If you're considering the Oberhasli goat breed, let me fill you in on the characteristics, facts and origin of Oberhasli dairy goats that you may find helpful.
For many homesteaders and goat enthusiasts it can be overwhelming to decide on a breed to start your herd.
Years ago, when I began setting up my off-grid homestead, I read and researched for hours on end and the information was profuse and often contradictory.
Much of the decision depends on your needs.
Mine was milk. Lots of it.
WIth a growing family and a passel of kids (no pun intended) of my own, milk was high on my priority list.
However, I did not have the available facilities for a cow and, honestly, I was a little afraid of being kicked by a 1200 pound animal.
When the opportunity to buy 3 Oberhasli goats practically fell into my lap, I took it as a sign that this was meant to be and I was looking forward to starting my herd.
It didn’t take me long to fall in love with these kind, beautiful goats.
There was no mistake that the milk produced by an Oberhasli doe is abundant and high quality.
I was thrilled and continued to learn more about these amazing creatures.
Some quick Oberhasli goat facts will help you understand the history of this breed.
Many people ask how to pronounce Oberhasli goat.
Some pronounce it like ah-bur-has-lee.
Others say oh-bur-has-lee.
WIth ancestors originally hailing from the Swiss Alps, this hardy breed has been a favorite among dairy goat breeders in America since the early 1900’s.
The Oberhasli breed can be traced back to the Chamois Colored Goat breed from the Oberhasli district of the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland.
It was not until the 1930’s that H.O.Pence developed 5 of the Swiss Chamois to create the first Oberhasli purebred herd known as Swiss Alpine goats.
Over time they were crossbred with other Alpine breeds, and in 1977 an Oberhasli breeders association was formed.
The very next year the Oberhasli was finally listed as an official breed by the American Dairy Goat Association and was recognized separately from other Alpine breeds.
This breed quickly gained popularity, not only for the Oberhasli goat temperament, including their calm, friendly demeanor, but also for the high milk production of Oberhaslis.
Oberhasli goat characteristics that are most notable include aspects like their beautiful markings, exceptional dairy production and sturdy pack animal capabilities.
Unique Oberhasli goat colors make this breed stand out.
With their distinct, alert look and markings, they are a beautiful breed.
They're also well known as a dairy breed, similar to other Alpine goat breeds.
Their milk production is phenomenal.
In fact, it is common for a doe to produce up to 1 ½ gallons of milk each day, with a fat content of up to 4%.
On top of that, the Oberhasli milk taste is phenomenal.
The quality and sweetness of Oberhasli milk is known to be top notch, which is perfect for those who have been accustomed to cows milk.
I had no trouble switching my family to 100% goats milk.
Even though the children were wary at first, everyone was pleasantly surprised. In spite of the Oberhasli goat reputation, dairy production isn’t all they are good for.
They are fantastic as a pack animal because of their strength and larger size.
As far as Oberhasli goat size goes, most range from 120-150 pounds and 28-30 inches in height.
Their calm demeanor makes them a breeze to manage on the move and are not skittish, making it the perfect breed for moving along a trail even over water, such as across a bridge.
Some goat breeds would be impossible to handle in such an environment.
Oberhasli goat coat colors are unique.
If you’ve never seen one, they are easy to spot - a medium size with a black muzzle, legs and signature black dorsal stripe (along their back).
Some bucks are all black on their head.
The specifics on acceptable markings is very important if you will be raising show goats.
However, if your goal is hobby farm or dairy goats, this is less important.
An Oberhasli buck in rut is quite a handful.
If you are considering raising Oberhasli bucks you should educate yourself on their natural behaviors.
While I certainly don’t want to place a negative light on raising Oberhasli bucks, it is still a task not to be taken lightly.
They have a natural instinct and vigorous drive to reproduce.
As a result, it can be a challenge to keep them in a pen.
When it comes to Oberhasli bucks specifically, keep in mind that they are larger than some breeds and at 150 pounds they need a suitable pen or other shelter that can withstand everything your buck can throw at it.
I learned this the hard way.
When I brought our Oberhasli buck into a pen that had worked perfectly well for goats in the past, I soon learned just how strong he was.
He made short work of the fence posts and found his way to the pen holding the does.
We quickly upgraded our fence posts and placed them deeper in the ground, reinforced with concrete.
Oberhasli does and kids should also have sturdy pens.
However they are such a docile breed, it isn’t as difficult to keep the does confined.
Thankfully bucks aren’t in rut year round.
How long do Oberhasli goats live?
You can expect your Oberhasli goats to live between eight and twelve years.
This of course varies depending on the quality of care provided.
It is highly important to insure they receive proper veterinarian care and receive regular shots.
This breed in particular can be quite susceptible to tetanus and so this is not an area to be slack in.
You don’t want to risk losing a beloved member of your herd, much less your investment, by something as simple as an oversight of vaccinations.
How much milk do Oberhasli goats give?
Expectations from Oberhasli milk production are high.
As mentioned before, this is one of the highest milk producing breeds.
The possible 1-½ gallons per day is certainly nothing to sneeze at.
Oberhaslis provide milk for a long time as well, with some producing Oberhasli goat milk for a whopping 284 days out of the year.
