with Jade Eckardt
The perfect mattress. The perfect hairdo. The perfect birthday present. All things found with a little persistence and informed decision making.
But have you ever searched for the perfect goat? Well we have, and, for one, it’s a little hard to find goats for sale on Craig’s List. We called several numbers only to find out their goats were sold out, having sold from $200 to $400. Then we saw a sign on the side of the road in Waialua where a rancher had several goats for sale. A few cars pulled up right behind us, everyone wanting what the guy had for sale.
The goats still had their horns, a sign that they had been raised for eating, something very common in other countries. My family ended up buying two Nubian does. A pregnant one we named Lilikoi, and a younger one we named Ramona.
It turns out goats are a pretty hot commodity on the island. Each person who we talked to that raises and sells goats says they always sell immediately. A lot of people buy them for eating, others for milking, making cheese, using as lawnmowers, or just plain companionship.
Traits vary widely between breeds. Some are louder, some are softer. Some breeds are known for being stubborn, others are more easy going. Some breeds produce much more milk than others.
To the average cow milk drinker, goat milk may sound kind of gross. Personally, I don’t drink milk of any variety, but according to what I have read, more people around the world consume goat milk than cow milk. The Unites States is one of the few places on earth where cow milk is more popular.
Goat lovers websites (see list below) that I’ve read say a dairy goat is much easier to raise and adapts to a wider variety of environments than a dairy cow. Goat milk is naturally homogenized and contains less lactose than cow’s milk, and therefore is less likely to trigger lactose intolerance. It also digests easily because of its casein curd, which is both softer and smaller than that of cow milk.
There are six types of dairy goats that are recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association: Nubians, LaManchas, Alpines, Oberhaslis, Togenburgs, and Saanens.
Nubians—Also known as Anglo-Nubians, these goats are large with long pendulous ears with what’s known as a “Roman nose.” They were developed in England by crossing British goats with bucks of African and Indian origin. Some people who raise goats have told us they are some of the best milk producers with an average butterfat of about 4.6 percent. They come in a variety of colors and patterns and are very vocal. We have learned that the best way to keep them quiet is to have two. They make a lot of noise when they are lonely.
LaMancha—A medium sized breed, developed in the United States from goats of Spanish origin. They have an excellent dairy temperament and are known as all-around sturdy, friendly, naturally healthy animals. LaManchas can come in a variety of colors and patterns. Their milk has an average butterfat of about 4.2 percent. They have tiny ears which come in two types: “gopher ears,” which are little “sweet rolls”; and “elf ears”, which are little hooked ears less than 2 inches long.
Alpines—These goats originated in the Alps and can be almost any color except solid white or light brown with white markings and their face should be dished or straight. They have erect ears and are a medium-large breed. They are popular with dairies because they produce a large amount of milk that has an average butterfat of about 3.5 percent.
Oberhasli—Also knows as the “Swiss Alpine,” these goats are a medium sized breed. Their coloring is known as “Chamoisee,” which is bay in color with distinctive and specific black markings. Their milk has an average butterfat of about 3.6 percent.
Toggenburg A Swiss breed that is known as being the oldest known dairy goat breed. They are medium in size with upright ears. Their milk has an average butterfat of about 3.3 percent. This breed was originally developed to provide milk for cheese production and so their milk can sometimes have a strong flavor.
Saanen—Originated in Switzerland, they are white, large, and have upright ears. Saanens are heavy milk producers, but their milk is lower in butterfat than some of the other dairy breeds with an average butterfat of about 3.5 percent. Saanens must be white and if it is born with color (which sometimes happens) they are called “Sables.”
The Boer, Kiko, and Spanish Meat Goat are the three most common type of meat goats in the United States.
Other than dairy and meat goats, there are also other goats that have no other specific purpose for humans. They simply look cute, eat grass, and are often used as prize goats.
We’ve also learned that goats prefer to stay out of the rain and can get really attached to their humans. I have a friend with a goat that tries to cuddle with him and runs right to him when he gets home, just like a dog. A good way to approach a goat you don’t know yet is to pet them under their head, such as scratching their chin. Seeing a hand above their head scares them.
I’m not sure what we will do with ours. So far they are keeping the grass low, and just looking pretty cute in the yard. When they get comfortable with us, I think my 11 year-old will have a new chore: milking the goats.