By Janet Hurst – Toggenburg goats are a durable goat breed that have stood the test of time. The Toggenburg goat originated in the Toggenburg Valley of Switzerland and is known as the oldest breed of dairy goat.
This breed was first registered in a herd book in Switzerland in the 1600s. Toggenburgs were also the first imported purebreds to arrive in the U.S. in 1893.
The Toggenburg goat underwent a development program when introduced to Britain — the resulting British Toggenburg is heavier and has improved milk quality to its Swiss cousin.
They perform best in cooler conditions.
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Size: Medium, average weight 120 pounds; does standing 26” at the withers, bucks 28” at the withers.
Hair: Short, from sleek to shaggy coat. Bucks are known for a pronounced beard.
Color: Fawn to chocolate
Markings: White ears with dark spot in the middle, two white stripes down the face from above each eye to the muzzle, hind legs white from hocks to hooves, forelegs white from knees downward with a dark band below the knee; a white triangle on either side of the tail, a white spot may be present at root of goat wattles or in that area if no wattles are present. Varying degrees of cream makings instead of pure white acceptable, but not desirable.
Ears: Erect and stand forward on the head.
Facial structure: Long but not Roman. Often naturally polled.
Temperament: Slightly high strung, perhaps more than other breeds
I often think of a Toggenburg goat when I remember the book, Heidi. Goats were very common to the Swiss Alps region and were forever immortalized in this quaint story. In one particular chapter of the book, the Grandfather is making his cheese by the fire. He states, “Open the window and let the wind do its worst,” leading the reader to the assumption the cheese was of a particularly fragrant variety. Many of the Alpine cheeses were first made with goat milk because goats adapted to the mountainous regions and spotty grazing conditions. When making goat’s cheese in the Alps, cooked curd cheese was formed into a large wheel, and aged for a period of 60 days to several years. Stories indicate that the main reason behind producing cheese in large wheels was to facilitate moving it down the mountainside, which does appear to be quite plausible.
Although the goat population of Switzerland has reportedly dropped drastically, Toggenburg goats are still popular with small farmers. The flavor of the Toggenburg’s milk is slightly more stringent than other goat’s milk. In a mixed herd, the goat milk benefits the cheese by commingling with the various breed flavor profiles and adding a distinct edge to finished cheese. This can be quite desirable and take a bland cheese to another level. Toggenburg milk typically has a fat content of 3.2-3.7 percent. ADGA statistics from 2006 show average production to be at 2253 pounds of milk, with 3.2% fat and 2.7% protein. The average lactation period of the Toggenburg goat is 257 days.
1 Storey’s Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, J. Belanger, Storey Books, 2001, p 10.
2 Breeds of livestock, Toggenburg goats, ansi.okstate.edu
3 Heidi, Johanna Spyri, Random House, 1986 edition
4 Figures from Purdue University
Originally published in the May/June 2009 issue of Dairy Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.