The Qualities of Pygmy Goat Milk
Maxine Kinne

Hopefully, you will one day decide to take up the pleasurable task of milking. When you do, there are some fundamentals to understand about the quality of Pygmy goat milk and what makes it different than other types of goat milk. 

Milk traditionally weighs 8.6 lbs per gallon. Pygmy goat milk only weighs 8 lbs per gallon, because it has a significantly higher butterfat content that the milk of most other breeds. (Nubians come the closest to the Pygmy's fat content.)

Why is high butterfat content a good quality in milk? For one thing, it helps the milk resist off flavors due to a doe's diet. Strong flavored plants may impart their flavor to milk, especially when they are consumed within a few hours of milking. Higher fat content also extends the shelf life of milk. With very good milking technique and milk handling, Pygmy milk can retain its excellent flavor for about two weeks.

Fat, of course, is what gives many foods a desirable taste because it is rich and sweet. When I dried off my does after two solid years of milking and bought 3.8% cow milk from the store, I had to spike it with whipping cream to combat the flat, watery taste! Many health-conscious people now avoid fat. But since Pygmy milk separates fairly readily, unlike the naturally homogenized nature of dairy goat milk, most of it can be skimmed off.

The NPGA membership brochure lists the butterfat percentage at 6% to 9%. My milkers ranged from 4.5% to 11.75%; and average was about 6%. Fat percentages are tied to the total quantity of milk a doe gives. Does give about the same amount of butterfat all the time. Less milk is produced in early and late lactation, but the butterfat percentage remains stable. Thus, its percentage of the total yield is higher when the doe gives less milk. Butterfat is given at the end of the milking process, so it is very important to milk each doe out completely.

A study comparing minerals in the milk of dairy goats and Pygmies (West African Dwarf Goats) in The Third International Conference on Goat Production and Disease, 1979, found that Pygmy milk tested 65% higher in calcium, 19% higher in phosphorus, 75% higher in potassium, 26% higher in iron, and 10% higher in copper. It was 21% lower in sodium, 13% lower in magnesium and 40% lower in chlorine. Alpine and Saanen results were averaged for the dairy milks. This study supports another one cited by Alice Hall. These percentages mean that Pygmy goat milk is higher in things that are good for you and lower in things that are not.

As a meat breed, the Pygmy is more heavily boned and grows rapidly. They need a good ration of calcium and phosphorus, so heavy-boned mothers have sufficient calcium availability to kids. High milk fat content serves as energy for for fast growth.

Some people who have bottle fed many different kinds of milk replacer complain about unthrifty, slow-growing, light-boned kids. This has not been true for the many kids I have raised on Pygmy milk or 3.8% cow milk from the grocery store. I believe that critical management factors, like under- and overfeeding milk replacer, internal parasites and general sanitation, deserves a greater amount of blame than their choice of replacer.

Related Reading

Pygmy Goat Milk
Equipment for Milking the Pygmy Doe
Good Milking Procedures

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