We’re often asked this question, and like to have anyone asking taste goat milk for an answer – they’re usually surprised when they find that it’s creamy, sweet and mild – virtually indistinguishable from whole cow milk. But, we raise Nigerian Dwarf goats, which produce milk that’s quite high in butterfat, hence the mild and creamy taste. Other goat breeds produce milk that’s typically lower in butterfat, so the flavor and consistency can be quite different.
As mentioned above, one of the big differentiators in goat milk is the percentage of butterfat. A goat that produces milk at 10% butterfat is similar to cow milk half-and-half from the grocery store, while a goat that produces 2% butterfat is similar (at least in consistency) to that of 2% cow milk at the grocery store. If you’re used to half-and-half, the 2% milk may be too bland and watery, whereas if you’re used to 2% milk, 10% may be too rich and thick.
We were recently at a class on natural goat health care, and were reminded how much goat milk taste can vary depending on the breed – the milk served after class came from Alpines, and we considered it watery with a stronger taste than we’re accustomed to. So, what goat milk tastes like depends on both butterfat content and breed – if you’re considering keeping goats for their milk, then you really need to try the milk from that breed before making a commitment. Also, in some breeds (Alpines especially), taste can even vary substantially from goat to goat. So, for these breeds, it’s best to taste the milk from the individual doe (or her dam if she’s too young for milk yet).
Now knowing that taste can vary significantly depending on butterfat level, breed, and individual goat – the following are some generalizations on what might be considered typical:
Alpines – these probably have the most variation in taste from goat to goat, so it’s really important to taste the milk from the individual doe. Butterfat content for Alpines is typically around 3 to 4%. They generally have nice tasting milk.
La Manchas – these generally give sweet tasting milk that has a butterfat content of 4 to 4.5%.
Oberhaslis – except in the United States, goat milk is more common than cow milk; and, in many places, stronger tasting milk is desired. Oberhaslis were originally bred in Switzerland where stronger tasting goat milk is preferred, so their milk is. The butterfat content is around 2.5 to 3.5%. I’ve heard that some Obers don’t have strong tasting milk – so again, try the milk.
Nigerian Dwarf – this is the breed for cream lovers, they give mild, sweet tasting milk with from 6 – 10% butterfat. Their butterfat generally starts out lower early in their lactation and rises to the 8 – 10% level by about 8 weeks in.
Nubians – this breed usually produces milk with from 4 – 5% butterfat and their milk is typically sweet tasting – the Nubians are known for producing good tasting milk.
Saanens – these typically produce milk with a butterfat content of 2 – 3%, and it can be pretty bland and watery. These are better for the 2% milk lovers.
Toggenburgs – Toggenburgs were also originally bred in Switzerland where stronger tasting goat milk is preferred, so their milk generally has a strong “goat” flavor. The butterfat content for Toggenburgs is about the same as Alpines, 3 – 4%.