines have attachments that are available for standard size, and miniature goats. But a milking maching is a significant investment, and they do not tend to strip out the animals well. Milk production tends to decline more than it does with hand milking, unless they are stripped out manually after using the machine.

Many sources for care of goats will recommend birthing kits, and suggest that goats require a lot of intervention for successful birthing. This is not so. Only those breeds that have been sloppily bred, or breeds like Lamanchas that have more birthing problems than other breeds will require intervention on a regular basis. NEVER EVER assist a goat with a birth (do NOT try to "pull" the kid), unless the goat is obviously in trouble, and has been laboring without progress  for more than a couple of hours. Forcing a birth can cause damage to the uterus and connective tissues in a doe, increases the likelihood of uterine prolapse, and can compromise her ability to birth naturally in the future.

I grew up with goats, and know the routines with trimming hooves, disbudding, milking, and birthing. I have also milked cows, and given the choice, prefer a cow to several goats to supply the need for milk in our home. This in part because of the nature of goat's milk, because I really like to make butter! But in a small space situation, I'd do goats again in a heartbeat.

If a farm has sufficient space for a cow, they are much easier to care for to produce larger amounts of milk. But in small spaces, goats can be kept on less than an acre of land without stressing the land as much.

We have listed only those breeds which we feel have strong utility function, no outstanding issues with birthing or genetic problems, and which can actually be obtained (some types of goat are in closed herds and are not able to be purchased by small farmers).

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