Sable Goats

Episode 60
For the Love of Goats

Sable Goats featured image

If you are looking for a larger dairy goat that produces a lot of milk and has fairly low butterfat, then the Sable goat might be the one for you, especially if you like the idea of having a breed that is not very common.

In this episode, I’m talking to Klisse Foster who has been raising Sable goats since the 1980s. Her goats are often on the American Dairy Goat Association’s Top Ten list for milk production. She shows her goats too and can usually be found at the ADGA national show, even in years when Sables are not sanctioned.

We also talk about how to overcome the challenges of raising a goat breed that is less common by doing things like using frozen semen for artificial insemination and leasing bucks.

Learn more about Klisse Foster

For more information on other goat breeds:

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

Listen right here…

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Sable Goats – Transcript

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 0:18
Hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s episode. This is going to be a really interesting conversation, because we are going to be talking today about one of the goat breeds that most people have probably never even heard of. And, I was lucky enough—back in the days when my children were home and we showed goats—that we went to a goat show where we met today’s guest. Today, we’re talking to Klisse Foster, who raises Sable dairy goats, and her website is SableDairyGoats.org, and she raises goats under the herd name Klisse’s Kids Dairy Goats. Welcome to the show today, Klisse.

Klisse Foster 0:58
Hi.

Deborah Niemann 0:59
Let’s start with the absolute basics. How did you get into goats? And then, of all the breeds that you had to choose from, why did you choose Sable dairy goats?

Klisse Foster 1:10
Okay. So, we got into goats because my younger brother had an allergy to cow milk. So, he did the soy milk, which was super gross back in the day. And then, as he was getting out of his milk allergy, my dad and I started having problems. And then, my mom and dad decided it was just easier to perhaps get a goat than deal with all the milk allergies. And he was getting ready to retire out of the Air Force. So, we were going to be moving to where we could have critters. And so, that’s where we got our first goats, which was actually a grade Saanen-Nubian doe. And then, I got my first Saanen-type doe in 1981; we got our first goats in 1980. I’m old. And the Saanen… We actually got three Saanen-type does. They were from somebody who lived near somebody who raised Saanens, but she would buy this person’s culls at the sale barn. And she had been doing this long enough that even though she herself had started with a Nubian, they were basically Saanen-type. They had, you know, maybe a teeny little bit of a Roman nose—but old-fashioned Saanens have those Roman noses anyway—short ears, you know, they were all white. That was in southeastern Idaho. And then, when my dad retired all the way, he got a job in South-Central Washington, and that is where I found out about the American Dairy Goat Association, through my 4-H leader then, and I was a senior in high school.

Klisse Foster 2:35
And so, we had been breeding our does to basically any bucks we could find, just to keep them in milk, because Mom and Dad didn’t want to keep a buck. And every time we would breed my doe, she would have something colored. And so, actually, the first Saanen-type… Well, he was a purebred Saanen buck actually, that my mom bought. And we bred him to my doe; we got colored kids. And I was taking them to the fair, and of course, since my doe, the dam was a grade, we showed his grade. So, her kids were always grades no matter what color they were. So, we were showing them there. And everybody kept calling them Sables. And I’m like, “No, they’re not Sables. They’re just colored Saanens!” I’m like, “They’re just colored Saanens,” and they’re like, “No, Klisse. They’re Sables.” I’m like, “No, no, they are just colored Saanens.” And then they finally had to say, “Duh. A Sable is a colored Saanen.” And I’m like, “Oh, okay. Yeah, I guess, then, they are Sables.”

