For centuries, this breed of goat was the main source of income for the poorest families in the Toggenburg region and the neighboring region of Werdenberg, in the St. Gallen canton. This vast Alpine region is dominated by the rocky peaks of the Churfirsten chain, seven mountains over 2,000 meters high that overlook wide valleys rich in coniferous forests, streams and rivers. Traditionally all the goats from one village were united into a single herd, which was brought up to the Alpine pastures in the summer. The milk would be used to make cheeses which were distributed to the goat-owning families. The official selection of the breed dates to 1892, when the first examples were officially recognized.
The Toggenburg goat has always been characterized by its adaptability and hardiness. Its strong ankles, a distinctive feature of the breed, allow it to graze on steep slopes, and its thick coat, varying from pale to reddish brown, protects it from the rain and cold temperatures. This makes it particularly suited to the changes in climate between the mountains and the lowlands. A goat of medium size, somewhat thickset, it has a broad chest and short white legs. Generally without horns, the head has short white ears, black in the center, and two long white stripes running from the eyes to the nostrils.
In the Toggenburg and Werdenberg regions, the goats graze the whole summer in mountain pastures. In the winter they are kept in sheds where they can move freely, with high welfare standards. The goats produce excellent milk as well as a good yield of meat.
According to SZZV, the Swiss goat-farming association, in 2006 there were around 850 Toggenburg goats in the Toggenburg and Werdenberg regions, out of 3,000 distributed around Switzerland. These numbers are small compared to the past: In the 1950s, there were over 20,000 animals. An association has been created to protect the breed, the Verein Ziegenfreunde, which unites all the owners of Toggenburg goats in the historic area. From May to September, 250 Toggenburg goats belonging to association members are collected by a coordinator and taken up to the Malschüel pasture, at 1,400 meters, where they graze along with a few hundred other goats under the supervision of two young herders.
The Presidium supports the activity of the farmers' association and is trying to safeguard the breed through the promotion of its products. A local butcher makes two sausages from Toggenburg goat meat, and some producers have committed to producing their tomas with raw Toggenburgo goat’s milk. Thanks to the promotion of these products, the farmers hope to increase the number of Toggenburg goats being farmed locally.
Toggenburg region, St. Gallen canton
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