Goat Types: Dairy Goats vs. Meat Goats

These Facts About Goats Can Help You Decide Which Type of Goat Is Right For You

Goat Types: Dairy Goats vs. Meat Goats

By Brooke Nafziger –  Have you ever wondered which of the goat types would be best for you? A dairy goat or a meat goat?

I am in my 2nd year in 4-H, my first year raising goats for meat, and my first year in raising goats for milk. I have one dairy goat, named Alexandria. She is a female, Nigerian Dwarf goat. I also have three meat goats. They are Boer goats. There are two males, named Chocolate Chip and Trixie and one female, named Cookie.

I have already learned that there are several goat types. There are three basic kinds—meat, dairy, and fiber goats. I chose to own two kinds of goats (meat and dairy) this year because I wanted to learn about both of these types of goats and see which kind I like better. I also decided to be in both goat 4-H clubs so I can learn about the differences and similarities of them. I plan to show in both the dairy and the meat divisions at the fair this summer.

Since I have both dairy goats and meat goats at home, I am learning about what kind of goat I like best for myself. I have come up with a simple personality test that has helped me decide about which kind of goat I like and has some questions for a person to think about when they are deciding what kind of goat is best them because different goats are made for different folks. Either kind of goat is fine; it just depends on what you are looking for and who you are.

Here are the questions:

  • Do you want a goat that gives you:

A. Milk to drink?
B. Meat to eat?

  • Do you want a goat that is:

A. Super-sweet with a good personality and disposition?
B. Pushy and thinks it’s the “boss?”

  • Do you want a type of goat that:

A. Is gentle and playful?
B. Is rougher and plays hard, sometimes head-butting you?

  • Do you want a goat that is:

A. Kind-hearted and tender?
B. Pushy and spirited?

Now, it’s time for the results of our test. Look over your answers and see which letter was most chosen the most—A or B. If you chose mostly A’s, you would like a dairy goat. If you chose mostly B’s, you would choose a meat goat.

Goat Types: Dairy Goats

Dairy goats come in a variety of colors. They come in brown, black, white and gray. I own a Nigerian Dwarf dairy goat. She is very friendly and sweet, and I love her a lot.

Dairy goats seem to be better with younger children and are more like a pet, since many times they have been bottle fed by their owners. They are not as pushy as the bigger, meat goats such as the Boer goats. They are very cute and have a sweet personality. They are very playful. If you want to be in the pen with them, they are easy to play with and train for the fair. They follow you around and are just like a playmate. Dairy goats give milk, that you can use for making goat cheese. You have to milk them twice a day. They require more work and responsibility than meat goats.

Goat Types: Meat Goats

Meat goats are more stocky and muscular than dairy goats. They come in a combination of red and white colors. I also own a meat goat. He is a Boer and his name is Chocolate Chip.

Meat goats don’t have to be milked, and their purpose in life is to be butchered and used for their meat. They are not as expensive to care for since they typically drink their mother’s milk rather than by being bottle-fed. Meat goats are strong and can be frisky—they might be better for an older child. They like to head-butt and sometimes can push you down and might chew your clothing. Since they do not have to be milked, they do not take as much time to take care of.

I have learned first-hand about both goat types by owning them and caring for goats myself, by reading about them in books, by showing them at the county fair, and through my club involvement. I am still learning about them and have decided at this point that I like them both!

There are different goats for different folks. So whichever of the goat types you choose, it’s the kind of goat that’s right for you!

Originally published in the July/August 2011 issue of Dairy Goat Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.

3 thoughts on “Goat Types: Dairy Goats vs. Meat Goats”
  1. This may sound crazy, but we are new at this. Are all Nigerian Dwarf goats Dairy? What are the males? My kids would like to show them at the fair. I feel like I’m reading that they can be considered both. How do you know?! Learning a lot…..Thank you.

    1. Hi Maggie,
      At county fairs, the class/category is often specific to the fair. Nigerian Dwarf goats are indeed Dairy, which means only the females can show in this category. Males (usually wethers and not bucks) may be entered into other classes. They are usually not considered meat; that class contains Boer and Savanna. Other classes include Showmanship and Breed Specialty, and sometimes Costume or Agility competitions. I recommend getting in touch with your local 4-H and FFA to see what categories are represented at your local fair.

  2. Thank you so much for writing this way back when! As a 4-H family, it’s Fair week for us, and Ive finally given in to trying to raise and show agoat next year. I had no idea what to do. And then I found you! Thanks!!

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