A sturdy breed: some Toggenburg basics

The present genetic stock of these dairy goats in South Africa originated from animals imported from Switzerland in 1951. Their milk is used to produce a variety of hard and soft cheeses.

Toggenburg goats
The Toggenburg is a highly productive dairy breed. The international breed standard calls for minimum milk yield of 740kg per lactation, with a minimum fat content of 3,56% and minimum protein content of 2,9%.
Photo: Denene Erasmus

The Toggenburg dairy goat originated in the Toggenburg Valley in Switzerland. It is generally regarded as the oldest known dairy goat breed.

The fertile valleys of Switzerland are separated from one another by steep mountain ranges; these natural partitions spurred the development of pure breeds in this country.

Pure Toggenburgs were imported to South Africa in the early 1900s. Here, they were crossbred with South African-type milch goats originating from pure Saanen goats imported from 1900 to 1914. This yielded some good milkers.

For almost 20 years thereafter, no Toggenburg goats were registered in South Africa and all the old genetic stock disappeared.

In 1951, WH Morris of Cape Town imported a pure Toggenburg male and two ewe kids from Switzerland. Over the next 30 or so years, 167 females and 58 males were registered.

Summary of breed characteristics
The Toggenburg is a sturdy, medium-sized breed. The hair is short or medium in length, soft and fine in texture, and lies against the body. Rams are known for their pronounced beards.

The breed’s solid colour varies from light fawn to dark chocolate, and there is no preference for a specific shade.

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Distinct white markings may be as follows: white ears with a dark spot in middle; two white stripes down the face from above each eye to the muzzle; hind legs white from hocks to hooves; forelegs white from the knees downward with a dark band below the knee acceptable; a white triangle on either side of the tail; white spots at the root of the toggles or in that area if no toggles are present.

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The ears are erect and carried forward. The face may be dished or straight, but is never Roman.

The udder should be well developed, not fleshy, and have a soft texture after milking. It should be carried high and well under the body. Good udder attachment is particularly important.

Production norms
The Toggenburg is slightly smaller than other Alpine breeds, with the ewes weighing at least 55kg. Average height, measured at the withers, is about 79cm for ewes and 90cm for rams. The teats should be moderately sized, squarely placed and point slightly forward.

  • Milk production: 2kg/day.
  • Milk fat: 3,2% to 3,7%.
  • Milk protein: 2,7%.

For more information, visit the breeders’ society at studbook.co.za

Source: Snyman, MA: ‘South African goat breeds : Toggenburg goat’ (Info-pack ref. 2014/012, Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute).