Goat Milk FAQ

April 30, 2011 · 6 comments

Foam from one morning's milking.

Does it smell or taste “goaty?”

Goat milk should not smell or taste “goaty.” If it does, something is not right. There are several factors that can cause milk to seem “off.” A lactating doe that kept in close quarters with a buck or is fed or grazes on brassicas (cabbage, kale, turnips, etc.) or alliums (onions, garlic, etc.)  within a few hours of milking can produce milk with an unattractive flavor. Poor sanitation can also result in milk unfit for consumption that should be avoided for obvious reasons.

A friend who kept goats for many years told me that she once owned a Toggenburg (breed) goat that gave funky tasting milk. I have no experience with Toggenburgs, so I can verify this, but if you’re thinking about getting a goat, you might look into it further. (Now I feel guilty for bad-mouthing Toggenburgs when I only have second-hand, anecdotal information. If you dispute this claim, let me know.)

I grew up on 1% cow milk, so for me, drinking whole goat milk is kind of heavy duty, but taste-wise, goat and cow milk are very similar.

Pouring fresh milk into a strainer with a milk filter.

I’ve heard it’s easier to digest or that people who are lactose intolerant can drink goat milk. Is this true?

These theories are sort of true for several reasons. Goat milk is fattier that cow milk; commercially available whole cow milk is 4% milk fat, while goat milk is often 6%, and nubian goat milk can be 8%. The fat particles in goat milk, however, are smaller those in cow milk, making it naturally homogenized. If you let goat milk set in the fridge for several days, only a thin layer of cream will rise to the top; it will never fully separate without the aid of a cream separator.

There is slightly less lactose present in goat milk than in cow milk, so some folks that are only mildly lactose-intolerant can drink goat milk with no ill affects.

Goat milk has only a tiny fraction of the folic acid in cow milk, so kids that exclusively drink goat milk should probably take a folic acid supplement daily.

Why is it so expensive to buy at the store?

First of all, there is only a tiny (but growing) demand for goat milk compared to cow milk. Goat dairies are few an far between, so some folks are lucky to get it at any price.

Secondly, a single goat produces MUCH less milk than a cow. A good milking doe will give a gallon or a little more in a day for part of a year. Cows can yield 6+ gallons per day. Goats do eat less, and they require less space, but a dairy needs many more goats than cows to produce a marketable quantity of milk. Caring for and handling more individuals requires a lot of extra time and effort.

The little line on this half-gallon jar is the 7-cup mark. This is one morning's milking from a nubian dairy goat.

Goat cheese is the soft, white, creamy stuff, right?

Chèvre is the correct word for cheese made from goat milk, but it is most commonly associated with that soft, creamy farmer’s cheese. The chèvre that people often think of as “goat cheese” requires no aging facility or lapse in time from when it is produced to when it can be sold. It also has the highest cheese yield per gallon of milk, making it one of few commercially viable goat cheeses. Goat milk can be made into any type of cheese: cheddar, mozzarella, gorgonzola, you name it, but if you think soft chèvre is expensive, don’t even look at the price tag on an aged goat cheddar.

On a side note, goat dairy products are alway white because goat milk lacks beta carotene. Though cow-milk butter and many cow-milk cheeses are naturally tinged with yellow or gold, much of what is produced commercially has additives to enhance the yellowy-orange hues.

Have more goat milk questions? Ask away in the comments below.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura April 30, 2011 at 9:15 am

Very interesting. Enjoyed the read.


cynthia April 30, 2011 at 1:06 pm

thanks camille, great info. hope bella is well.


Camille May 2, 2011 at 1:06 pm

She got her stitches out this morning, and is doing well overall. We’re all pretty happy about that.


Jennifer Callison April 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Here’s a random and barely applicable comment:
When Jasper was a small baby he got sick from an allergy to the cow’s milk that I was drinking. Evidently some of the proteins (?) from the cow milk passed through my system into his through my breast milk. The doctor recommended goats milk (or other non-dairy alternatives) for me. The goat milk worked well, and was delicious. As he grew older, he ate loads of goat cheese and goat milk with no ill effects.


john farrow August 14, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Our original 2 goats are Toggenburgs. lovely milk. We now have British Toggenburgs, Saanens, Nubians……. Have a Nubian with Funky milk…… not a specific breed thing. don’t know answer but you were right to feel a pang of guilt with your Toggenburg slur!! love and blessings John


Sonia September 28, 2015 at 7:49 pm

This was very interesting – I always cringe a little and feel ripped off when I pay what seems to be an absurd amount for a small amount of fresh goat cheese – thanks for explaining where those prices come from. Also, it’s nice how far even a small amount will take you, because it’s not the kind of cheese I would eat by the spoonful anyway.


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