Oberhasli Goats

Episode 80
For the Love of Goats

Oberhasli Goats featured image

If you are looking for a medium sized dairy goat that produces about a gallon a day, then consider the Oberhasli, which originally came from Switzerland.

Morgan Allen of Haycreek Farm in Minnesota has been raising Oberhasli goats since the mid-1990s. Their goats have done well showing at the national level, and they have several does on the American Dairy Goat Association’s Top Ten list for production.

In today’s episode, Morgan is talking about what drew her to the Oberhasli and why she’s still raising them after all these years. She also talks about selling their milk to a commercial cheesemaker and making their own caramel sauce.

Want to see a comparison of all of the goat breeds side by side in a spreadsheet, from milk production averages to appearance?

You can visit Haycreek Farm online at …


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Introduction 0:03
For the love of goats! We are talking about everything goat. Whether you’re a goat owner, a breeder, or just a fan of these wonderful creatures, we’ve got you covered. And now, here is Deborah Niemann.

Deborah Niemann 0:19
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. This is going to be really interesting for those of you who are thinking about still buying your first dairy goats, or maybe you want to add a secondary goat to your farm. We are talking today to Morgan Allen of Haycreek Farm, who has had dairy goats since before she was born and Oberhasli since the mid-1990s. Welcome to the show today, Morgan.

Morgan Allen 0:43
Hi, thank you for having me.

Deborah Niemann 0:45
This is gonna be really fun to talk about Oberhasli, because they are not one of the more common breeds. A lot of people probably don’t even know what it looks like when I say the name, because it isn’t super common. And so, can you talk a little bit about what exactly makes an Oberhasli goat?

Morgan Allen 1:06
I think the thing that most people think of when they consider the Oberhasli breed is the beautiful coloration that they have. It’s considered a red bay color or chamoisee, and it’s, you know, kind of a pretty mahogany red color, and then black markings. So, black legs, black stomach, black markings on their face and down their back. And then also a smaller frame breed with a dished head. So, really pretty head, and ears that are set a little more forward than some of the other breeds. So, it really is the coloration that attracts a lot of people.

Deborah Niemann 1:43
And then, how exactly do black Oberhasli fit into that?

Morgan Allen 1:47
Yes, I should have mentioned that. Does can be black, and you obviously can get black bucks. But, if you are going to register your goats and maintain their pedigrees, the black bucks are not allowed to be registered. But, black does can be, and there isn’t a discrimination for the black color. They’re just not quite as popular. You don’t see nearly as many black as you do red.

Deborah Niemann 2:11
Okay. And I would assume, genetically, the reason that you can’t register black bucks is because they don’t want them to become that common in the breed; they want to focus on the chamoisee?

Morgan Allen 2:22
Yeah, I think that’s part of it, for sure. And I’m certainly not a color geneticist or anything, but I think you can still breed, you know, black bucks to black does and you can still get the chamoisee color, but it is just to prevent the whole herd from kind of going away from the predominant color, that red bay color.

Deborah Niemann 2:42
Okay. And, if anyone has looked at the list on the American Livestock Conservancy—the conservation priority list—they may have seen that Oberhasli is listed. But then, you go over to the American Dairy Goat Association site, and you see that Oberhasli is there. And it doesn’t really look like it’s that rare. Can you talk a little bit about why they’re on that list, even though they don’t appear to be that rare at first glance?

Morgan Allen 3:09
Sure. The list is probably referring to the purebred Oberhasli. And these are Oberhasli that would trace back to the original imports to America from Switzerland, and have kept those pedigrees pure without bringing in different breeds. So, the American Oberhasli—which, there are quite a few more of them—have other breeds, or maybe unregistered animals, in the background of their pedigree. So, the purebreds are quite rare, just because that whole pedigree can be traced back to the original import. And there might only be 30 does registered a year as purebreds. So, not very many. Where there’s, you know, hundreds and hundreds of American Oberhasli registered. And the American herd book allows for “breeding up,” they would call it, so if you have an unregistered doe, and say maybe she looks like an Oberhasli, you can breed for three or four generations. And as long as the buck that you breed her to and the buck that you’ve bred her daughters to are correct color and correct breed type, they can eventually be considered American. But that does allow for different breeds to sort of get mixed into that gene pool.

Deborah Niemann 4:26
Okay. So, you grew up with dairy goats; you said your mom had them before you were even born. And then, in the 1990s, you brought in an Oberhasli buck. And now, you’ve got this beautiful herd of Oberhasli goats that, you know, go to the national show, and they’re on the top 10 milk production list, and all of this. How did you wind up with Oberhasli?

