Oberhasli goats have a handsome coloring, docile disposition, and excellent milk production. This breed is relatively new, only formally recognized in 1978, and is still fairly uncommon. Oberhasli goats are fast becoming a favorite among dairy goat farmers and breeders, pet owners, and even as working goats.
Oberhasli Goat Origin
Oberhasli is a district in Bern, Switzerland, and Oberhasli goats were originally known as Swiss Alpine goats. They are one of the oldest goat breeds in Switzerland.
Imported to the United States in the 1900s, they eventually became known as a subgroup of French Alpine goats. In 1936, H.O. Pence imported 5 chamois-colored goats from Switzerland, and they were registered as Swiss Alpines, with crossbreeds recognized as French or American Alpines.
By 1977, descendants of these original Chamois Colored Goats had formed a distinct subgroup, with a pure breed herd maintained in California by Esther Oman. The Oberhasli Breeders of America was formed, and, a year later in 1978, the breed was recognized by the American Dairy Goat Association.
In 2010, there were a total of just 1729 Oberhasli goats in America, distributed over 30 states. Their numbers are so low that they are monitored by the American Livestock Breed Conservancy.
Oberhasli Goat Uses
Oberhasli goats are a versatile animal. They produce a sweet-tasting milk with a high butterfat percentage, and are valued on dairy farms.
They are also quite strong for their size, making them excellent pack animals, who are not afraid of water. And their distinctive coats make them appealing as pets and for show animals. They are friendly and calm, and do not easily startle, which makes them easy to live with in a variety of situations. Their thick coats and Swiss origins make them hardy in cold climates. It's easy to see why the Oberhasli has become such a desirable goat.
Oberhasli Goat Characteristics
Appearance. Oberhaslis are prized for their chamois-colored coats. They range from light to deep red, with darker reds being the preferred color. Does may also be solid black, which is not the preferred coat, and is not allowed in bucks.
They have black bellies, black legs below the knee, black muzzles and facial stripes, and a black dorsal stripe. Oberhasli goats have straight faces and low-set, upright ears. Oberhaslis are sometimes born with wattles, if one of the parents had wattles; non-wattled parents will not produce wattled offspring.
Does stand 28 inches at the withers and weigh an average of 120 pounds. Bucks stand at least 30 inches tall and weigh at least 150 pounds.
Oberhaslis are known for producing particularly sweet, delicious milk. Oberhasli does produce an average of 2,146 pounds of milk per lactation, and their milk averages 3.6% butterfat and 3% protein. The current milk production record is 4,665 pounds per lactation.
Oberhaslis are known for being calm and gentle, and for not being easily frightened. They are active and vigorous animals.
As a working animal
Oberhasli goats are strong for their size, with powerful rear legs. Due to their strength and courage, they are often used as pack goats despite their stature. Oberhaslis are often born with a trait called “hockiness,” a tendency for hind hocks to be turned inward.
This is a fault in dairy goats, as it can inhibit easy milking, but makes the goat more sure-footed and agile on rocky terrain. A tendency toward hockiness is precisely what makes Oberhasli goats appealing as pack goats. They are also unafraid of water and don't need special training for it. Some breeders are developing lines of Oberhaslis to increase their size and make them even better pack goats.
Raising Oberhasli Goats
The natural strength and courage of an Oberhasli can make them a bit of a challenge to contain on a farm. Due to their Alpine origin, they tolerate cold climates very well.
While Oberhaslis are calm and friendly, lots of handling from the time they are young helps to ease wrestling matches when administering medical care.
Oberhasli goat social needs.
Like all goats, Oberhaslis are herd animals and will not be healthy or happy when kept alone. If you only want or need one doe for personal milk consumption or as a pet, housing her with a wether, or even a farm dog, will help keep her happy and well-adjusted.
Oberhasli goat medical needs.
Like all goats, Oberhaslis need periodic hoof trimming and deworming. If they are not handled often, hoof trimming these strong goats can be quite a wrestling match. Find a local veterinarian who is familiar with goats, and learn to spot the early signs of parasites.
Oberhasli Goat Food Needs.
Water. Goats should always have access to fresh, clean water. Oberhaslis can drink up to 10 liters of water a day when producing milk.
Forage and feed. Oberhaslis will happily browse on shrubs, weeds, herbs, and tree bark and leaves. Allowing them freedom of pasture also gives them the exercise they need to stay healthy and prevent health problems.
Depending on the size of your pasture, the variety of plants available, and the season, alfalfa hay can and should be offered for free feeding. Purchase very high-quality hay for the healthiest goats and best quality milk.
