Which goat breed is best for the cheesemaker?
Which breed of goat provides the best milk for making cheese? I've read that the Nubian's milk has the highest butterfat content and supposedly that would make the best cheese but I'm not sure.--Ruth Ittner
This seemingly innocent little question requires several answers.
First, one dairy breed is no better--or worse--than any other, when it comes to producing milk for making cheese, or anything else.
Second, you don't need butterfat to make cheese. Many people skim the cream to make butter or other products, and make cheese from skim milk.
The curd is formed by the chief protein in milk, casein, when enough lactic acid is developed from lactose (milk sugar) by the microorganisms present in the milk, or when it has been acted upon by rennin. Rennin is an enzyme usually obtained from the stomach of a young calf in the brine solution called rennet. (It must be a calf that has consumed only milk, no solid foods.) At the moment of coagulation, all the milk constituents, including most of the fat, casein and other water-insoluble substances, are contained in the curd. The curd is cut, or broke, to release the whey.
Third, while it's true that Nubians average higher butterfat than other breeds, averages don't mean much to the person with a few animals. There are more differences between strains than there are between breeds.
Remember too, that butterfat levels vary considerably during the course of lactation (being highest soon after freshening) and as a result of feeding practices. Even a Nubian can produce milk with a butterfat content of less than three percent, in late lactation.
And also--again on the average--Nubians produce the smallest quantity of milk...something you might want to consider when you're talking about taking 10 pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese.--Jd Belanger, author of Storey's Guide to Raising Dairy Goats, available from the Countryside Bookstore.