About 5 years ago, my wife and I started brainstorming what we would do next with our hobby farm in Prior Lake, MN. She always thought that goats were adorable, and hence, wanted to get some. While I love having animals on our hobby farm, and fall in love with them quickly, I have always had a pragmatic approach to life on the farm. My bottom line has always been that whatever we add to our farm, it must provide us with something tangible. For example: Our chickens lay us eggs. Our apple orchard provides applesauce, cider, pies, and apple crisps, not to mention treats for animals on the farm. Our garden provides us with jams, salsas, sauces, herbs, vegetables, and much more. What possibly could a goat provide? Milk!
When my wife threw milk out there, I believed her to be reaching for a reason to make her point. Nonetheless, I google searched goat milk and started to see all sorts of phenomenal benefits. Next, I spoke to a Registered Dietician who reiterated many of the same healthy benefits. Out of obligation, and the desire to look like I was giving this fair thought, I bought some goat milk from a local grocery store. After determining that it tasted great and was more easily digestible than cow milk, I agreed to visit a goat farm. It is here that I fell in love with the animal. I lost!! We now have 9 goats, 4 of which are pregnant. We drink the milk, make soap from the extra, and provide Goat Yoga classes to patrons in the summer! With more milking goats this coming summer, cheese and yogurt are in our future as well.
So, what are all these great benefits of goat milk? And where do we focus for this article? This is a very vast subject. Do we focus on the fats in goat’s milk? The benefits of the vitamins and minerals on the human body? My wife is a Nurse Practitioner, and I have a minor in Nutrition, so understanding these benefits aren’t overwhelming to us, however, they are somewhat irrelevant to the “real-world” experience. We decided we really only needed the answer to a few questions and decided to focus on 3 things: Does it taste good and is it easily digestible? What can we do with it? And finally, is it healthy?
Do we love the taste of Goat Milk? Absolutely! We enjoy it more than cow milk. We chose our breed of choice, the Nigerian Dwarf Goat, simply because we loved the taste of the milk. While most goat breeds have milk in the 2-6% fat range, most being below 4%, the Nigerian Dwarf goat is usually between 6-10%. It’s a very creamy milk that we enjoy. Not only does this enhance the taste, but it provides for a creamy and moisturizing goat soap. Perhaps the most important thing my wife found through her research, however, is the fact that goat milk is much more easily digestible than cow milk. You would assume people would feel less bloated or that they would tolerate the milk better if they digest it easier, but the benefit goes beyond that. When the milk is digested easier, your body has more opportunity to absorb and utilize the nutrients in the goat milk itself more efficiently. Thus, you are then able to reap the health benefits from the food you are consuming!
Goat milk is more easily digested largely because it has less casein then cow milk which allows the milk fat to pass though the intestine more quickly and leads to less intestinal gas, diarrhea and bloating. The reason for the decreased gas is due to the fact that the milk spends less time in the GI tract, which decreases the length of time the milk ferments in the gut. According to an article by Better Hens and Gardens of Bramblestone Farm, humans can digest goat milk in as little as 20 minutes, where cow milk can take up to 24 hours.
The fat found in goat milk also contributes to the ease of digestion because of the smaller fat globules. Goat milk has conjugated linoleic acid in addition to more short and medium chain saturated fatty acids as compared to cow milk. These are essential fatty acids which promote brain health and cell growth. These fats are found in higher concentrations in goat milk as compared to cow milk. We simply suggest that people drink some to find out for themselves. Personally, I digest goat milk as easily as water, yet get amazing benefits and taste. If you feel it is important to obtain vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids from a natural source rather than relying on supplements, then goat milk can aid in this goal.