Alfalfa hay is high in calcium, which is essential when goats are kidding and producing milk. Alfalfa hay can be expensive, so some people supplement other high-quality hay with alfalfa pellets instead.
Supplements. Depending on the plants in your pasture, local soil composition, and nutritional composition of your hay, it is likely that your goats will need mineral supplements.
If you are providing high-quality food, they may only require small amounts of trace minerals. When free fed, goats will only eat as much mineral supplements as they need.
Use a mineral supplement designed for goats or cattle, and avoid supplements designed for sheep, because goats and cows require copper, which is toxic to sheep. You can also feed your Oberhasli goats fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen to add variety to their diet.
Oberhasli goat enclosure needs.
Like all goats, Oberhaslis are agile and ready jumpers. They are also particularly strong and vigorous, which creates special challenges when fencing them, and they should be given ample space to roam and exercise to prevent unnecessary wear and tear on your fencing.
Remember that fences not only keep goats in, but should keep predators out. Fences should be a minimum of 4 feet high, although some breeds and crossbreeds can jump over heights of 4 feet, and 5 feet is safest.
Goats will lean, stand, rub, and chew on fencing, particularly if they have smaller pasture, or if there seems to be attractive forage on the other side, so posts should be no further than 8 feet apart, and posts should be cemented into the ground to keep strong Oberhaslis from pushing them over.
The best way to secure your Oberhaslis is a goat wire fence with 4-inch openings too small for adults to put their heads through: goat wire is strong enough to withstand the chewing, leaning, and standing that the fence will endure.
Because goat wire fencing comes at 4 feet high, it is best to run one strand of electric fencing over the top of the wire fence to increase the overall height and deter jumping.
Oberhasli goat shelter needs.
All goats need shelter at night and in poor weather. Situate your shelter well away from your fence, so that goats aren't able to jump from the roof of their shelter over the fence, and avoid situating the shelter on low ground that would accumulate rain.
At minimum, the shelter can simply be a roof and three sides, so that goats can get out of bad weather. It is better to have a dry dirt floor than a wood one; wood flooring can get slippery with mud or manure, and potentially injure a goat or cause foot problems.
Does will need additional shelter and protection when they have kidded, and to be separate from the herd so if you plan to breed your Oberhaslis, you will need to create separate, warm, clean pens for does and kids.
Breeding Oberhasli Goats
Oberhasli does come into season between late August through January, when they are in heat for 1-2 days every 18-21 days until they are bred.
After successful breeding, their gestation period is 155 days, and they often give birth to twins or triplets. The average lifespan of an Oberhasli goat is 8-12 years.
While a doe can come into heat as early as 5 months old, it is better to wait until she is at least 8 months old or 80 pounds to prevent kidding problems. When she is coming into heat, she will generally show signs with signature behaviors, such as:
When breeding Oberhasli goats, there are a few factors to consider:
Owning a sire
Keeping an Oberhasli buck of your own can be a challenge, as he requires a separate (and very sturdy) enclosure to keep him from breeding when unwanted.
Keeping your own buck ensures that you can breed your does right when they are ready, and allowing him access to the does may bring them into heat. But buying and raising a purebred Oberhasli buck can be an expensive year-round investment, if all that's needed is to freshen your does.
Renting a buck
Some breeders prefer to schedule “dates,” where a desirable buck comes to visit their herd. This is less expensive than keeping your own buck, but needs to be timed carefully due to the limited window of time in which does are in heat.
Some breeders choose artificial insemination, so that they can have full control over the timing of breeding.
This requires some skill to execute, and limits the number of times you can attempt to breed a doe without incurring more expense, but also allows your kids to have the best possible bloodlines at a reasonable cost.
Oberhasli Goat Price
Oberhasli goats are a highly desirable breed, and still low in numbers. Kids range in price from $300-$1000, depending on bloodlines.
Oberhasli Goat Breeders
While a quick google search reveals many Oberhasli breeders across the United States, it is best to research the best breeders through Oberhasli goat associations like the Oberhasli Goat Club (http://www.oberhasli.us/) and the Oberhasli Breeders of America (http://oberhasli.webs.com/).
These groups are invested in preserving and enhancing the breed, and attract the best and most reliable breeders.
Oberhasli goats give good quantities of delicious milk, and are very desirable dairy goats. But their handsome coloring and distinctive looks also make them appealing pets and show animals. And the fact that they can be trained as pack goats adds a special dimension to the many uses of this special breed of goat.