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Dairy Goat Breeds - Saanen and Golden Guernsey

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

The Golden Guersney

The Golden Guernsey goat is not as well-known as the Saanen, the Toggenburg, British and French Alpines or even the Anglo-Nubian. However it is another quality dairy breed which is also known in France as the Guernesiais. The Golden Gessenay is another term for the breed. Like the Guernsey cow, also a dairy breed, the hallmark is the rich and striking colour.

Both the Guernsey cow and Golden Guernsey goat had their origins in the Channel Islands. These islands, one of which is Jersey and home to the Jersey cow, are situated in the English Channel off the French coast of Normandy. From 1920 to 1950, local breeds were crossed with Swiss breeds and Anglo-Nubians. As way back as 1826, a Channel Island Guide Book mentions golden coloured goats.

Golden Guernsey Goat

The Guernsey Goat Society and the States of Guernsey Committee for Agriculture promoted the breed so strongly in Britain that in 1975 a Trust Fund was set up and the British Goat Society opened a Registry for the breed. This eventually led to the establishment of the English Guernsey.

The Golden Guernsey produces high levels of butter fat (4%) and protein (3%). Although it does not produce the quantities of other breeds, the butterfat and protein levels make the milk ideal for cheese-making.

Partly due to the attractiveness of its colour, it has gained a loyal following. The colour can vary from a straw-coloured cream to a rich, golden honey-brown. Show animals should have the colouring going through to the skin. The coat can be short and smooth or long or a combination. There is often a fringe of longer hair along the back and down the thighs. Small white markings are allowed and even a white blaze as long as the markings are not accompanied by markings on the legs and face denoting Swiss breed blood. The face is rather long and dished. The slender neck is free of tassels (wattles). The erect ears may have a slight curl at the tip. Some are horned and some polled.

The Golden Guernsey is generally smaller than other goat breeds and produces well even when confined to very small areas. It is on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust list and classified as critically rare. The genetic base is small and it is hoped that line-breeding efforts will help create separate families and therefore expand the genetic base. It is such a beautiful goat that all efforts to ensure its survival are surely worthwhile.

Its gentle nature endears it to many. It is of medium size with bucks weighing from 190 to 200 pounds. It is finely-boned and not as wedge-shaped as some of the heavier producers. It has straight, long legs.

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The Saanen

One of the best of the milking goat breeds is the Saanen. The breed is named for the municipality in the canton of Berne in Switzerland. The district capital is also called Saanen.

Saanens were first imported to the United States in 1904. In Australia, the first Saanens arrived in 1913. Surprisingly, this was before the establishment of the breed in the United Kingdom when Saanens were imported from Holland in 1922.

Saanen Goat

They are one of the most popular breeds in the United States because of their resilience, ease of management and production levels. They are gentle animals, ideal for children to manage in 4H and showmanship classes. They are an ideal pet, being affectionate and friendly. From personal experience, they are an intelligent breed, capable of learning a number of tricks.

The Saanen is also popular in Australia which has more Saanens than any other dairy breed. They are an excellent commercial proposition but equally suited to smaller concerns.

The Saanen is used throughout the world to upgrade local breeds. In the United Kingdom, the Saanens has exerted a strong influence on local breeds over the years and the newly developed British Saanen is taller and heavier than his cousins.

The Saanen is a heavy producer with yields of 3% to 4% milk fat. Of the dairy breeds, the Saanen is the largest. The average height is 31 – 32 inches. Does weigh upwards of 150 pound and bucks are slightly heavier. They are docile and easy to manage.

'Femininity' best describes the Saanen doe. So refined and elegant is she that she is sometimes known as 'Queen of the Dairy Goats'. She has a pretty head with a straight or dished profile. The profile should never be convex.

The erect ears should preferably point forward and are carried alertly. The eyes are set wide apart and are bright and intelligent. The muzzle and nostrils are wide. Good dairy females, whether goat or cow, should be wedge-shaped. The back should be level to the hips then drop slightly to the tail. The hind legs have thin thighs to allow for a well-developed udder which can be globular or round. The long legs are clean and straight and certainly not cow-hocked.

The doe produces at a consistent rate and is economical to keep. They are calm and tractable, not easily panicked. Milkers respond well to a regular routine.

The skin is supple and preferably tan or olive rather than pink as the breed is sensitive to strong sun. They do best in temperate climates. There may be black spots on the ears, nose or udder.

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Although the buck is judged mainly by the performance and quality of his progeny, he still needs to be well-conformed. He should be big-boned with good depth and masculine in appearance without being coarse. Polled bucks create problems when bred to polled does as the progeny will be either intersex females or sterile males. This occurs in most dairy goat breeds. The problem doesn't arise if breeding polled bucks to horned does. Generally kids are debudded at birth ie the horns are prevented from growing by some method.

Show goats for preference should be white. Light cream is acceptable. The hair is short and fine and there is sometimes a fringe along the spine and thighs. Typically both sexes are bearded. Twins or triplets are common in this breed.

Lately a Sable Saanen has appeared due to a recessive gene. Some dairy goat breed clubs accept these coloured Saanens but not all.



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