When deciding on whether or not to begin a goat farm, you have to consider many things. First, in order to get goat milk, you must have a goat that has recently given birth. All the goats require daily care, as well, and you get far less milk from a small dairy goat like the Nigerian Dwarf, and they dry up in shorter time periods than cows. All of this requires daily care, year-round. We also had to decide what we wanted to do with the milk. What could we actually do with it? Since we love the taste of the milk, it has replaced cow milk in our refrigerator, and we consume much of it. Secondly, we can now produce our own yogurt and cheese. Lastly, we decided to learn how to produce goat milk soap. Using high fat goat milk for soap has been a Godsend for us. The creamy, moisturizing components of this soap has cured me of dry skin, foot rashes, and more. My wife uses only organic ingredients in the soap, including organic essential oils for scenting purposes. I am done with commercialized soap and will no longer even shower at the health club as I prefer to come home to use goat soap for the sake of my skin. I have even substituted the soap for my shampoo. After sharing bars of soap with some stores in the community, we now have stores desirous of carrying and selling our soaps. While I never envisioned selling goat soap when we first obtained goats, sharing our loving goats is something we really enjoy. Our goats also love to share of themselves as well, leading us to hold goat yoga classes in the summer of 2019 for the first time. We are now at a point, where we almost can’t get enough of the milk.
So far, this article has focused on taste, ease of digestion, and our many uses, however, what are the healthy benefits of consumption? That was the last question we had before beginning our goat farm. Nutritionally. Goat milk is a good source of protein, contains less sugar (lactose), more calcium, more vitamin B6, more vitamin A, and more potassium than cow milk. Goat's milk also contains higher concentrations of nutrients like iron, Vitamin D, C, B1, B12, E, magnesium and phosphorus. See below for a table on Vitamins and minerals in goat milk:
Vitamins in Goat Milk
Goat Milk is naturally higher in Vitamins C, E, A, and B Complex, than cow milk, each of which play a vital role in skin health.
Vitamin C and E: According to the American Academy of Dermatology, topical application of Vitamin C protects the skin from sun damage and radiation. Dr. Karen E Burke, MD even suggests that Vitamin C can help protect against the damage that causes cancer. Vitamins C and E also protect collagen and elastin–the things that keep us from getting wrinkles and other age-related blemishes.
Vitamin A: The British Journal of Dermatology published a study linking Vitamin A to a reduced risk of Psoriasis. Several other medical studies linked topical Vitamin A to reduction in lines, wrinkles and even control of acne.
Vitamin B Complex: B vitamins are linked to health and vitality and skin is no different. Your skin uses B Complex Vitamins as its base structure. Without adequate amounts of this vitamin, you can end up with conditions like dermatitis, hair loss, and dry skin. Plus, Vitamin B Complex maintains skin moisture, soothes irritated skin, and results in a healthy glow. Compared to cow milk, goat milk can also provide more calcium, vitamin A, potassium and niacin (Vitamin B3).
Minerals in Goat Milk
Goat Milk also contains significant amounts of Selenium and Zinc.
Selenium is believed to play a key role in sun protection and can even reduce your chances of sunburn according to one article.
Zinc is a vital mineral for skin as well, especially those with acne. Zinc balances oil production and is effective in controlling breakouts. Zinc is important for skin health, wound healing and directly linked to innate and adaptive immunity.
Goat milk also contains alpha-hydroxy acids which help remove dead skin cells from your skin. This leaves new cells on the surface of your skin that are smoother and younger looking. The acids are effective because they break down the bonds that hold the dead skin cells together. Removing those dead skin cells help with many skin conditions. This is one of the reasons we enjoy using our milk for goat soap. Water based and commercialized soaps often use harsh chemicals to accomplish this act, often with skin-damaging results. Utilizing goat milk for this purpose, coupled with the moisturizing quality of high fat goat milk, makes goat milk soap more moisturizing and palatable for the skin. While we are a huge proponent of the healthy benefits of goat soap, please recognize that we do not add any non-organic chemicals in the creation process. Some manufacturers do add non-organic chemicals, some of these synthetic chemicals have even been linked to cancers. We choose, however, to utilize raw, filtered, hand milked milk for our soaps.
In summary, we definitely recommend Nigerian Dwarf Milk for good and tasteful consumption, for ease of digestion, for its’ versatility in a multitude of uses, and for its’ healthy composition. Furthermore, goats are loving animals. Our goats love to play with us, and to be pet and loved, just like our dog. They crave human interaction, and thus, love our goat yoga classes. While having a goat farm is a lot of work, there is more reward to this aspect of our farm than any else. My wife was right… we should get goats. And yes, I put that in writing!