June 2010
For What It's Worth

Honoring Dairy Goats

Dairy goats have been utilized for thousands of years, not only for their milk, but much more. While goat meat production and meat goats are a relatively new concept in the United States, dairy goats have historically been utilized for their meat and milk, as pack animals, and their hides make quality leather. While meat goats do not make good dairy goats, dairy goats can be processed for meat. Dairy goats have a lot of interesting history. They are one of the oldest forms of domesticated livestock (along with sheep). Dairy goats were the first animals to be used for milk by humans. Rumors say dairy goats were brought to Americas by Columbus in 1493.


Table 1: Nutrient value of cow milk versus goat milk. Source: McCane, Widdowson, Scherz, Kloos

When comparing the nutrient value (see Table 1) of goat milk to cow’s milk, the caprine statistics show a slight advantage. But there is more! Goat milk works for those with lactose intolerances; it is more easily digested than cow’s milk due to the fact its molecules are smaller and more easily absorbed into the digestive system. The most amazing aspect of goat milk is it is naturally homogenized, so the cream stays mixed in the milk and does not separate and rise to the top like cow’s milk.

For the most part, anything done with cow’s milk can be done with goat milk, provided either is handled at an inspected/licensed dairy and pasteurized. Consumables like bottled milk, soft and aged cheeses, ice cream, fudge, yogurt, kefir (fermented beverage) and butter are excellent when made with goat milk. Then there are the value-added skin care products which utilize goat milk but do not require a licensed dairy or pasteurization: goat milk soap, shampoo, lotion, bath balms, etc. What history buff has not heard the stories about Egyptian Royalty bathing in goat milk, which according to myth is the secret to keeping their skin soft and them beautiful.

As mentioned earlier goat milk can be further processed into soft spreadable cheeses, flavored to suit any palate whether a person prefers herb, spicy or sweet, and used for cooking in an array of dishes. Most people are probably familiar with feta cheese, which is often used in salads at Greek and upscale restaurants. Take a look at the nutrient value comparison of cream cheeses, cow versus goat. Table 2 shows a significant difference in the health benefits of choosing goat milk cheese over cow’s milk cheese.

And for those who seek an alternative meat offering all kind of health advantages, consider the nutritional information shown in Table 3.

Table 2: Made available by the American Dairy Goat Association


Table 3: USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 14

This article is not suggesting everyone sell their dairy cows or meat goats and buy a dairy goat, nor is it suggesting everyone needs to house a dairy goat in their backyard. However, dairy goats do deserve some respect for all they have to offer. And don’t forget, June is diary month.

Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.