The Appenzell Goat has been bred for many generations in the Swiss cantons of Appenzell and St. Gallen, and is a relative of the more widely known Saanen dairy breed. Like their cousins from the valley, Appenzell goats are bred and kept primarily for milk production. Their numbers declined for several decades, but have grown in recent years; nonetheless, these goats are still primarily a local breed found in their native cantons.
Appenzell does who are well cared for and receive optimum nutrition can be expected to reliably produce at least 1 gallon of milk per day while in milk. They are happy foragers, but as a production breed they do require extra mineral and vitamin supplementation. Fertility rates are good, although multiples are not common; does are feminine and generally make good mothers. Production life of a milking doe can be as long as 10 years, although milk production declines with age, and multiple kiddings to freshen the doe will decrease longevity.
Appearance / health:
Appenzell Goats are typically white with medium length hair and no horns. They are medium-to-large goats with strong, well-built bodies and sturdy limbs. A straight nose, long and erect ears, and a large, well-attached udder on does typifies the Appenzell goat. Does and bucks alike may have goatees, and both usually have wattles. Does typically weigh 120 lbs (45 kg) or more, while bucks may weigh in excess of 150 lbs. (65 kg). Horns are naturally polled.
When kept for milk production, be particularly aware of potential mineral deficiencies, especially magnesium and selenium. Milking does should also be treated properly and their teats sterilized after each milking to prevent mastitis.
Goats are sensitive animals that can suffer from various infectious and chronic diseases that are sometimes undetected until too late. Vaccinations, as well as de-worming and de-lousing applications must be conducted as needed. Milking goats should be checked regularly using prescribed mastitis tests for udder health. Milking areas should always be clean and the goat’s teats treated with teat dip after milking to prevent mastitis.
Goats must be inspected frequently to detect any signs of poor health, infections, or other ailments. Signs include cloudy or teary eyes, dull or fluffed up coat, droopy tail, hunched back, or poor appetite. A veterinarian should always be on call to address health concerns.
Behavior / temperament:
Goats are inherently curious, active, intelligent, and social. They are known to have the ability to overcome enclosures by unraveling the gate, climbing over the mesh, or pushing and ramming the fence down. Goats have good coordination and balance and can manage to climb low trees, ledges, and overhangs. Their curiosity leads them to constantly investigate items with their mouths; most items get chewed and swallowed. With a little patience, goats can be taught to carry or pull loads, respond to calls, and lead a herd. As social animals, they easily get along with other farm animals.
Like their fellow Swiss cousins, Appenzell goats have rather mellow dispositions. They can be frisky and playful as youngsters, but with maturity these goats tend to settle down and become remarkably mellow. Does and wethers could potentially be kept as pets, but in any case they are an excellent milking breed with many similar qualities of the Saanen in a slightly smaller package.
Written by Gaia Rady
Housing / diet:
As herd animals, goats are best kept in pairs or groups. As grazers, they require an outdoor habitat that is securely fenced to prevent escape or foraging in restricted areas. The area should be large enough to allow the goat to roam. The recommended habitat per goat is 200 sq. ft. of yard or pasture plus a sheltered or indoor area of about 15 sq. ft. The sheltered area should be adequately built to keep the goats safe from rain and strong winds.
Keeping goats inside the house is not recommended because of the pet’s tendency to gnaw and chew on furniture and furnishings. Goats are also not known to adhere to toilet training.
The ideal food for domesticated goats is alfalfa hay and grass hay. This should be available daily in quantities of at least 3% of the goat’s body weight. Small quantities of feed grain and concentrates (often protein-enriched) like goat show or goat grain can also be given to add nutrition. Supplements are often used to address deficiencies inherent to local habitats.
Clean water is essential to a goat’s daily diet. It should always be available and provided where it cannot be soiled. Dirty and moldy water is hazardous to the goat’s health. Milking goats should be kept away from aromatic or strong-tasting foliage like garlic, onions, mint, and cabbage, which could taint the flavor of the milk.