Toggenburg Goats

Episode 61
For the Love of Goats

Toggenburg goats featured image

If you are interested in a medium-sized goat for milking, you should consider the Toggenburg, which is always a shade of brown, somewhere between tan and dark chocolate. The Toggenburg goat’s butterfat average is the lowest of the dairy breeds, but it still makes great cheese.

Today we are talking to Leslie Cardoza owner of Bar XX Dairy Goats, who has been breeding Toggenburgs for milk and show in California since 2003. She has had goats on the ADGA Top Ten list for milk production every year since 2010, and one year her goats took seven of the ten spots.

In addition to talking about characteristics of the Toggenburg goat, she also talks about milk testing and how that affects her breeding decisions.

Learn more about Leslie Cardoza online on her Facebook Page – Bar XX Dairy Goats.

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

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Transcript – Toggenburg Goats

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. Today is going to be a lot of fun as we talk about Toggenburgs, which are one of the less common breeds that is registered by the American Dairy Goat Association. And we’re joined by Leslie Cardoza, who is the owner of Bar 20 Dairy Goats. And she is in California, where she raises her goats for milk and showing. Welcome to today’s episode, Leslie!

Leslie Cardoza 0:45
Thank you for having me.

Deborah Niemann 0:46
I’m really excited to talk to you, because Toggenburgs are actually one of the goats I don’t know a whole lot of, because even back when my daughters still lived at home and we showed, we did not see a lot of Toggenburgs at our local shows. So it’s gonna be very educational for me today to hear more about the breed. So, tell us a little bit about your history with goats and how you got started with Toggenburgs.

Leslie Cardoza 1:09
I initially got goats to clear my property. We have 20 acres; it was really covered in brush and poison oak. And my first goats were a mix of Nubians and LaManchas. And then I needed to breed them. So, I could not find a Nubian buck. And I found a Toggenburg buck. So, I purchased the Toggenburg buck, because it was better to breed the goats than not breed the goats. And my husband kind of gave me a bad time about him not being a Nubian. So, I also purchased a doe, which was an experimental—looked like a Toggenburg—with the Toggenburg buck in 2003. And my daughter was going to be doing 4-H. So, we found a breeder with Toggenburgs and purchased two Toggenburg doe kids the following year.

Leslie Cardoza 2:06
And, the reason I chose Toggenburg is we did not have livestock guardian dogs. And I am in the Sierra Nevada foothills. And we have lions and bears here. And we didn’t lose any Toggenburgs. Not a single Toggenburg. We took a bad beating on the Nubians, and we also had some Boers, and we lost 21 goats in 14 days. So, I just figured what I needed to do was stick with the Toggenburgs, because they did not get themselves killed.

Deborah Niemann 2:44
Wow, that’s amazing! Do you know why they weren’t killed by the predators?

Leslie Cardoza 2:49
The Toggenburgs are very quiet. If you’ve ever been around Nubians and Boers, they’re a lot more chatty.

Deborah Niemann 2:59

Leslie Cardoza 3:01
And then, the Toggenburgs, also, whenever we were having that problem at that time, they did not run down the mountain in a pack; they scattered. Every man for himself. Whereas the Nubians stuck together, and it was easier for them to be taken out. We had a problem with… We actually had three mountain lions, because we had the federal trapper here and went through all the correct routes and had depredation permits for it. So, the lion problem went away. And I immediately went and got my first livestock guardian dog.

Deborah Niemann 3:43
Right. That’s amazing. I had never thought about that quite that succinctly before. I know whenever I have a goat that’s super talkative, I usually will say to them, “What kind of a prey animal are you? Don’t you know you’re supposed to be quiet so that you don’t attract predators?” But I was always joking. And Nubians do have a reputation for being very chatty. And so, it totally makes sense that they would attract the predators.

Leslie Cardoza 4:13
Yes. And the Toggenburgs, because they’re always the same way marked, actually do blend in with the landscape. So they probably had an advantage there, as well, being a shade of brown with just the distinct white markings.

Deborah Niemann 4:31
Okay. And, is there anything in particular about the Toggenburg milk that you really like?