If you choose the route of raising mini-Oberhaslis, you can enjoy the benefits of Mini-Oberhasli goat milk, while being able to keep much smaller goats that are easier to maintain, especially if you have a small farm or homestead.
The highest milk production amounts are generally produced at about a month to a month and a half after kidding.
For any newbies out there, kidding is the term used for goats giving birth to a “kid”.
Another benefit of the Oberhasli goat breed is that they make excellent pack goats.
Pack goats are used as beasts of burden, especially for carrying camping gear and food on hikes or hunting trips.
Oberhaslis are well-suited for this due to their stamina, sturdiness and that fact that they were designed for mountain climbing.
From its humble beginnings in 1904, the American Dairy Goat Association (given the currently used name in 1964) has been the group to track and safeguard goat breeds and data on the various traits of each breed.
Legend has it that the very first meeting had only 3 persons in attendance in a backroom during the Chicago Fat Stock Show.
No official documentation remains of that first meeting.
However the association continued to grow by leaps and bounds.
The goal initially was to improve upon the American Dairy Goat and to produce a breed to be able to reliably give 2 quarts of milk per day.
By 1907 there were fewer than 300 registered goats with the association.
There is a massive difference in the numbers of those registered now.
The ADGA currently boasts over 2,000,000 registered dairy goats, over 19,000 members and 1200 shows annually.
They provide vital information and services to breeders all over the United States, including DNA testing and issuing certificates of registration.
They continue to faithfully preserve dairy goat breeds for future generations, including the beloved Oberhasli.
The Oberhasli is currently one of eight dairy goat breeds that the ADGA provides herd guidebooks for.
These are available for the serious breeder who requires detailed information on their herds.
Started in 1976, the Oberhasli Breeders of America is a club that began for the important purpose of breed preservation.
They have also helped greatly in promoting and developing of this amazing breed.
Providing breeders with valuable resources, as well as keeping records and scheduling Oberhasli shows, a membership with the OBA is certainly worthwhile to the serious breeder.
Membership dues are very affordable and the resources are definitely helpful.
If you are looking for a registered breeder, this is a great place to start.
This organization can put you in touch with various Oberhasli goat farms where you can know you're dealing with the most reputable Oberhasli breeders.
Of course, when you start out, it’s a good idea to educate yourself in order to know basic things to look for if you are wanting purebred Oberhasli’s.
According to the Oberhasli breed standards, here are some of the basics to look for:
The OGC was started for the purpose of promoting the breed.
In spite of all of the wonderful characteristics of the Oberhasli breed, it remains surprisingly rare in the United States.
The OGC hosts shows and events promoting Oberhasli’s, as well as recording and publishing current record setting statistics that are breed specific.
Some people like to breed miniature Oberhasli goats, which is a cross between Oberhasli goats and Nigerian Dwarf goats.
These are popular among members of the Miniature Dairy Goat Association (MDGA).
Many people like to raise miniature goats because they are smaller and easier to maintain on small family farms and homesteads.
Also, in some cities, goats are only allowed if they are miniature goats.
If you're interested in getting started with mini-oberhasli goats, then try contacting breeders through the MDGA to find mini-oberhasli goats for sale.
Once you have made up your mind that the Oberhasli breed is the one for you, the next step is to decide if you want a registered goat.
A registered goat usually costs more because it has been registered as a pure-breed by the official registering organization for that breed and, therefore, can qualify to compete in official breed shows.
The offspring of a registered goat will also sell for more.
If you decide to buy a registered goat, it is highly recommended that you join one (or more) of the groups mentioned in this article in order to connect with highly reputable Oberhasli goat breeders who will have an Oberhasli for sale.
It is always best to choose goats from registered Oberhasli dairy goat breeders since this is the best way to insure you will end up with what you want.
Backyard breeders of goats are similar to backyard breeders of dogs - you simply don’t know the lines they come from and you might be unpleasantly surprised.
So, be sure to stick with reputable, professional dairy goat breeders that have many years of experience offering Oberhasli dairy goats for sale.
Of course, if you’ve made it this far, you are probably already prepared with these things, but here’s a recap of a few important things you'll need to have in place for your new goat;
When you decide to purchase an Oberhasli goat for the first time, Oberhasli goat prices will depend on the bloodlines of the goat.
You can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $300 to $1,000, depending on the goat's bloodlines, conformation to breed standards and other factors.
Some goat keepers will mainly raise does, and then will borrow a buck from another farm when their does are ready for breeding.
But, if you choose instead to raise your own buck to be the herdsire for your farm, then you'll need to also contact only reputable Oberhasli breeders to find a proper Oberhasli buck for sale.
It might be best to start with an Oberhasli buckling which you can raise yourself.
I may simply be partial since these beautiful animals were my first when it comes to goats, but I still believe they are the best choice.
I actually have quite a hard time understanding why they are relatively rare for goat herds in America.
The interactions I had later with various other breeds certainly did not change my mind.
But perhaps I am simply partial.
Our first doe, Daisy, won my heart pretty quickly.
Especially since she was so easy to milk, and even cheerfully munched on hay while my 8 year old milked her.
We hit the jackpot with her, but I have no doubt that once I’m in the position again to raise dairy goats,
I will be looking for an Oberhasli doe. Above all, enjoy the journey and happy milking!
- Tricia Elliott -