Klisse Foster 3:30
So, I always kind of just had a few, but then they were always grade. They were grade-experimental, because they were Native on Appearance kind of deal—the dam was. Then we started getting more Saanens. And then, I was at the national show in ’95 when it was in Oregon, and there was somebody there that had a Sable BUNCH HERE in Richardson, who had the Gold Seal herd—Little Paradise herd—of Saanens, and she had an old Sable buck that she was actually getting ready to ship to Canada. And I had been kind of bugging her about him, and she finally decided that I could have him. And so, I got him and brought him home and bred him to about everything that I had. And then, also about that time… A little later? No, about that time, I also got a really nice purebred Saanen buck from Lauren Acton that was a Saanen. He actually ended up being a tidy-whitey. Any color at all to him, no matter what I did—which was fine. And I tried to keep my Saanen-types Saanen—you know, the white—and then my colored ones I tried to keep colored. And so I always had to cull really hard. And then, I actually got where… Because, everybody in the Pacific Northwest shares their genetics, which is so awesome for any person, so you don’t have to worry about a lot of the crap that you find, I guess, in some of the other areas of the country. But, I finally got where my Saanens were actually competing up there with Laurie and like KELLY GAN and Pat Hendrickson and all that, and then I started having more fun with the Sables, because everybody had really nice Saanens there in the Pacific Northwest, and I was like, you know, it’s a little bit more challenging to do the Sables.

Klisse Foster 5:06
So, I decided I was going to cut back, and I sold a lot of my Saanens out—not that I had a lot, anyway. And then, I just started looking for Sables more wholeheartedly, and it was a struggle. Sometimes I would get a buck, and the picture of the dam would look really nice, and then I’d use him, and the kids would just turn out hideous. So, I’d lose all the kids for that year, and kind of… And I tried doing some AIs with some of the really, really old stuff—which would be, like, the Arizonas herd or the Saanendoah herd—and some of those didn’t turn out quite so good. And then, Laurie Acton ended up having a Sable buck born to one of her two-year-old first fresheners. And she offered him to me, because she said he was gonna… He was supposed to go down to California as a wether for some kind of a micro-technology firm where they were going to harvest his blood for something; they were going to seed him and harvest blood. But she let me have him, and then he ended up being, after Moon Shadow—Gold Seal Moon Shadow—who ended up being Triumph’s dad, who was my one doe that I’m super well-known for. She was four-time national champion, one year appraisal scored of 93, and she had over 50 Best in Show wins.

Deborah Niemann 6:18
Wow.

Klisse Foster 6:19
Yeah, she was a cool girl. And then I got Laurie’s buck. And he helped quite a bit. And then I kind of picked up just a few here and there randomly from different places. I got a really nice one from Noble Springs. And, you know, just kind of here and there. And then, now there’s a big pot of Sables in the Missouri, there’s a big pot of them here in Indiana, and there’s a big pot of them in Washington and Idaho. So, it’s gotten a lot easier to find good stuff.

Deborah Niemann 6:48
Yeah. So, for people who aren’t familiar with Sable goats, really, you mentioned that it’s just a colored Saanen. Can you explain that a little more?

Klisse Foster 7:00
Yeah. Actually, the people that started the original Sable movement used to call them “Saanens in party clothes.” Because they were—most of them were—sundgau. And that would look like a tux, you know. So, it’s basically they are all Saanen genetics, and they can be purebred or American at this point, but they are just colored. So, as long as they don’t meet Saanen breed standards, which means as long as they’re not white or really light cream, they are a Sable. And there is no minimum of color. Like, they can have a 2-inch spot or a 5-inch spot or, you know, a dorsal stripe, but you know, that’s kind of the deal. As long as they don’t meet Saanen breed standard, then they’re good for Sable.

Deborah Niemann 7:40
Okay. Because I think it gets a little confusing with, like, the registration and stuff. So, if you have a Saanen goat—which is white or very light cream—that has a colored baby, then they can be registered as a Sable goat.

Klisse Foster 7:55
It can. Yeah, it’s the breeder’s option if they want to register as a Sable, or if they don’t want their genetics going into a Sable herd book, they can record it as a grade.

Deborah Niemann 8:06
Okay.

Klisse Foster 8:06
So there is an option for the owner. And the owner—or the breeder is the only one that is allowed to make that choice. If you sold the kid, and the owner—or the new owner—wants to get it registered, it still depends on what the breeder wants to register it as.

Deborah Niemann 8:20
Okay.

Klisse Foster 8:21
And they can be any color. They can be black, brown, chocolate, spotted, like, any color. Seriously.

