Introduction

Goats were among the first farm animals to be domesticated, establishing a symbiotic relationship with humans over the past 10,000 years. Their ability to adapt to harsh environmental conditions makes them particularly suitable for the landless and marginal farmers. Additionally, goats are known for their efficient conversion of feed into meat and milk, making them valuable in agricultural systems. Notably, goats emit less methane, as compared to other farm animals, contributing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions and environmental sustainability. These attributes enhance the significance of goats in various aspects of human life and society. Economically, their versatility in producing meat, milk, wool and leather provides a valuable source of income. In terms of food security, their ability to offer protein-rich meat and nutrient-dense milk is essential, particularly in areas with limited resources. Furthermore, goats play a vital role in sustainable agriculture by helping control weeds and invasive plant species, promoting ecosystem management. Culturally, goats hold symbolic value in traditional ceremonies and cultural festivities, reflecting fertility, prosperity and communal bonding.

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Due to the rapid growth of the human population, there is a rising demand for milk and milk products, especially in tropical developing countries. To meet this increasing demand, there is a need to expand the population of ruminant livestock. Among these, small ruminants, specifically goats, play a crucial role in meeting the growing milk demand. Goats are significant milk producers in many parts of the tropics and make a substantial contribution to human nutrition in numerous developing nations. Often referred to as the “Poor man’s cow”, goats have gained increasing interest from consumers in recent years, particularly regarding goat milk and its derived products. According to the 20th Livestock Census, the goat population in India stands at approximately 148.88 million. Goats contribute to 3% of the total milk production in India, while globally they account for 2%. The latest Annual Report from the Department of Animal Husbandry states that the average daily yield per Indian goat is 0.47 kg. The global production of goat milk is experiencing growth, with a substantial portion being utilized in its fresh form or processed into products like cheese or yogurt. The rising popularity of goat milk and milk products highlights their importance and potential in meeting the increasing demand for dairy in tropical regions and provides opportunities for the Dairy Industry and consumers alike.

Nutritional Composition of Goat Milk

Goat milk is a highly nutritious beverage that offers various health benefits. It contains a good amount of protein and is easily digested, as compared to cow and human milk. Additionally, this milk has unique properties such as better buffer capacity, alkalinity and therapeutic values. It is rich in Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA), Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) and Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT). Medium Chain Triglycerides provide energy without being stored as body fat and can help lower cholesterol levels. The balanced fatty acid profile in this milk contributes to the prevention of conditions like atherosclerosis, heart attacks, strokes and other heart complications.

Nutritional properties of Goat Milk

Furthermore, the casein micelles in goat milk differ from those in cow milk, as they have more solubilized β-casein, higher levels of calcium and phosphorus and lower heat stability. It contains significant amounts of lactose-derived oligosaccharides, which act as prebiotics and have anti-infective properties. When compared with cow milk, goat milk contains higher levels of vitamin A, as goats efficiently convert β-carotene from their feed into vitamin A. It is also a richer source of vitamin C. Another notable component of this milk is selenium, which boosts immunity. Lastly, goat milk is abundant in calcium, phosphorus and potassium, making it a valuable source of these essential minerals.

Special features of Goat Milk
Bioactive Components in Goat Milk

Extensive research has focused on studying the beneficial components found in milk and its products. Goat milk in particular, contains bioactive compounds that offer various health advantages. These components have been found to help regulate weight, manage hypertension, improve digestion and even possess anticancer properties. One such compound present in this milk is Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), which has shown potential in preventing breast, colon and colorectal cancer.

The proteins found in goat milk play a vital role in health as well. They serve as a valuable source of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), antihypertensive peptides and inhibitory peptides, which contribute to regulating blood pressure. Other minor proteins in this milk include immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, transferrin, ferritin, calmodulin (a calcium-binding protein), prolactin and folate-binding protein. Additionally, it contains abundant amounts of taurine and carnitine, both of which play significant metabolic roles in the body.

Higher Digestibility of Goat Milk

Goat milk is easier to digest as compared to cow milk due to a few reasons. First, the fat globules in this milk are smaller and have a larger surface area. This allows the enzymes in our gut called lipases to break down the fat more quickly. The smaller fat globule size, combined with a higher proportion of short and medium fatty acid chains helps the fat disperse evenly throughout the milk. This natural homogenization of this milk contributes to its better digestibility. Another factor that makes this milk more digestible is its protein composition. The two main proteins in goat milk, β-casein and K-casein form a softer curd during digestion, making it easier to break down. The amino acids present in this milk are also more efficiently absorbed by our bodies, further aiding in its digestion. In fact, this milk takes approximately 20% less time to digest as compared to cow milk.

