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    Oberhasli Goat | Summer 2015 Out Here Magazine

    Rare breed is the Swiss miss of the homestead

    Story and photography by Jeannette Beranger

     

    Reasons to love the rare Oberhasli goat are many: they produce sweet-tasting milk for creamy, flavorful cheese; they have a calm, gentle disposition; and they are prized as a strong, reliable pack animal.

    The story of these highly versatile dairy goats originates in the mountainous regions of Switzerland near the capital of Bern. There, they are known as Gemsfarbige Gebirgsziege, which translates to mean, “Chamois-colored mountain goat,” refering to the dominant chamois or chamoisee color pattern on their bodies.

    Most Oberhasli in the United States can be traced back to 1936 when Dr. H.O. Pence of Kansas City, Mo., imported them. The breed was referred to as Swiss Alpine back then.

    Their registrations were included in the American Alpine studbook until 1979 when the breed was granted its own separate studbook by the American Dairy Goat Association and given the official name of Oberhasli.

    Today, the Oberhasli is listed as “Recovering,” on The Livestock Conservancy’s Conservation Priority List, because numbers have improved globally. The Conservancy uses this list to bring attention to livestock, such as the Oberhasli, to connect them with people interested in saving a rare breed.

    Historically in Switzerland, the breed was divided into two types — one polled and one horned. The Brienzer-Oberhasli was polled and came originally from the area near the city of Brienz.

    The second type was the horned Bünder, which came from state of Graubünden, also known as Grisons.

    In 1936, both types were combined into one breed within the Swiss studbook; however, some producers still breed the two separately from each other.

    Alison Charter-Smith, vice president of the Oberhasli Breeders of America, is a true believer in the breed.

    LEARN MORE ABOUT OBERHASLI GOATS The Livestock Conservancy — livestockconservancy.org Oberhasli Breeders of America — oberhasli.webs.com | Oberhasli Goat Club — oberhasli.us

    “Once you go Obie, you will never go back to any other goat,” she says.

    Their assertive, yet friendly and gentle, disposition is a bonus, Charter-Smith says, along with the fact that they are one of the quietest of the goat breeds.

    “If you are maintaining a large herd, it makes life with goats that much more pleasant,” she says.

    Interest is growing for the Oberhasli, especially for small-scale family or homestead use. They are considered a medium to high milk-producing breed.

    Their milk is considered to be sweet tasting and far from the pungent “goaty” product people tend to expect from goat’s milk. Those who try it for the first time are often surprised at the fine flavor and how similar it tastes to cow’s milk.

    Oberhasli females may earn their keep from milk production, but many people are discovering the value of the males as well. Oberhasli wethers — neutered males — are prized as pack animals because of their strength and calm personality.

    Dwite and Mary Sharp of Paradise Ranch Adventures LLC, in Council Grove, Kan., prefer Oberhaslis for the packing trips they lead for their customers because they are less fearful on the trail than other goat breeds and are large enough to carry a good-sized load.

    Paradise Ranch’s “All Wether Marching Band” is currently the largest group of working pack goats in the United States and are a busy bunch.

     

    Jeannette Beranger is The Livestock Conservancy’s Research & Technical Programs Manager.

    Summer 2015 Out Here Magazine Home Page