If you were ever wondering about getting livestock, you should definitely check out Alpine Goats. Originally from the French Alps, these are some of the most demanded dairy goat breeds for domestic and industrial use due to their superb milk production capabilities.
The Alpine goats that we know today come from ancient Pashang goats that migrated to the Alps, presumably thousands of years ago. The most common types of alpine goats are French alpine goats, American alpine goats, Rock alpine goats, British alpine goats, and Swiss alpine goats.
They are characterized by their docility and adaptability, as they can be used for domestic and industrial purposes and adjust to routine changes and weather variability, which allowed them to travel long distances across the ocean. Moreover, they're overly friendly and non-aggressive, although there can be occasional fights within the herd.
The milk from Alpine goats comes packed with lots of nutrients and is also very versatile. It can be used for daily consumption, manufacturing food products (such as cheese and butter), and even for soap and other skincare products. This breed of goats can also be used for meat, but they mainly shine in milk production!
With all that said, there is not just one Alpine goat. There is a great variety of alpine goats to choose from, and they vary slightly in size, shape, and color. However, productivity-wise, there are no significant distinctions.
Alpine Goat: Typical Color patterns
Some types of Alpine goats can present themselves in multiple color patterns. In contrast, others are circumscribed to a specific pattern that is typical to them (such as is the case with the British Alpine variant).
Below we'll outline the types of alpine goats that currently exist, as well as some interesting facts about each one:
French Alpine Goats
This one is the "vanilla" version, the purebred or the Alpine goat proper. In France, they're simply referred to as "Alpine," without the "French" distinction, and they're designated in registration papers also as Alpine Dairy goats.
They were developed around the Savoy region in the 19th century. They're also called "Alpine Polychrome" due to the ample range of colors they come in, from white to black, grey, red, brown, and anything in-between. However, its most common color pattern is chamois, particularly since 1930. By 1950, a certain plague decimated the goat population in Western and Central France, and chamoisee Alpine goats were used to replace them.
The average French Alpine Goat can produce around 2,130 pounds of milk per lactation, with an average daily yield of 3 to 4 liters (this yield rate is more or less consistent across all Alpine goat types.)
American Alpine Goats
In 1922, a herd of 21 French Alpine goats (18 does and 3 bucks) had been brought to American soil by a group of goat enthusiasts lead by Dr. Charles Delangle, Mrs. Mary Rock, Dr. Charles Fairbanks, and Mr. Joseph Crepin.
Since then, they've been crossed with Spanish, Swiss, and Austrian breeds to produce what we now know as the American Alpine goat. They're very similar in appearance to the French type, but they are a bit larger than the original French Alpine and have other marking variations.
There was, however, a previous attempt to create a prototype version of the American Alpine Goat with the aid of a Swiss import in 1906, simply called "American Goat," through an initiative by Mrs. Edward Roby. Her idea was to create a tuberculosis-free milk source at the time when the illness was at its peak. These goats were never recorded, though.
Rock Alpine Goats
This variant, also from America, resulted from a cross between the 1904 imports (particularly Toggenburgs and Saanens) and the batch that arrived in 1922. The same Mary E. Rock mentioned earlier bought some of these breeds along with the only Cou Blanc doe import on record at that time, named Molly Crepin. Afterward, she just allowed them to cross naturally without using any artificial breeding methods.
This Alpine Goat type was considered a luxury and won milking competitions and other pageants regularly. This is due to their exceptional ability to produce almost double the amount of milk than regular Alpine goats (up to 7 liters per day or 2 gallons). It was recognized as a separate breed in 1931 by the American Milk Goat Record Association.
British Alpine Goats
As the name implies, this type was developed in Britain from Swiss Alpine imports, Nubian genetics, and other local breeds. They always come swiss-marked and look like a combination of the black and white Toggenburg and the Swiss Grison. Due to a recessive gene, at times, they can come with an entirely black coat (these are called "black Saanen" or "all black.")
This breed was devised by Sedgemere Faith with the help of a Swiss doe imported from the Paris Zoo in 1903. In 1911, the first official British Alpine herd was organized. In 1958, they were brought to Australia and were evenly spread throughout that country. Nowadays, though, they aren't as popular as the Saanen (a non-Alpine Swiss breed).
Swiss Alpine Goats
Swiss Alpine goats proceed from the mountain ranges in the northern and central parts of Switzerland. They are alternatively called Oberhasli.
There are two varieties: The horned version from Graubunden and the polled (without horns) version from Bern and Brienz. It was this latter type that was used for the breeding of American Alpine goats. It usually comes with a chamoisee coat, with two black stripes that stretch from the eyes to the muzzle.
Although originally it was called Swiss Alpine due to their origin, from 1977 onwards, they're classified officially as a separate breed called Oberhasli. For the informational purpose of this writing, we included it among the Alpine breed.
Their estimated milk yield is just a tad below 3 liters per day, a bit less than that of the average Alpine goat.
Sources:The Livestock Conservancy – Oberhasli Goat.