Sheep/Goat - The Poor Man's Cow

Goat and Sheep usually are also called as “Poor Man’s Cow” in Pakistan. 90% of total goat population is in developing countries. Asia produces about 80% of total goat milk. Pakistan at present supports 56.7 million heads of goats consisting of about 25 well recognized breeds found in different regions of the country.

Goats annually contribute approximately 275 thousand tons of meat, 851 thousand tons of milk (Ali, 2006, Anonymous, 2008), 25 million skins and 21.4 thousand tons of hair to the national economy. They are also a source of foreign exchange and contribute 2.5 % of the annual milk production.

In Pakistan majority of goats are kept for mutton by millions of poor and landless communities however some for milk purpose. Typical milk producing breeds of goats are Beetal, Dera Din Panah (DDP), Naachi, Damani, and Kamori. These dairy goats constitute about 05 million of the total goat population in the country. Usually small flocks of sheep and goats are raised together in plains and sub hilly areas of Pakistan. The goats are being kept under three main production systems i.e. Nomadic, Transhumant Grazing Systems, sedentary and household. Major feed resources available for goats are mainly ranges (60%), while other feeding material available to these animals is along canal/river banks; pastures, roadside grazing, crop residues, tree leaves, pods and household remains etc.



Potential of Goat Milk Production in Pakistan:

The milk yield may be different under different feeding management conditions. The Naachi goat breed has also been reported to produce 150 liters of milk in 120 days lactation period under arid and semi-arid conditions (Personal Communication, 2008). In Beetal 323 liters of milk production is reported within a lactation period of 186 days. In general, most of the estimated milk yields are given without considering the milk consumed by the kids; hence the actual milk yield could be higher than that reported. The milk production performance of some local and exotic dairy goats and their crosses with Beetal is given in the following table. A remarkable improvement (97.3 %) has been found in a cross of Beetal with Sannen and Alpine.

Breed/cross Lactation yield (liters) Lactation length (days)
Beetal 156.9 186
Dera Din Panah 205 130
Kamori 204 115
Damani 100-113 90-120
Alpine 308.4 245
Saanen 286.4 243
Alpine x Beetal 257.1 223
Saanen x Beetal 309.6 241

Comparative Composition of Milk of Different Animals:

Inconsiderable attention is given by researchers to composition of goat and sheep milk as compared to cow and buffalo. The difference in composition is due to breed, stage of lactation and environmental factors. Milk produced by the local goats in majority cases is in smaller quantity and sometimes consumed by kids.

Goat Sheep cow Buffalo
Water (%) 87.0 79.46 87.5 82.22
Fat (%) 4.2 5.3 3.8 7.65
Protein (%) 3.5 5.54 3.2 4.37
Carbohydrates (%) 4.5 5.4 4.8 4.82
Minerals (%) 0.8 0.9 0.7 0.94

These are some characteristics which make “Ovine Milk” more preferable then bovine milk:

1. Physio-chemical Aspects:

Ovine milk is white as compared to bovine’s milk due to absence of carotene. Goat milk has gouty smell due to liberated fatty acids during rough handling as compared to sheep’s milk which has nice flavor. Goat milk is almost alkaline in nature which is useful for people having acidity problem. This alkalinity due to higher protein contents and different phosphate management. Sheep milk has higher specific gravity, viscosity, refractive index, titratable acidity, and lower freezing point than average cow milk (Haenlein and Wendorff, 2006). Specific gravity found in goat milk 1.028- 1.032, in sheep milk 1.032-1.037 in buffalo milk1.030-1.035and in cow milk 1.027-1.031. Specific gravity of sheep milk high was due to its high content of solids-non-fat.

2. The Healthy Benefits:

The children’s having allergic problems and sensitivity against cow milk are prescribed to goat milk by doctors. Many diseases such as acidity, asthma, colitis, stomatitis, eczema, metabolic problems, liver and gall bladder diseases and stress related problems are treated by providing goat milk proteins. These proteins can provide them permanent supportive treatment against these problems.

3. Read What Biologists Say:

Goat milk differs from cow or human milk in having better digestibility, alkalinity and buffering capacity (Park, 1994).Digestibility of goat milk due to natural homogenizing property is higher than cow milk having mechanical homogenization. That’s why 20% less time is required to digest goat milk due to small size of fat globules (0.1 to 1 microns) less than 2 microns. Biological value and digestibility co-efficient of goat milk protein ‘casein’ is 89.29 and 92.42 respectively

4. The Nutritional Value:

Goat milk has more nutrients as compared to bovine’s milk. The fat of goat is readily degraded as compared to cow and buffalo fat. The absorbance efficiency of goat milk is higher than cow and buffalo. Goat milk has more nutrient than sheep due to fatty acids in lipids. The protein in goat milk digested more rapidly and amino acids absorb quickly.

5. Dairy Products:

Sheep milk is good raw material for the milk processing industry especially in cheese production (Park et al., 2007). Sheep and goat milk use in many products formation such as; fortified milk, yogurt, ice cream, condensed milk and cheese in many countries. But goat and sheep milk is not        suitable for ghee production.


  1. Dairy goat and sheep need a serious attention in respect of research and their development.
  2. Provincial governments should establish independent ovine research institutes.
  3. Distribution of improved bucks (at subsidized rates) of various goat and sheep breeds for improving the performance of goat and sheep.
  4. Establishment of dairy goat and sheep improvement association, which can play a vital role to improve their milk production.
  5. Nutritional aspects of the goat and sheep in terms of quality and quantity need special attention for optimizing their productivity.
  6. Ranges being the major and the most important source in small ruminant feeding need attention and improvement.
  7. There is no good link between farmers, extension workers and researchers still does not exist. This needs to be established and strengthened.
  8. Sufficient health cover and strengthening of extension services by the respective departments are still awaited.

This article was sent by Malik Naveed. He is currently student of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan