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Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Dairy Goats


By Malinda Geisler, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University.

Revised November 2013 by Diane Huntrods, AgMRC, Iowa State University..


For more information or specific inquiries, please contact Madeline Schultz at
schultz@iastate.edu.


Overview
Dairy goat milk and goat cheese (chevre) continue to see slow, steady growth trends as consumers are becoming more aware of the higher protein and lower cholesterol levels found in the products. Goat milk is regarded as a natural source of nutrients, an alternative to cow's milk and easy to digest.

Marketing
Dairy goat producers rely on direct market sales for milk and cheese products. Farmers' markets and Internet sales also offer market outlets. Some producers sell directly to retail stores and restaurants.

Production
In the United States, dairy goats are found in every state. According to USDA (2009), milk goats were raised on 30,000 farms in 2007. 

As of January 1, 2013, the United States had 360,000 milk goats, unchanged from the previous year. The largest number of milk goats are found in Wisconsin (46,000 head) and California (40,500 head), followed by Iowa (29,000 head), Texas (18,000 head) and Minnesota (13,500 head). During 2012, the number of milk goats increased in Wisconsin and Minnesota but declined in the other three states.  (NASS 2013)

The major dairy goat breeds include Alpine, LaMancha, Nubian, Oberhasli, Saanen and Toggenburg. All of these breeds are capable of producing more than 2,000 pounds of milk per year. Yet, the United States imports more than 50 percent of the dairy goat cheese products consumed, most of that coming from France.

Value-added Uses
Goat milk is used for making cheese, yogurt and ice cream, and can be fed to other animals. In many states, the sale of raw or unpasteurized goat milk is illegal. Raw milk can be used to make cheese as long as the cheese ages 60 days or more before sale. Pasteurized milk must be used for fresh cheese. Another possible dairy goat product is soap.

In the past decade, goat cheese was regarded as one of the fastest-growing segments within specialty cheese. Although goat’s milk can be used to make any sort of cheese, the cheeses traditionally made from goat’s milk include feta, gjetost, chabichou and pyramide. Regardless of the variety, goat cheese is gourmet. Restaurants are using goat cheese on everything from salads, pizzas and entrees to dessert.

Like dairy cow cheese, the demand for reduced-fat goat cheese has significantly increased. Because the crumbly properties of goat cheese make the reduced-fat variety similar to the original in taste and texture, some specialty cheesemakers are focusing on this niche market.

Outlook
Dairy goat products will likely continue to occupy an important, expanding niche market. Challenges include the seasonality of milk production. Maintaining a uniform, year-round supply of goat milk is difficult due to seasonal reproductive cycles. Goat products are specialty food products and are not commonly found in mainstream grocery stores.

Until recently, federal regulations required that cheeses aged less than 60 days be made from pasteurized milk, preventing raw milk cheese from being exported. However, in 2007, the U.S. government approved a raw milk health certificate that enabled U.S. cheesemakers to tap a new market, the European Union raw milk cheese market.


Marketing

Production

  • Canadian Dairy Goat, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, 2006.
  • Dairy Goat Enterprise Budget, University of Wisconsin, 2003 - This budget, written in Excel 2000, includes an example, a test budget and two blank budget formats.
  • Dairy Goats, Babcock Institute for International Dairy Research and Development, University of Wisconsin.
  • Dairy Goats: Sustainable Production, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), NCAT, 2004 - This online publication overviews five major considerations when planning for dairy goat production.
  • Goat Milk Cheese Manufacturing, E (Kika) de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research, Langston University, Oklahoma - This site reviews the steps to making cheddar, low-fat cream cheese and mozzarella.
  • Milk Goats; Farms, Land in Farms, and Livestock Operations: 2008 Summary; NASS; USDA; 2009.
  • Quality Assurance from Milking to Processing, E (Kika) de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research, Langston University, Oklahoma - The manufacturing of goat milk products like fluid milk, cheese and ice cream are subject to the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. A standard operating procedure must be in place on dairy goat farms.
  • Sample Costs for a 500-Head Dairy Goat Operation, University of California Cooperative Extension, 2005.
  • Starting A Dairy Goat Business. A Guide for Farmers, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, 2008.

Businesses/Case Studies

  • Celebrity Dairy, Siler City, North Carolina - This farm combines goat cheese production with a bed and breakfast.
  • Coonridge Organic Goat Cheese, New Mexico - This 300-acre farm sells cheese from certified organic, free-range goats.
  • Dancing Winds Farm, Kenyon, Minnesota - Inadequate labor led the owner to scale back the goat dairy and develop a bed and breakfast.
  • FireFlyFarms Organic, Inc., Bittinger, Maryland - This farm's artisan cheeses are all made by hand with milk from their own goats.
  • Greenglade Goat Milk Specialties, Martell, Nebraska - When too many goats produced too much milk, Diana McCown opened a licensed goat dairy and began selling goat cheese. A decade later, McCown expanded her business to include a cheese plant, which was completed in 2008.
  • Iowa Group Adds Value to Goat Herd, Market to Market, Iowa Public Television, 2002 - Northern Prairie Chevre creates gourmet soft goat cheese in central Iowa. 
  • Poplar Hill Dairy Goat Farm, Scandia, Minnesota - This farm sells Grade A goat milk and goat cheese products.
  • Spinning Spider Creamery, Marshall, North Carolina, Renewing the Countryside - Chris Owen switched from raising Angora goats to raising dairy goats. Now her herd of 50 Saanen dairy goats provide the milk for her fresh chevre, feta, gouda and raw milk cheddar cheeses.
  • Valuing labor and improving efficiency on an integrated farm, Center for Integrated Ag Systems, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004 - Using milk from their goats to make goat milk soap was a way to accomplish this farm family's goals.


Links checked February 2013.

Related Links

Milk Goats - Inventory and Number Sold: 2007 and 2002, 2007 Census of Agriculture - State Data, National Agricultural Statistics Service, USDA, 2009.

 

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