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Saanen Goat Breed

Nicole Cosgrove

The Saanen is a well-known and widely reared goat breed. They are highly capable pack goats known for their popular milk production. They originate from the Swiss valley, are hardy, and can live in cold climates. Plus, they are a friendly breed and make great companions for the yard.

Beware: you must provide secure and safe housing for these animals. The Saanen is a very good digger and can make short work of getting under fences and boundaries. As one of the most prolific milk producers, and one of the easiest to care for, the Saanen is a highly desirable dairy goat for homesteads and farms.

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Quick Facts about Saanen Goats

Species Name: Capra Aegagrus Hircus
Family: Bovidae
Care Level: Moderate
Climate: Cold
Temperament: Friendly
Color Form: White
Lifespan: 15 years
Size: 32 inches, 140 pounds
Diet: Hay, millet, plants, water
Minimum Shelter Size: 15 square feet
Compatibility: Gets along with everyone

Saanen Overview

The Saanen is the largest of the Swiss goat breeds. Its name is taken from the Saanental region of Bernese Oberland in Switzerland. Its cool temperament, calmness with animals and handlers, and its reputation as a prolific milk producer saw it gain in popularity and spread across the world.

The breed is reported to have been exported to more than 80 countries and there are believed to be nearly one million of the breed across the world. Despite being a Swiss breed, only around 15,000, less than 2%, of the total population are found in the country.

Producing as much as 3 gallons per day, although more typically 2 gallons per day, the Saanen is considered one of the most prolific milk producers. This compares favorably to virtually any other breed, especially when combined with the friendly nature and easy management of the breed. The only potential downfall is that the breed’s resulting milk is quite low in butterfat, measuring approximately 3%.

The Saanen is friendly, gets along with other goats, farmyard animals, and will usually form a close bond with its humans. It can dig, however, and it has the strength that goats are known for. This necessitates the building of a secure perimeter and a strong shelter. To ensure the best milk production and the best-tasting milk, you should feed a quality diet that meets all of your goat’s needs.

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How Much Do Saanens Cost?

The Saanen is considered a purebred goat, which pushes its price up, but they are in plentiful supply and the stock of kids is kept to a reasonable level. Expect to pay between $100 and $300 for a Saanen, with higher prices associated with mature goats that have a proven track record of milk production. Goats with award-winning lineage can cost upwards of $500 to $1,000 or more.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Saanens are often described as being sweet, caring, and friendly. They have a calm nature and will get along with the rest of their herd. They will also get along with, and may even form a bond, with other farm animals and yard animals. They can also form bonds with human owners, too. Goats are pack animals: if they don’t have a pack of goats, they will adopt other animals and even humans as members of their group.

Appearance & Varieties

Usually white in color, the Saanen may also be an off-white or cream color. White is preferred for exhibitions, shows, and breeding programs. The breed can have spots on their skin and this is not considered negative. Despite being capable of living at very cold temperatures, Saanens have short and fine hair. There are longer patches on the spine and the hips of the animal. It is a pale-skinned goat, which means that it can sunburn easily and you will need to keep an eye on the goat’s skin during hot summer months.

The billy stands about 36 inches to the shoulder and weighs up to 180 pounds. The doe has a maximum height of 32 inches and a weight of 160 pounds. The Saanen can be horned or hornless.

The breed has spread to all corners of the earth and has bred with local goat populations, which means that there is a vast range of subspecies related to the Saanen. As well as named breeds like the French Saanen and the Israeli Saanen, you will also find breeds like the Russian White and the Banat White: the latter being from Romania.

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How to Take Care of Saanen Goats

Enclosure and Shelter

The breed is a healthy and hardy animal, used to living in difficult and cold climates. With that said, the Saanen is somewhat prone to skin complaints, especially sunburn, because he has delicate skin. He will need somewhere to rest and to shelter away from the sun’s rays and intemperate conditions. If you live somewhere warm, you will need to provide a lot of shade so that your goat does not suffer.

Experienced breeders recommend 15 square feet of space per goat in a shelter. The shelter can take the form of a dedicated barn or other building, or you can use a traditional A-frame. In either case, it is important that the shelter has a roof and offers the required shade for your Saanen. Goats do wander, which means that you need to fence off their area unless you want them to have free run of your land.

Remember that the Saanen is a capable digger, so you may need to reinforce some fences and other boundaries. Goats, in general, are skilled escapologists, so fence monitoring and maintenance will become an important part of your day when keeping them.

Goats are clean animals and prefer sanitary conditions, at the very least. They need clean bedding and will expect to have their shelter cleaned every day. The shelter also needs to be secure from predators, as well as providing warmth and comfort, if you want your goat to produce milk. Ensure that noise is kept to a minimum and that your goats suffer minimal interruptions when in the shelter.

Do Saanens Get Along with Other Pets?

The Saanen is a kind and friendly breed. Like all goats, it is a pack animal, which means that it will need companions. Ideally, its companions should be other goats. The Saanen will get along well with other Saanen and with other goats of different breeds. They will also get along with and tolerate virtually any animal that is not aggressive towards them, and they can form close bonds with their owners. Goats do better when part of a pack of their own kind, so keeping yours as one of a pack is better than adopting it as a pet.

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What to Feed Your Saanen

As well as allowing your Saanen to browse, you will need to provide regular food for your Saanen. It is a myth that goats will eat clothes and anything else around them, although they may well chew and remove washing from lines. They are picky eaters and will reject food if it smells bad or old. Provide a forage of legumes and grasses and consider supplementing with grain if you want to increase the goat’s milk production levels. Always ensure that goats have a steady supply of fresh and clean drinking water.

Keeping Your Saanen Goat Healthy

Known for being a hardy breed, the Saanen is still prone to some illnesses and health complaints. You will have to keep an eye on its light skin, especially during the summer months. Saanens need regular deworming, but they are less prone to some diseases and illnesses. Ensure they have good quality food, supplementation when required, and a steady supply of fresh water.

Breeding

To get milk from a dairy goat, it must have given birth. This means that some form of breeding is essential if you want a milk-producing dairy goat. Novices and beginners are advised to take their doe to a local buck because keeping bucks is more difficult than keeping does. They smell, can be grumpy, and they take a lot more care.

Does are ready to mate at about 9 months of age, but wait until they are at least 90 pounds for a more successful and less stressful birth. They are in heat for 2 days every 20 days, on average, and signs of being in heat include increased tail wagging, a swollen vulva, and an increased rate of urination. The gestation period of a Saanen is around 150 days and you should give supplements to your pregnant doe, as well as getting supplements ready for when the kid arrives.

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Are Saanen Goats Suitable For You?

The modern Saanen is found in dozens of countries across the world and is known for, amongst other things, producing a large volume of milk.

It is a friendly goat that is less prone to disease and illness than a lot of other breeds. Considered a good breed for beginners, the Saanen does still require decent care. You will need a 4-foot fence and because the Saanen is skilled at digging, you may need to fortify some areas of fencing and boundary to prevent your pack from escaping.

The Saanen is a pack animal and will flourish with the company of other Saanens, but he will also enjoy other goats, other animals, and human interactions.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.