Morgan Allen 4:51
Yeah, it’s a kind of a interesting story. Like you said, we started with just unregistered goats, mostly for pets and milk when we were little, and as my brother and I—like many other people that are involved in goats—as we got into 4H and were a little bit older, we showed our goats in 4H. And then, we kind of wanted to get a little more competitive than just unregistered goats. And we had a friend that had an Oberhasli buck that we were allowed to use, and we just kind of fell in love with the breed after seeing the buck, and then his kids that were born. And we just kind of continued on breeding the Oberhasli. So, that was really neat.

Morgan Allen 5:33
Another thing: Minnesota was really known for their really high-quality Oberhasli producers and Oberhasli goats. And so, it was kind of a good fit for us; some of the best Oberhasli in the country were right here in Minnesota. And so, we had some really good genetics to pick from to get started. And so, our herd has always been just American—you know, kind of going back and talking about the purebreds—because we started with unregistered goats and have kind of just built from there. And, of course, now we don’t have any of that original genetics left, but I’ve always kind of liked, you know, some of the strengths that the other breeds bring to the Oberhasli, but I really liked the Oberhasli personality and color and that kind of stuff. So yeah, that’s kind of how we got started, and who helped us get started, and we’ve just kind of continued on with it from there.

Deborah Niemann 6:26
So, you mentioned liking their personality. Can you talk about how their personality is different from other breeds?

Morgan Allen 6:33
Yeah—and I haven’t raised all of the other breeds. But, if you’re going to compare them to the Alpine, which is kind of the breed that we’ve had most influence in our Oberhasli herd from, they’re definitely nicer to each other. That’s the biggest thing; they kind of have a docile personality, and they don’t push each other around. So, they really get along well. And then, they just have, like, a really quiet personality. They never bellow at you when you go to the barn. So, they’re just calm and quiet and sweet in their disposition. So, I really appreciate that.

Deborah Niemann 7:08
Yeah, I’ve heard that from some other people, too, who raise Oberhasli. They’re like, “If you have an Oberhasli that’s making noise, you go out there, because you know something’s up.” Like, they don’t… They’re not talkative.

Morgan Allen 7:18
Yes, that’s exactly right. And we have one LaMancha at our farm. And for the first couple of weeks while I had her, I really, I thought she was stuck in the fence all the time. You know, she had just that… Like, her natural voice sounded like she was in distress. And so, it really makes me appreciate the kind of quiet, calm nature of the Oberhasli.

Deborah Niemann 7:42
That’s funny. I had LaManchas for about eight years. And I constantly was saying, “I don’t understand how this breed is not extinct.” Because, they just did so many crazy things. And I mean, they were… I loved them to death. But, oh my gosh, they just found trouble everywhere.

Morgan Allen 8:00
Yes, yes. They’re… Well, we only have the one, but she definitely, you know, she stands out because of her different nature. That’s for sure.

Deborah Niemann 8:10
Yeah. It’s funny how the different breeds do have different personalities. You know, like Nubians are known for being very talkative.

Morgan Allen 8:18
Yes, for sure.

Deborah Niemann 8:19
Alpines are being known for being more pushy.

Morgan Allen 8:21

Deborah Niemann 8:22
One of the reasons that I decided to ask you for an interview for the show was because you have goats that are on the top 10 list with the American Dairy Goat Association. So, can you talk a little bit about how much Oberhasli goats produce?

Morgan Allen 8:37
Sure. Oberhasli are maybe not quite the volume of production, but they do have good production. You know, they probably average between 1,600 to 1,900 pounds for 305-day lactation. And, when you mentioned the top 10 list, you know, most does are going to have to be over 2,000 for sure—probably between 2,500 and 3,000 for younger does, and then really to get up in that top 10 you’re gonna have to be well over 3,000 pounds. So, that’s averaging, you know, a good 10 pounds a day, all year, for those highest production does. And then, you also throw in that higher component, and then you have more fat-corrected milk than if you just think about straight volume.

Morgan Allen 9:19
So, if you’re going to consider, like, cheesemaking Oberhasli are going to provide you more solids for that cheesemaking process. But, I think if you’re looking at a breed and getting started and wonder how much they milk, an Oberhasli would be a good goat to have if you want to get about a gallon-a-day production for your family. So, they can fit into just, like, that small homestead-type situation. But, they also do really well in a commercial setting, where you’re going to be selling your milk or using it for further processing.

Deborah Niemann 9:47
That sounds great! So, what do you do with your milk? In terms of, do you just use it for your family, or do you have a business or anything?

