There are more than 300 different goat breeds roaming in pastures around the globe. There are dairy goats, meat goats, fiber goats, and miniature goat breeds that are all heralded for their various benefits and offerings.
There is no right or wrong goat breed to keep. But, discovering the best goat breed to suit your needs and space requires due diligence … and sometimes a little trial and error.
Goats are especially independent animals and are among the easiest keepers in the livestock world. Even during the winter months a goat herd can browse (they do not graze like cattle or horses) on dead leaves, twigs, and scant underbrush to fulfill most of their dietary needs – which is a great cost saver because even mini breeds are voracious eaters.
Why Do You Want To Keep Goats?
The first question to ask yourself before delving into which goat breed might be right for you, is to first ask do I know enough about raising goats, and second, do you fully grasp what you expect of the herd once the animals are unloaded on the homestead.
Narrowing your potential goat purchases down to just a handful of breeds that best suit your needs will help you make a wise choice that will have a slimmer chance of leading to a waste of money and epic herd failure on your homestead.
If you simply want farm pets that the children can take to the fair for 4-H projects and to task with grass “cutting” and weeding duties, whether or not they are known to be quality milkers or meat goats. While all goat breeds can be milked or harvested for meat, some are better at providing those specific items than others.
A goat breed that is dual purpose may be the best fit for your homestead if the animals are being purchased simply for personal milk and meat use. Some dual purpose breeds can be found at a less expensive price than breeds that are known to excel at either milking or meat production.
If you just like goats and want to earn extra money on the homestead by breeding them, the type of breed you purchase will matter perhaps more greatly than you think. Learn the goat market in your area as well as what the most popular 4-H breeds are to ensure you are raising what folks are eager to buy and will pay enough to cover husbandry costs.
There are only a few specific breeds of fiber goats and miniature goats – with one fiber goat mini breed. These goat breeds are often more expensive and difficult to find than others – depending upon the goat market in your region.
Before picking any breed, be sure to read how to care for your goat guide that we have published to help you get started on this exciting journey!
Top 16 Goat Breeds For Homesteading
- Nigerian – If you are a small acreage homesteader, a miniature goat breed may be ideal. Nigerian goats are known as dairy goats and are capable of producing up to 1 quart of sweet butterfat rich milk per day. Nigerian dwarf goats are intelligent (I free range mine) docile, and very friendly. They are a great goat to purchases to both clear brush and to use as a 4-H project animal for young children. They breed up to four times per year, making Billies and nannies of this breed an excellent choice to grow a herd quickly and to make some extra money selling kids.
- Pygmy – This miniature goat breed is known as a meat goat but is a fairly good milker, as well. Cross breeding with Nigerian dwarf goats has become so common the kids of such breeding operations may soon have an official breed classification of their own. Pygmy goats are intelligent (I free range them also) and incredibly social and easy to handle. These are a hardy mini breed that often live up to 15 years.
- Nubian – This goat breed is often at the top of all dairy keepers. They are docile and hardy goat that also produces a nice quality of meat. A Nubian nanny goats are capable of producing one to one and a half gallons of sweet butterfat milk daily. Their distinctive floppy ears and make them one of the most easily recognizable goat breeds in the United States.
- Pygora – This miniature goats stem from cross breeding between Angora goats and Pygmy goats. They are a fiber goat and the smallest of all goat breeds. Do not let their small stature and dainty physique fool you, Pygora are a hardy goat breed that also produces a nice sweet milk. Angora goats are expensive and difficult to find in most locations, making Pygora an economical fiber goat choice for many homesteaders.
- Boer – This is one of (if not the) most popular meat goat breeds in America. Boer goats are such a stocky and sturdy goat breed they were once used as pack animals. Once a goat of this breed matures it typically weighs between 175 to 275 pounds – with Billies and male wethers weighing the most.
- Alpine – This dairy goat breed can produce up to two gallons of milk on a daily basis. It has a higher butterfat count that Nubians, but the high percentage does not make it as suitable for cheese as the other famed dairy goat breed.
- Tennessee – This goat breed is likely more familiar to most people by its common nickname – “fainting goats.” The do not actually faint but merely drop to the ground for less than a minute – typically, when they are startled due to a genetic defect. The so-called fainting is not painful for the Tennessee goat breed. These goats were traditionally raise for their meat but are more often kept now as farm pets.
- LaMancha – This is yet another quality dairy goat breed. They are equally well known for the mild demeanor and intelligence. Their unusually small ears for their body size makes the LaMancha goat breed both distinctive and easy to identify.
- Spanish – This meat goat breed is most frequently kept in the southern region of America. They are exceptionally hardy in hot climates and when living in rugged terrain. Spanish goats are known for their calm personality, are not overtly social creatures, and produced an exceptionally tender and moist cut of meat.
- Kiko – Goats of this breeds are known to be perhaps the hardiest you can purchase. They thrive in rugged and cold climates but appear to adapt well in all but tropical regions. Kiko goats are a top quality meat goat and often sell for less than the more broadly popular Boer goats.
- Brush – If you are looking brush clearing goat that will roam around the homestead throughout the winter to find its own food and not shy away from traversing rugged terrain, the Brush goat breed has a lot to offer. This dual purpose goat breed is also commonly referred to as hill goats, wood goats, brier goats, and native goats.
- Oberhasli – This dairy goat breed originated in Switzerland. Oberhasli goats produce one and a half gallons of milk a day on average. The milk is incredibly rich and creamy and boasts a 3.5 percent butterfat content. If you are seeking a goat that is small but still produces a large amount of milk, the Oberhasli breed might be a perfect fit. Meat from this goat breed can be a little dry but still has a great flavor.
- Saanen – This dairy goat breed not only produces one gallon of milk with a two and a half percent butterfat content daily, they are also superb breeders and slightly above average meat goats. Saanen goats are known to be quite docile, independent browsers, and intelligent livestock.
- Rangeland – This goat breed hails from Australia – making it exceptionally hot weather and rugged terrain hardy. Rangeland goats are raised for their meat. They are great independent browsers even during times of drought and in sparse forested areas. This goat breed is a bit aloof but friendly and have an excellent breeding rate. Rangeland goats are not as commonly available in many regions of the United States as Boer goats and are often cross-bred with the stella meat goat peers to develop and even larger and stockier goat breed.
- Black Bengal – This is a rare breed to find in America but if you can find goats of this breed, definitely consider purchasing them. These Bangladesh natives are perhaps the best browsing goat breed in existence making them inexpensive to feed and great for brush clearing as well as being harvested for their meat. Black Bengals only mate twice a year but throwing twins and even triplets are not uncommon.
- Sable – This dairy goat breed can be considered dual purpose because they also offer a flavorful and moist meat. They hail from Saanen, making Sable goat significantly hot climate hardy. They are an intellignet goat breed that is docile in nature.
Always consider the space you will be able to offer for both a goat barn and pen or browsing areas. If you do not free range your goats they can be tied out and allowed to browse to fulfill as much of their dietary needs in the most natural way possible while saving you both money and time from a feeding perspective.
Discovering the pros and cons and traditional uses of each goat breed you are considering. Some goat breeds are better escape artists than others, some require lots of room to roam, and others are prone to hardiness regardless of climate.