If you’re looking for a dual-purpose dairy goat, the Swiss Saanen dairy goat is your best bet for high production and durability.
The Saanen is well-known for its ability to produce a lot of milk.
Unfortunately, it’s lesser-known for its fantastic pack goating abilities. This breed can provide plenty of milk and companionship for whoever takes them on as their breed.
This dainty-looking breed is an illusion because the Saanen breed is tough and rugged. They have tough hooves, strong udders, and have a high resistance to disease.
Unlike the Kiko meat breed, this is a breed that has been bred carefully to improve their production rates. In other words, special attention has been paid to them over the years.
Breed Standards of Saanen Goats
Since the Saanen is a long-loved breed, special attention has been paid to their development. The American Dairy Goat Association focuses on educating breeders, farmers, and enthusiasts on the breed standards of the Saanen.
The Saanen is a delicate-looking goat with a lean body type. They are leggier than most meat breeds of goat which is good for ease-of-milking. While they are taller than a Boer goat, for example, they are still shorter than an Alpine.
Unlike some goat breeds, their hair is soft, short, and smooth. Coarse hair is often a disqualifier of the breed.
Saanens come in two color variations: white and light cream. However, they may have spots, but it isn’t typical or desirable.
Since the Saanen has light fur, they also have fair skin which makes them susceptible to sunburn. In fact, this is a breed that prefers the cooler regions of the world.
Saanens have straight ears that tend to point forward and are held fairly upright. They have an alert and perky appearance.
2. Height and Weight
Saanens mature to an approximate height of around 2.5 feet at the withers.
True to dairy goat breeds, the Saanen weighs around 170 lbs, and of course, the bucks usually weigh a tad more.
The Saanen is considered to be an excellent pack goat because of its hardiness. Their ears aren’t prone to ripping, their feet are tough, and they are leggy enough to be agile over rough terrain.
If you want a dairy breed that doesn’t often fall ill, the Saanen has great disease resistance when kept in clean conditions.
The Saanen gets an A+ in the pet department. It’s a friendly breed with a calm demeanor…and they aren’t as noisy as Nubians, for example. If you are looking for a pet or fair goat for your kiddos, this may be an excellent choice.
Breeding the Saanen Goat
Saanen does reach sexual maturity at about 6 months of age, however, they should not be bred until they reach at least 9 months. While Saanens may be able to breed year-round, they tend to be more apt to breed in the fall.
If your doe is bred, you can expect to have kids in about 150 days.
Note: if you are using your Saanen for milk, any babies will need to be bottle-fed and removed from the doe.
Caring For The Saanen Goat
1. Nutritional Needs
Dairy goats need the same basic nutritional requirements as most other breeds. They do best on a forage that consists of legumes and grasses.
However, dairy farmers often supplement with grain to increase milk production.
2. Housing and Fencing
Saanen goats need similar housing and fencing as other goats. However, if you are using them in a dairy operation, you may consider keeping them inside a dairy barn with access to a milking parlor.
Saanen goats are skilled climbers and jumpers, and they enjoy practicing their escape-artist skills if they can. It’s important to choose fencing that’s at least 4 feet tall and sturdy.
As the saying goes, “if it won’t hold water, it won’t hold a goat.”
3. Health Issues and Care
Even though the Saanen is a hardy breed, if it is kept in confinement, it can be just as susceptible to disease as any other breed.
Regular deworming schedules are imperative for any dairy goat operation. With that being said, if your goats are kept as pets, or allowed plenty of space to roam, they needn’t be dewormed as often.
Read our article on internal parasites for more detail on deworming and prevention.
Alternatives To Saanen Goats
The Saanen is perfect for anyone looking for a friendly dairy goat with a hardy strong body. However, if you are interested in a dairy goat with high butterfat milk, maybe the Saanen isn’t for you. These goats have higher butterfat than the Saanen:
- Nigerian Dwarf Goat
- Nubian Goat
Did You Know?
The Saanen goat is renowned for its digging abilities. Yes! They will go ahead and dig right under your fence. Like most goats, they test the waters to see if they can escape their enclosures, and with the ability to dig on their side, it’s just one more thing to worry about. So make sure all your enclosures are sturdy and prevent your goats from digging.
Other than the digging, the Saanen is a lovely goat with a hardy build. It’s perfect for the first time dairy goat owner and would do well with children interested in animal husbandry.