Deborah Niemann 8:29
Okay. And then, if you’re raising Sable goats that are registered as Sables, and a white kid pops out, what can you do with that?

Klisse Foster 8:38
It’s an experimental.

Deborah Niemann 8:40
Okay.

Klisse Foster 8:41
Which kind of sucks. Because then, if you want to take that back toward Saanen, you actually have to go four generations instead of the typical three, because your first generation is starting out with a 0% Saanen. Because usually, if you start out and you’re breeding up, your 50% would be white, and you would already have that white, you know. So, it takes four generations to go back.

Deborah Niemann 9:02
Okay. And then, some people might look at a Sable goat and say, “Well, if they can be any color, and they’re big, and they have upright ears…” What’s the difference between a Sable and an Alpine?

Klisse Foster 9:15
They’re built different. Ear set’s different; ear length is different. I have a lot of mine that have donkey ears—thank you, Mr. Leroy Brown. A lot of them go back to the really old Gold Crown bloodlines, and so they have some Roman noses. But they’re just… They’re built different. You can pretty much tell, because the Alpines have really short-typey heads, and they got little teeny-tiny ears, but they look different. Harvey Considine said that when he was scoring with his HES system that if you put all the scores together, you could look at the scores and tell breed-wise what you were looking at because they scored differently.

Deborah Niemann 9:55
Right. Yeah. It sounds weird, but like, you know, after you’ve been to a few shows and been around Sable goats and Alpines, you really can tell the body types are different. It’s kind of like, you know, if you’ve got five dogs that are one breed, like, you can start to tell them apart after a while. That they do look different. It’s not just about, like, the size and you know, upright ears and stuff.

Deborah Niemann 10:22
So, the Saanens and the Alpines kind of go back and forth for #1 on the AGS Top 10 list. And Sable goats are way up there, too, obviously because they’ve got the Saanen genetics in them. So, the Sable butterfat also tends to be pretty low, which usually you see that inverse. Like, breeds with the high production tend to be lower in butterfat. And I know you have a lot of goats now. So, you’re not just, you know, producing milk for your family to drink. Is there anything that you like to use the milk for specifically?

Klisse Foster 10:57
No. No, right now, it’s actually going… We have one calf. And then, actually my milk cow and my two dairy heifers that aren’t fresh yet, they’re getting the last little bits of milk that are leftover. Because we’re only milking 24 right now, and that seems like a lot, but it really isn’t. So, I’m not being facetious. Totally small number. I do some soap. And I’m kind of the atypical goat person; I actually make jam and jelly and pie filling and sell that to pay for my soap habit, which, I give my soap away instead of sell my soap.

Deborah Niemann 11:31
Okay.

Klisse Foster 11:32
I don’t know. All my friends make soap. All my goat friends make soap, but they don’t do the jams and jellies and stuff. So, that’s how I can get my little bit of money in. And then, once in a while, we’ll do cheese, but not really that often. Most of the time, I’m just busy trying to survive.

Deborah Niemann 11:48
What’s your favorite thing about the Sable goats?

Klisse Foster 11:51
I mean, they’re a lot like Saanens. But I think they have a little bit more attitude. I’m not really sure, because I have to be honest, when I first started out with my Saanens, the Saanens did teach me how to look at confirmation. And so, I could look at my does… You know, since they’re all white, you’re looking at confirmation instead. And so, they taught me to look past color, and look at what I should be looking at. But my friends would be like, “Oh, kidding season must be so exciting at your house. ‘Oh, look, it’s a white one! Oh, it’s another white one! Oh, wow, it’s another white one!'” You know, but they all look different. And then it’s kind of fun with the Sables, too. Because sometimes, even when you think you know what color you’re going to get, you don’t get that color. And sometimes it’s an oddball color. And I’ve had sundgau ones—which are the black with the white facial stripes and the white ears and the white legs. I’ve had those pop out of nowhere when I’ve had none of those in the background. And then this year, we actually just had one born that’s black-and-white spotted. And both parents were sundgau. And that hardly ever happens that you get a weirdo like that. So, it’s just kind of fun.

