The Saanen goat is the largest of the dairy goat breeds. Growing to 130 to 145 pounds, the Saanen breed is one of the best goats for milk. This breed is a consistent high-volume and high-quality milk producer. It’s no wonder that the friendly Saanen goat has risen to the favorite position with many goat owners.
The Saanen goat, (Capra aegagrus hircus), originated in the Saanen Valley of Switzerland. They were first brought to the USA in 1904. Later arrivals from England joined herds, in the 1960s. The Saanen goat quickly became a favorite in milking goat herds. They joined Toggenberg, Nubian, LaManchas, Alpine, Oberhasli, and Nigerian Dwarf goats in the goat milk market.
Saanen Goat Brings High Quality Milk to the Herd
Saanen goats bring their own unique characteristics of high milk production with lower butterfat percentage. The butterfat percentage is usually in the 3.5% range. The average milk production of a Saanen goat doe is 2545 pounds of milk per year.
Saanens are all white. Some spots are permissible but not desirable in the show ring. Colored Saanens are now referred to as Sables and are now a recognized breed. The hair of the Saanen goat is short and white and the skin color should be tan or white.
This breed is a good choice for children and beginners in the goat world. Saanens possess a calm temperament. You often hear the terms hardy, calm and sweet used to describe the breed. At over 30 inches tall and with considerable weight, the Saanen could be considered the gentle giant of the goat world.
A Goat for All Seasons?
Saanen goats are tolerant of many climates and take change in stride. Due to their tan or light skin, available shade is a must for Saanen goats. Some feel that this breed produces better in cooler climates but that does not seem to hold true. The Saanen goat breed seems to thrive and have high production in almost every area, as long as their needs for shade, shelter, pasture or quality hay and fresh clean water are made available.
Saanen Goat Breed History
After being imported to the United States in the early part of the twentieth century, the Saanen goat breeders were hit hard by the Depression in the 1930’s. Many goat breeders were forced to go out of business and many goat dairies closed. The Saanen goat breed was revitalized by importing goats from England in the 1940’s through the 1960’s. Many of these European goats had to take a roundabout trip to the United States through Canada. The USDA at the time was not in favor of importing animals from Europe. The animals could be imported to Canada though, and after a time there, could be imported to the USA. The Saanen goat breeders who persevered through the depression liked the look of the Brittish Saanen and brought quality back to the breed by introducing these new lines. Many of the families that survived the early years and the depression continued to improve the breed to today’s standards. Today’s Saanen goat is a powerhouse of milk production, stamina, temperament, hardiness and disease-resistance.
There are many compelling reasons for raising dairy goats. Perhaps you’re intrigued by goat milk benefits, making goat cheeseor learning how to make goat milk soap. Whether you want to raise a small herd for your personal or family needs or are interested in raising goats for profit, you’ll find these creatures to be friendly, docile, curious and intelligent.
Would you consider adding the Saanen goat to your herd? Read more dairy goat spotlights from Countryside and Dairy Goat Journal.