Leslie Cardoza 4:37
The Toggenburg milk, a lot of people think that it tastes funny, because that’s been passed through time that they have the goat-y flavor, and I would really like to say that, “No, they don’t have the goat-y flavor.” I get asked for it all the time when somebody wants to buy a home milker, you know, just for themselves, and we usually let them do a taste test or whatever on the goat that they’re looking at to buy. But, the Toggenburgs can made quite a bit of milk for such a smaller breed. And they have a good amount of protein, because you need the protein to bind with the fats for your cheese, as well. So, I would say they’re good for making cheese, and we do drink the milk.

Deborah Niemann 5:30
What’s the average butterfat for Toggenburg? And how does your herd compare with that?

Leslie Cardoza 5:35
The average butterfat for Toggenburgs is probably around 3.2.

Deborah Niemann 5:43
And then, what do your butterfats run?

Leslie Cardoza 5:46
I have them anywhere from some that are in the 2.7, 2.8 range, all the way up to 3.5. With the Toggenburgs, it’s not such a span between butterfat and protein as in the difference between the 2%. Maybe it’s a little closer together.

Deborah Niemann 6:08
Okay. Years ago, I knew somebody—when I was first getting into goats—who had gotten Toggenburgs specifically because they had the lowest butterfat and that’s what they wanted. They said, “You know, we don’t like whole milk. We want milk with really low butterfat.” And so that was why they got the Toggenburgs. Do people ever come to you for that reason, looking for goats?

Leslie Cardoza 6:30
On the butterfat portion? Most people come to me looking for them on the volume.

Deborah Niemann 6:38
Okay. What kind of production do you get?

Leslie Cardoza 6:41
By their second lactation, I would like them to be making over 3,000 pounds in a 305. 305 days.

Deborah Niemann 6:50
And for people who maybe don’t have goats yet, and aren’t familiar with how that comes out, like, when you milk them, in a day, how many quarts or gallons does that come out to? On average, of course.

Leslie Cardoza 7:04
They’re probably making around 12 pounds at their peak, so about 6 quarts a day.

Deborah Niemann 7:13
Okay. And just for anybody who is new, there is a curve. So, goats start out fairly low; their production goes up the first couple months, and then it kind of levels off and starts to go down gradually. So, that’s why we talk about averages. But, goats can peak considerably higher than the average. Like, I know with my Nigerians, I’ve had goats that have peaked around 6, 6-1/2 pounds, which is 3 quarts, even though the breed average you see a lot of people say, like, they give about a quart a day. But that’s talking about, like, over the whole span of, like, a 10-month lactation. So, how do you see that with Toggenburgs?

Leslie Cardoza 7:53
At this point, I’m probably—with the does that are freshened in February, and we’re now in November—I’m still around 3 quarts to a gallon a day.

Deborah Niemann 8:05
Okay. So that’s a really great family milker for people.

Leslie Cardoza 8:11
I have several goats that I’ve milked on through, even through their pregnancy and their next freshening. They didn’t get a break, because they don’t want to quit.

Deborah Niemann 8:22
Oh, my goodness. Interesting.

Leslie Cardoza 8:24
So, I’ve bred for persistency of lactation. And I’ve been milking year-round, every day of the year, since… about 2012.

Deborah Niemann 8:38
And have you milked through without re-breeding from year to year?

Leslie Cardoza 8:42
I’ve only had maybe two of those. They were bred, and they still kidded. I milked them through their pregnancy.

Deborah Niemann 8:51
Right. I was wondering, because sometimes… Like, a few years ago, we decided to just try breeding half of them each year, and then milking each goat for two years without breeding in the middle. So, they have kids. We milk them for two years. And then they have kids again, and then start over. Have you had goats that do that?

Leslie Cardoza 9:12
There’s only been two that I didn’t re-breed.

Deborah Niemann 9:15

Leslie Cardoza 9:16
Toggenburgs are pretty smart, and they can figure out how to escape and get to a buck. They know how to open latches.