Deborah Niemann 13:00
Yeah. So I know you recently were at the national show for the American Dairy Goat Association. Can you talk a little bit about what it’s been like to show your Sables? Because we had Nigerians when they first got accepted to the American Dairy Goat Association, and one of the challenges back then was you had to have enough goats for a championship to count. Is that a challenge with Sable goats still? Or are there… Do you make a point of only going to shows where you know there’ll be enough Sables to be able to count?

Klisse Foster 13:35
As far as local shows, or national shows, or both?

Deborah Niemann 13:38
Just go ahead and talk about all of them.

Klisse Foster 13:40
Okay. So, local shows, we have plenty. We actually have… 5, 6, 7. Seven membership numbers in our family with the same herd name. So, as long as they’re owned by somebody different and you have at least 10, you’re good—you know, like two people. So, if we’re the only ones… Like, some of the fairs that we go to—because we do quite an extensive fair tour in the fall, as long as we have, you know, 10-plus, then we’re good for that. And then, it’s just nice icing on the cake if somebody else comes, and then there’s less work for us there. Nebraska is a big, huge one. But no, we don’t really have to worry about the sanctioning stuff. We have more the option of, we have so many that a lot of shows will say, “We will sanction Sables if you will come.” And so, sometimes we just, we can’t go. But you know, they’ve always offered that choice.

Klisse Foster 14:33
And then, at the national show, when we first started showing, we had to literally drag everything out of the barn. And I mean everything. Like, as soon as we would get done with a national show, goats would get dried up, goats would get shipped to the sale barn, goats would get shipped to the butcher. I mean, just because we were trying to make the numbers and we were carrying the bulk of it, which was very, very difficult. And super stressful. So, when we went to Spokane, which was the… That was the first year we did exhibition. We had to drag two truck and trailers out, and that’s when my oldest son was like, three months old, and I was breastfeeding, and I had to drive one of the trucks, and it was three days out each way. It’s sucked. So, when all these people are like, “Oh, it’s too hard. It’s so hard.” It’s like, “Oh, don’t even go there. Don’t even go there.”

Klisse Foster 15:23
So now, it’s a lot easier. This year, we didn’t make our numbers, actually. So, you have to have 100 entered. And then you have to have… I think it’s like 80 shown, with 40% in milk, I think. But this year, we only had, like, 92 entered. So, we’re on probation. And then next year, if we don’t make our numbers again, then we’ll go back on exhibition for a couple years, so.

Deborah Niemann 15:45
For people who are new to this, can you explain the difference? What that means about, like, being on probation and exhibition and… All those words you just said.

Klisse Foster 15:55
Yeah, so… Okay. So, when you have the right amount entered, then you are allowed to just keep showing. If you don’t make one of the conditions for the national show, then they put you on probation—whether it’s you don’t have enough entered, or you don’t have enough shown. And so, probation means you can have two years of probation. And then, after your second year, then you actually… Your breed will not show at the national show the next year. They’ll go back to exhibition, which means you have to drag them out, but you can’t show them, which is a total drag. Because we’ve done that for like five years, which is hauling all these goats all the way across country, and then doing all the stuff like you would be at the national show—clipping them and doing all that stuff—but you can’t show them. You just feed them, and you just sit there and look stupid, because your goats are all in their pens. So, that’s kind of what that is. But most normal breeds don’t have a bit of problem with any of that. Just the Sables. Sometimes the recorded Grades or Toggs have dropped down that low, but they’re usually fine the next year. So.

Deborah Niemann 17:00
Yeah. Why do you think that Sables haven’t become more popular?

