Agroecology 2 min

Grazing goats produce better nutritional and sensory quality milk

Milk from goats eating fresh grass as forage is richer in nutritional compounds (vitamins A, E, B2 and B6 and carotenoids) in comparison to milk from goats fed conserved forages.

Published on 26 April 2023

illustration Grazing goats produce better nutritional and sensory quality milk
© Hugues Caillat

The content, composition and variation of vitamin compounds in goat milk have been little studied. An experimental design was based on 28 commercial farms, selected considering the main feeding system (based on main forage and especially pasture access), goat breed (Alpine vs Saanen) and reproductive management (seasonal reproduction), in the main French goat milk production area.

Each farm received two visits (spring and autumn) that included a survey on milk production conditions and bulk milk sampling. Milk vitamins (A, E, B2, B6, B9, B12) and carotenoid concentrations plus colour indices were evaluated.

A stepwise approach determined the variables of milk production conditions that significantly altered milk indicators. The main forage in the diet was the major factor altering goat milk vitamin and carotenoid concentrations and colour  indices. Bulk milk from goats eating fresh grass as forage was richer in a-tocopherol (+64%), pyridoxal (+35%) and total vitamin B6 (+31%), and b* index (characterising milk yellowness in the CIELAB colour space) was also higher (+12%) than in milk from goats eating conserved forages. In milk from goats eating fresh grass, concentrations of pyridoxamine, lutein and total carotenoids were higher than in milk of goats fed corn silage (+24, +118 and +101%, respectively), and retinol and a-tocopherol concentrations were higher than in milk of goats fed partially dehydrated grass (+45 and +55%). Vitamin B2 concentration was higher in milk of goats eating fresh grass than in milk of goats fed hay or corn silage as forage (+10%). However, bulk milk when goats had access to fresh grass was significantly poorer in vitamin B12 than when fed corn silage (46%) and in c-tocopherol (31%) than when fed conserved forage. Alpine goats produced milk with higher vitamin B2 and folate concentrations than Saanen goats (+18 and +14%, respectively). Additionally, the milk colour index that discriminates milks based on their yellow pigment contents was 7% higher in milk from Alpine than Saanen herds, but milk from Saanen goats was richer in lutein (+46%). Goat milks were richer in vitamins B2 and B12 and folates, but poorer in vitamin B6 in autumn than in spring (+12, +133, +15 and 13%, respectively).

This work highlights that goat milk vitamin and carotenoid concentrations and colour indices vary mainly according to the main forage of the diet and secondly according to the breed and season.

This research was supported by grants from the French Régions Bretagne, Normandie, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Pays-de-la-Loire, INRAE and Agrocampus-Ouest in the PSDR4 Grand Ouest Fleche project (Coord. Hugues Caillat) . This work was performed in the framework of the program ‘‘Investissement d’Avenir” (16-IDEX-0001 CAP 20-25) funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche of the French government.




Sylvie Andre author

Scientific contact

Benoit Graulet Herbivores Joint Research Unit



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