Deborah Niemann 9:26
I used to have a buck who could do that.

Leslie Cardoza 9:28
Oh, I got does that’ll do it.

Deborah Niemann 9:32
Yeah. I used to have a doe that would try to open the doorknob. She would try to turn the doorknob to the milking parlor with her mouth, which, her mouth was wet. So she couldn’t do it. But she knew exactly what she had to do.

Leslie Cardoza 9:47
I have about ten goats that know how to open and close the door.

Deborah Niemann 9:49
Wow. So yeah, goats are really smart, which is one of the things I love about them. They’re brilliant. I’ve often said that if they just had thumbs, they could rule the world, because sometimes the only thing that allows us to stay one step ahead of them is something like a carabiner clip, which they have not been able to figure out yet because they don’t have thumbs.

Leslie Cardoza 10:09
Ohh… The Toggenburgs know how to open those.

Deborah Niemann 10:13
Really? Oh, my goodness.

Leslie Cardoza 10:17
Or at least mine.

Deborah Niemann 10:18
Right. That’s amazing. Yeah. So, there’s all kinds of research about how goats communicate and how they learn from each other. So, it totally makes sense, because they’ve done studies where a goat learns how to do some kind of a puzzle, and then they let other goats watch, and they learn too, so you probably had one really smart goat, and then the other goats saw them do it and just repeated that.

Leslie Cardoza 10:42
I’ve had to move to collars to latch things. On my milking stands, I have to use a collar, because they know how to open the latch to get out of the head gates. So, I have to wrap a collar around it. And my pens, too.

Deborah Niemann 11:00
Oh, wow. Okay, that is brilliant. Smart animals are wonderful, but they also keep us on our toes. So, you also—you’re on milk test. And you also show your goats. Why did you start milk testing?

Leslie Cardoza 11:16
I started milk testing in 2010. First thing I tried was a one-day milking competition. And I achieved getting them their stars on their pedigrees by that, and I was told that it would be easier if I just went on monthly test. And if anybody was interested in monthly test and going on DHI, there is several groups out there that have people that can answer questions about where to start and what you need to do. When I did it, initially, that didn’t really exist. But when I was milking them in the machine—and it holds quite a bit, the belly pail—I used a surge milker. And milk tests was a good way to realize who was really making all the milk, because I could only fit about four goats into that belly pail. So—

Deborah Niemann 12:16

Leslie Cardoza 12:17
—milk test was enlightening for who was really making all the milk versus maybe having a meatier udder, and it’s been an invaluable tool, because you get your butterfat percent, and your protein percent, and you can see if your butterfat is lower than your protein—meaning your goat would be inverted. And, you know, that would be a clue that something may be not working digestively in them as it should. And you also get your somatic cell counts. So once a month, you’d be on milk test, and you’ll get a window into them of how they’re doing with their somatic cell counts. And if it goes up high, you should probably get a milk sample to a diagnostic lab and see if you got a problem going on.

Leslie Cardoza 13:13
And I’ve had either experimentals, or Toggenburgs, or both on the Top 10 every year since 2010. And I use the milk test to find who my high performers are, and then I kept sons from them and bred them to my other high performers, trying to make better higher performers.

Deborah Niemann 13:38
No, exactly. That is definitely the way to do it. That was one of the things I loved about milk test, is that it gave me so much good information about production and butterfat. And, it helped me to make a lot of breeding decisions. And I think you just summed that up really nicely there about being able to pick bucks from does that were really good producers. So, breed your high-producing does’ sons to daughters from other high producers to get even more high producers.

Leslie Cardoza 14:12
Exactly, exactly. That is exactly what I’ve done. And now I’m in buck-hoarding status, having nine Toggenburg bucks at the moment, but all of my adult Toggenburg bucks over a year old are all from a Top 10 dam, and possibly and probably grand-dams as well, with a linear appraisal score over 90 and permanent champion—either GCH or superior genetics permanent champion, SGCH.

Deborah Niemann 14:49
That’s really excellent.