Morgan Allen 9:55
Yeah, that’s another thing that we’ve kind of had some changes on our farm recently here. But, for 12 or 13 years, we had a small commercial dairy, and we were partnered up with a local artisan cheese-maker. And we supplied all the milk to her cheese plant for many, many years. And just this spring, in April, she retired and sold the cheese plant. And so, we lost kind of that great partnership and that great market for our milk.

Morgan Allen 10:23
But, before she retired, we kind of talked about what we could do with some of our extra milk when it got to that point. And so, we did start a small kind of product-making of our own, and it’s a caramel sauce out of goat milk. So, we’ve been doing that for about two years now. And we don’t really have as much time as we would like, and it doesn’t use as much milk as we have. But it’s something that we enjoy doing. And it is a unique product, you know, for goats. And so, we’ve been making caramel sauce now here for two years. And we do have a manufacturing license and a retail sales license, so we can sell at stores and farmer’s markets and through, like, boutiques and that kind of thing. So, we’re hoping to continue to find a use for the milk.

Morgan Allen 11:09
And we have the goats because we love them. Our kids love them. You know, it’s just a good thing to have, you know, raising kids and to keep ourselves busy, too. But it’s also nice to have a way to help pay for those animals.

Deborah Niemann 11:23
Yeah, exactly. It’s nice that you mentioned the possibility of producing milk and selling it to somebody else who’s going to use it. I think a lot of people probably don’t think about that. You know, they think “Oh, if I want to really have a lot of goats, I’m gonna have to make my own cheese or soap or whatever,” which of course, involves a big commitment and everything. But there are people who, you know, milk their goats and then just sell it to somebody else who’s going to use it to make cheese.

Morgan Allen 11:54
Yeah. Yep. And we, you know, I would love to continue to sell milk. But the size of herd that we have, it was kind of perfect for the, you know, just an artisan cheesemaker who was using, you know, like 100 to 150 gallons a week. That’s about what we were providing. But, in order to sell to some of the larger, like, co-op creameries, or creameries, we would need to be milking a lot more goats, which we just don’t have the time for or the facilities for. So, it was a really unique partnership that worked well for us. And, I know it’s kind of something that not everybody can find a match like that. And I don’t know that we’ll ever find another match like that for us. But, it is something that people should look into. And I know a lot of folks, they work with, you know, dog breeders or wildlife rescue and that kind of thing to maybe sell some of their milk, also. But it is nice to have. Like I said, you know, the animals, it takes a lot to take care of them. So, it’s nice to have some income in order to help with that.

Deborah Niemann 12:55
How big is your herd now?

Morgan Allen 12:58
Well, right now we’ve sold back since we quit selling milk, but we always used to milk—freshen and milk—around 40 does. So, now we’re down to about 28 to 30, hopefully getting down to 25 through the winter. So cutting, you know, not quite in half, but almost. You know, my husband and I both work full time, too. So, it makes it a little bit easier on us, just with the extra chores and that kind of thing.

Deborah Niemann 13:22
Right. Yeah, absolutely. And are you still showing?

Morgan Allen 13:26
We do, yes. We try to hit up a couple of spring shows every year and State Fair in the fall. And, you know, if a national show is somewhat close to us, we do go. Now this year, it was in Pennsylvania, so we did not make the trip out there. And I think next year it’s in Oregon, so we probably won’t make the trip to that one, either. But when it comes back more central in the country, we probably will go.

Deborah Niemann 13:49
Is there anything else about your herd, or about Oberhasli goats, that you think people should know before jumping in and buying a few?

Morgan Allen 13:58
Yeah. You know, one thing I should have maybe mentioned when we were talking about kind of breed differences and that sort of area is that, if you’re a person who’s looking to make your own cheese, or to drink the milk, Oberhasli does have really good-tasting milk. And I would consider it more similar to cow milk. So, it’s got a milder, sweeter flavor. And, the components are actually pretty good. So they, you know, like I said before, they might not be the breed that gives the most volume; you know, they’re not going to be like your Saanen or your Alpine. But, they give a good amount of milk, and it’s got good components, which gives that milk a good flavor. So, that’s something that I would also really kind of hype about the Oberhasli breed, is if you’re a person that’s looking into raising goats for your own family, for drinking or cheesemaking or whatever it is, that you’re really going to like the flavor of that milk.

Deborah Niemann 14:47
Awesome. That’s good to know. Well, thank you so much for joining us today. I bet people are gonna find this really interesting.

Morgan Allen 14:54
Yeah, thanks for having me!

Deborah Niemann 14:57
And that’s it for today’s show. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to hit the “subscribe” button so that you don’t miss any episodes. To see show notes, you can always visit ForTheLoveOfGoats.com, and you can follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/LoveGoatsPodcast. See you again next time. Bye for now!

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