Klisse Foster 17:05
At first it was because people were… They weren’t sure it was going to make it. I mea, and this was even before we got to be a breed. We were trying and trying—because they actually tried back in the 70s to do this. And some of the people that were doing it then, they were trying really, really hard, and then there was one person that had most of the records. And, she was in a bad domestic situation, and she had the chance to leave and get out of that. And when she left, she had to leave all the records behind. And so, when all those Sable records got lost, it kind of set us back a while, and then—just with that—and then with ADGA kind of dragging their feet, then people saying, “Well, they should be in the Saanen herd book.” “No, we don’t want them in the Saanen herd book.” And so, it’s just a lot of people that want to get into—a lot more people are getting into them now though. It’s become way more popular than it used to be.

Deborah Niemann 17:58
Yeah. I know when we were showing—which was like back, like, 2005 to 2010—my oldest daughter loved your goats, and she wanted to get Sables. And I was like, “We have our hands full!” But they are such a wonderful breed. And I mean, they’re beautiful. They’re obviously excellent milk producers. And so, I’m really surprised that they haven’t taken off more than they have, and that, like, you know, you still have trouble getting enough goats to go to nationals to have a national show consistently. Is there something you think that like, “Oh, if people just knew X about Sable goats, they would get them?”

Klisse Foster 18:41
I don’t know. I think anymore—with the Nigerians in there—I think the new people are more looking at, “Oh, let’s get a little Nigerian, because it won’t be as much work,” or, you know, “just that big of a deal to do,” and so those are the ones, kind of the entryway breed for a lot of the new people anymore. I don’t know. I’ve tried to make everything super friendly, you know, like by offering free breedings or leasing bucks or whatever, you know, to try not to lose the genetics when they leave the herd. But I mean, I’ve leased bucks in Colorado and Texas and Nebraska, and they’ve actually… These people would keep them for a whole year, and then just swap them out to keep it going, because there just weren’t a lot out there.

Deborah Niemann 19:26
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Can you explain what leasing a buck means?

Klisse Foster 19:30
It’s where I sign a form, and they sign a form, and we send it to ADGA, and we… It gets put in their file cabinet somewhere. But that way, it means that when they have my buck at their house, they can use him like he’s their buck. So, I don’t have to sign a service memo for every single goat that he breeds. They can do all that, and then we’ll just sign the end date for when he comes back here.

Deborah Niemann 19:55
Yeah.

Klisse Foster 19:56
So, it just makes it easier and more convenient.

Deborah Niemann 19:59
Yeah, definitely more convenient from a paperwork standpoint. But it’s funny, because people ask me sometimes if I lease bucks, and I don’t. And I just always thought of leasing bucks as being a pretty local thing. You know, that, like, somebody would drive to your place, maybe a couple hours, three hours, pick up a goat, take them home, and then return them when they’re done. But you’re talking about leasing goats, like, 1,000 miles away. That’s, like, crazy commitment.

Klisse Foster 20:28
Yeah, I don’t know. We’ve only had one that had a problem. But the place that he went to, the bucks always came back super. They were always in great condition. You know, they were mostly well-mannered. AMMON just came back, and he was a psycho nut job. But, by the time he got to be an elderly gentleman, he was fine. But he got pneumonia, like, right after he got there—the one buck—but I had always sent her young bucks before, because she was way up in the mountains of Colorado. And then this one… He was two. Two or three, I think, when he went, and he got pneumonia and died within six weeks. But pretty much other than that, all the other bucks I’ve leased out have come back in just as good health or better health than they were when they left. So, it’s just, I guess, knowing and being lucky, I guess, who you’re sending them to?

Deborah Niemann 21:18
Yeah. So, since we’re on this topic of leasing bucks, like, when somebody leases a buck and something like that happens where the buck dies, how does that work?

Klisse Foster 21:28
I just look at it—especially like with the pneumonia, because they can get pneumonia here so easy. If it’s something… To my opinion, if it’s something that they couldn’t have prevented, it was just like a freak accident, like maybe he decided to jump over a fence one day because there were outside dogs or something, and had to be put down or something like that, it’s an accident, and it can happen anywhere. But, I also always try to make sure that my bucks that are shipped out are collected a lot before they go, so I don’t have to worry about that too much.

Deborah Niemann 22:00
Yeah. So, for those who don’t know, “collected” means that they have semen for AI—artificial insemination. Are there a lot of Sables available if somebody wants to do AI?