Lactose Intolerance and Goat Milk

For people with lactose intolerance, the unbroken lactose moves to the large intestine where it is fermented by microbes. This fermentation process creates gas and releases free fatty acids, resulting in gastrointestinal issues like diarrhoea, abdominal pain and flatulence. However, goat milk, which forms a softer curd during digestion, allows lactose to pass through the large intestine more rapidly. As a result, it helps prevent the symptoms of lactose intolerance. Additionally, this milk has a higher buffering capacity, which means it can better neutralize stomach acid. This property makes it potentially beneficial in the treatment of gastric ulcers.

Milk Allergies and Goat Milk

Compared to cow milk, goat milk has significantly lower levels of alpha s-1 casein, which is a major trigger for cow milk allergies. This means that people who are allergic to cow milk may find goat milk more tolerable. Studies have shown that goat milk can actually help reduce certain markers that are involved in causing allergic reactions. Additionally, this milk has been found to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as TNF-α. This is important because excessive inflammation in the body can lead to various health issues. By reducing the production of these inflammatory compounds, this milk may have potential anti-inflammatory benefits.

Goat Milk for Infant Nutrition

Goat milk contains abundant amounts of calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A and niacin, making it a valuable source of these nutrients. As a result, it can be used as a supplement in infant nutrition. Infants find it easier to digest and absorb the nutrients from this milk, as compared to cow milk because of its smaller fat size.

 

Man giving a boy Goat Milk

Additionally, infants can absorb medium chain fatty acids found in goat milk more efficiently than longer chain saturated fatty acids. However, it’s important to note that this milk is deficient in folic acid. Therefore, fortifying this milk with folic acid is necessary to ensure infants receive an adequate amount of this essential nutrient. While it cannot completely replace human milk for infants under six months old, it can be used as a supplemental feeding option alongside human milk.

Goat Milk Products

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in goat milk and its various products. Goat milk and its derivatives have been consumed in certain regions for a long time. Some popular goat milk products include Roquefort cheese and Leben. Particularly in European countries, goat cheese is highly regarded as a premium and gourmet cheese. They have significant marketing potential and can be used to prepare infant milk formulas, due to their nutritional composition and physicochemical characteristics. In addition to cheese and infant formulas, this milk serves as a versatile ingredient for creating a range of other products. These include low-fat, fortified or flavoured fluid beverages, UHT (ultra-high temperature) milk, fermented products like buttermilk or yoghurt, frozen treats such as ice cream or frozen yoghurt, butter, condensed or dried milk products and various sweets and candies. Notably, fermented goat milk incorporating live probiotic cells shows promising prospects due to its nutritive and therapeutic properties.

However, it’s important to note that goat milk has a more pronounced and distinct flavour as compared to cow milk. While this unique “goaty” taste is highly sought after in products like goat cheese, it may not be universally accepted in all types of products. The flavour preference varies among individuals and can impact the wider acceptance of goat milk-based products.

Conclusion

Goats have been domesticated for thousands of years and are valued for their adaptability and efficient meat and milk production. They emit less methane, making them environmentally friendly. Goat milk is highly nutritious, easily digested and offers health benefits. It contains essential fatty acids that lower cholesterol and promote heart health, along with proteins that regulate blood pressure. It is suitable for individuals with lactose intolerance and may help in treating gastric ulcers. It has been shown to reduce markers of allergies and suppress inflammation. It is also a valuable supplement in infant nutrition, due to its easy absorption and nutrient content. Goat milk products, including cheese and various beverages have significant marketing potential. However, the distinct flavour of this milk may limit its acceptance in some products. Overall, goat milk and its products have gained popularity for their nutritional value, health benefits and market potential.

References:

1. Albenzio, M., d’Angelo, F., & Santillo, A. (2021). Role of Goat Milk in Infant Health and Nutrition. In Goat Science-Environment, Health and Economy. IntechOpen.

2. Lad, S. S., Aparnathi, K. D., Mehta, B., & Velpula, S. (2017). Goat milk in human nutrition and health–a review. International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences, 6(5), 1781-1792.

3. Miller, B. A., & Lu, C. D. (2019). Current status of global dairy goat production: An overview. Asian-Australasian journal of animal sciences, 32(8), 1219.

4. Moatsou, G., & Park, Y. W. (2017). Goat milk products: types of products, manufacturing technology, chemical composition, and marketing. Handbook of Milk of Non‐Bovine Mammals, 84-150.

5. Zenebe, T., Ahmed, N., Kabeta, T., & Kebede, G. (2014). Review on medicinal and nutritional values of goat milk. Academic Journal of Nutrition, 3(3), 30-39.

About the Authors:

Authors - Faslu Rahman & Bedika Bora

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Author

An editor by day & dreamer at night; passionately involved with both print and digital media; Pet lover; Solo traveller.

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