Why are dairy goats the decade’s fastest growing livestock segment?

Nigerian Dwarf Doe “Camanna OMF Ophelia in Blue” photo courtesy of Anna Brown.

Dairy goats herds have expanded faster than any other major livestock group in the U.S. over the past decade. They’ve grown 61 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to the USDA’s latest Census of Agriculture, a once-every-five-years inventory of the nation’s farms.

According to The Sun Journal, the surge comes as goats have permeated pop culture. We’ve seen them frolicking and doing parkour while sporting adorable onesies on YouTube. We’ve maybe hoisted a 20-pound Nigerian Dwarf aloft in everybody’s favorite novelty yoga practice. And rent-a-goats are running amok in Boise and helping clear brush and prevent wildfires in California.

Aside from large commercial dairies, small farmers are also increasing the goat population. The growing popularity of non-consumable goats milk products such as soaps and lotions is undoubtedly playing a role in this increase, along with increased awareness of the health benefits of goats milk and cheese.

Photo courtesy of Naissance Natural Goat”s Milk Soap & Lotion

Another factor that could account for the continued increase in dairy goat numbers could be related to the increasing popularity of the smallest dairy breed, the Nigerian Dwarf. These dairy goats stand less than two feet tall at the shoulder and given around a 1/2 gallon of rich sweet milk a day when first fresh. Plus they are very colorful and personable

In the past decade, cities have also started allowing 2-3 small goats to be kept in back yards either as pets or as dairy animals. These changes have allowed urban or suburban residents to not only have chickens producing eggs but also to have their own dairy source.

Many believe that having a dairy animal is an important step towards self-sufficiency and the Nigerian Dwarf goat is a good candidate. Jane Wagman, of Wags Ranch, had this to say about choosing the Nigerian Dwarf for their family’s dairy needs:

“We initially settled on the Nigerian Dwarf Goat breed because their friendly nature and small size made them safer for our children to be around.   Now that we are older, their small size means that I can still single handly handle any of them and they are easily transported in a large or XL dog crate. Also, unlike large dairy breeds, they can be bred year round to keep a stable supply of milk for the family. And they have very rich, sweet milk with the highest butterfat content of any breed, which translates into a higher cheese yield per gallon of milk.”

The dairy goat industry is dominated by women who appreciate goats smaller size, their gregarious social personalities and the fact that they are easier on the environment and don’t produce as much methane making their environmental hoofprint much smaller.

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Contributed by Sean Walton of The Daily Sheeple.

Sean Walton is a researcher and journalist for The Daily Sheeple. Send tips to sean.walton@thedailysheeple.com.

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