Leslie Cardoza 14:51
And, I think one of the benefits with the Toggenburgs is that… Maybe they’re a little boring in their looks, being always some sort of shade of brown with just correct white markings that they should have. But, you’re not gonna have one that maybe has spots or different markings. So, you’re going to end up keeping ones that are actually structurally correct.

Deborah Niemann 15:21
That’s a really great point. It is very tempting, when you have goats that can be all different colors and patterns, to be tempted to keep a goat simply because of the color or the pattern. And I think that’s especially true—because they tend to attract a lot of pet breeders—and so, we’re starting to see that with Nigerians. That the quality of the breed overall can really start to suffer because people are so attracted to the flashy appearance.

Leslie Cardoza 15:50
Yeah. Maybe it’s a little good to be boring, like a Toggenburg. Although, they do come in different shades of brown. I do have some that are quite dark chocolate, and that can be flashy.

Deborah Niemann 16:03
So, Toggenburgs are one of the more medium-sized breeds. Can you talk a little bit about the size and, like, how it compares to like Alpines or Saanens?

Leslie Cardoza 16:15
So, a Toggenburg is one of the shorter breeds, although we have varying heights. I don’t have any that are at the minimum height. But, they are a medium breed. So, I’d say an Alpine probably towers over a Togg around 6 inches more; they’re a bigger goat. And the Alpine’s gonna weigh more. The Toggenburg is smaller, usually in the 135-pound range, although I have some does that are nearing the 200-pound range.

Deborah Niemann 16:51
And how big are the Toggenburg bucks?

Leslie Cardoza 16:54
My largest buck is probably only about 230 to 240 pounds.

Deborah Niemann 17:00
Okay, and are they pretty easy to handle?

Leslie Cardoza 17:03
Yeah. I do pull all kids at birth. And I heat-treat their colostrum. Or, you know, if I’ve milked somebody through, I might have to use a powdered colostrum alternative. And then we bottle feed, and then move to a lamb bar. So, all of my bucks have been raised that way. So, I don’t have any problem handling any of the bucks here. And for breeding them, I don’t do any pen-breeding. So everybody is brought out of their pens and put on a lead to breed.

Deborah Niemann 17:43
Okay. If somebody is not sure which breed they want, what would you say is, like, one of the top reasons to consider Toggenburgs?

Leslie Cardoza 17:54
After managing a commercial goat dairy, the Toggenburgs were very hardy. And the percent of them that had any medical problems or died was the least for the Toggenburgs. They’re a very hardy breed. They can withstand—and do quite well at—over 110 degrees, since I get heats that high here. And they actually like the snow, so they do very well in the snow. And some of the goats from my herd have been purchased, and they’re in multiple states across the country in the South, to the very cold North, all the way over to the East Coast. And, they’re actually performing very well. The feeds that can be purchased in those parts of the country is not necessarily the same as what we could get here in California or other parts. Like for instance, in the South, they don’t get alfalfa. And they’re performing very well down there on just a grass hay. Like, for my milkers, I don’t even feed, like, a milking ration. I only use dry cob.

Deborah Niemann 19:10
Wow, that’s really impressive. There are a lot of goats whose production would just kind of fall apart if you fed them like that.

Leslie Cardoza 19:18
I’m happy to say that they’ve been performing very well in multiple areas of the country. I’ve actually exported goats to Bermuda, and they are performing there as well.

Deborah Niemann 19:30
Wow, that is awesome! This has been such an interesting conversation today. If anybody wants to get in touch with you online, where can they find you?

Leslie Cardoza 19:42
I have a Facebook page. It’s called “Bar 20 Dairy Goats.” If you’re going to type it in, it would be “B-A-R-X-X dairy goats.” And I can be reached through the Facebook form page.

Deborah Niemann 19:56
Okay, great. Thank you so much for joining us today!

Leslie Cardoza 20:00
Thank you.

Deborah Niemann 20:02
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, and you can follow us on Facebook at See you again next time. Bye for now!

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1 thought on “Toggenburg Goats”

  1. I have a question, the Doe in the picture how many hours of milk does she have in her? I can’t believe she looks that way every 12 hours, just curious!


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