Klisse Foster 22:15
Oh, yeah. They’re available all over. Shannan Lloyd has a bunch. Julie Alberts has some. I have tons and tons, because I learned how to finally collect my own semen. We actually now have four semen tanks.

Deborah Niemann 22:28
Wow.

Klisse Foster 22:28
I’ve become a little bit of a semen hoarder.

Deborah Niemann 22:30
That’s a lot!

Klisse Foster 22:32
Yeah, I know. MARSHALL OC has more though. He’s my idol.

Deborah Niemann 22:38
More than four tanks of semen?

Klisse Foster 22:41
I think he has seven or eight.

Deborah Niemann 22:44
Wow.

Klisse Foster 22:44
I know. I’m aspiring to be like MARSHALL, but I haven’t quite gotten there yet. But…

Deborah Niemann 22:51
That’s funny. I’m not sure that I’ve heard anybody refer to semen tanks in the plural form. So, do you know off the top of your head how many straws you have?

Klisse Foster 23:02
No. Thousands.

Deborah Niemann 23:04
Okay.

Klisse Foster 23:05
Thousands from, I don’t know, 70 or 80 different bucks, probably.

Deborah Niemann 23:09
Wow! So, if somebody wants to raise Sables, and they don’t want a buck, and they want to do AI, then there’s tons of semen available to do that.

Klisse Foster 23:20
Oh, yeah. Because I’ve even gone back through, and I’ve picked up a lot of the old-old semen from, like, Karen Lewis and some of the breeders that used to have the really, really old stuff. And then there was a breeder, Judie Nelson in Idaho; I got a bunch of her stuff, too. So, I got the old-old stuff, too, besides the new stuff.

Deborah Niemann 23:38
Okay. So, how long does semen last?

Klisse Foster 23:41
Forever, as long as you keep your tank charged. I think the oldest I’ve used would have been put up in the late 70s or early 80s.

Deborah Niemann 23:50
Wow! That is really something. So, bucks can pretty much live forever.

Klisse Foster 23:56
Forever. Mm-hmm.

Deborah Niemann 23:57
Okay. Well, that’s definitely good news for people, because I know I’ve had people buy Nigerian bucks from me who have larger goats. Like, I remember one person said that if her husband wasn’t home when one of her goats was in heat, she couldn’t get their buck. I think they had Nubians or something. She’s like, “I can’t handle him, so I want to have a Nigerian buck so that I don’t miss this doe in heat,” you know, “and I can handle something that’s 75 pounds.” So, AI is even easier from a physical standpoint. Like, weighs even less than a Nigerian buck!

Klisse Foster 24:34
Yes, definitely.

Deborah Niemann 24:37
So, wow, that’s so interesting. Okay. So, is there anything else that you think people should know about Sables?

Klisse Foster 24:44
I don’t know… if you’re starting in any area, it’s hard to get enough numbers. I do know that for sure. There’s a few people that have kind of… They’ve had a run of bad luck. Like, they’ve gotten one or two, and they can’t get anybody near them to get Sables, so sometimes you just have to settle for maybe asking your show chairperson if you can do an AOP class, which is an “all other purebreds.” So, you would show with whatever breeds are smallest. You know, it’s like, if it’s the only way you can show, sometimes that’s how you got to do it.

Deborah Niemann 25:15
Mm-hmm. Yeah. Wow, this has been so much fun! Thanks for joining us today. Can you tell everyone where they can find you online if they want to connect?

Klisse Foster 25:25
Um, you can find me… Well, my website is SableDairyGoats.org. And then, you can find me at Klisse’s Kids Dairy Goats on Facebook. I don’t do any other social media, because I have my hands full with just that. And my email is SableDairyGoats@peoplepc.com.

Deborah Niemann 25:44
Okay, awesome! And we will have all of that in the show notes, too, if people just want to go click on those things and learn more about Klisse’s goats. Thanks so much for joining us today!

Klisse Foster 25:55
Thank you for asking me.

Deborah Niemann 25:59
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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