Butterfat (milkfat) is the fat content found in milk.
Milk and cream are often sold according to how much butterfat they contain. For example, whole cows milk typically contained around 3% butterfat. Some dairy cattle breeds produce higher amounts of butterfat than other breeds. One such cow is the Guernsey breed which produces around 5% butterfat.
In dairy goats, the amount of butterfat in the goat milk also varies with the breed of goat. Butterfat helps nourish the young, speeds their growth and provides the critical vitamins of A, D E & K. It is important to humans for cheese production. The higher the butterfat, the more cheese produced per gallon of milk.
In soap-making and natural skin care, butterfat also plays an important role as a natural emollient and high vitamin content moisturizer. When soap recipes are formulated, the fat content is always uppermost in mind. Non-goat milk soaps typically use fatty vegetable oils to provide the emollients. The emollient content of vegetable based oil soaps is limited without the increased level of fats, enzymes, minerals and vitamins present in goat milk.
Goat milk butterfat can range from 1% to 10%+ depending on the breed. Nigerian Dwarf goats have the highest butterfat with 6 – 10%, Nubians with 5% and Saanens, Toggenburgs, Alpines, Oberhasli, all have butterfat varying between 1 – 4 %. Lineage, health & diet will affect the production and fat content of all breeds.
There is no intent here to disparage those breeds with low butterfat. They serve a critical purpose. Not everyone wants to drink milk that is full of fat and sugar! We own a couple Saanens specifically for family drinking milk. Our Nigerian milk is excruciatingly delicious but we’d eventually tip the scale in an unhealthy direction if we consumed their milk all the time.
Our blog today is sharing a pictorial of the difference in butterfat in goat milk/lye (sodium hydroxide). I am a visual learner and have found it helps many people to “see” a point, rather than just hear about it. So we are attempting to show you the visible difference in butterfat. Mixing goat milk & lye together in bowls such as these is typically done for small batch processing. Large Batch is done very differently. These batches more clearly delineate the difference.
These are solutions where goat milk was mixed with sodium hydroxide. The yellow coloring is from the natural sugar or lactose in the milk. (True goat milk soap is never white due to this). Some of the fat you are seeing has already been converted into goat milk “soap”.
In the first two photos, we have Sannen milk which tested out at 2.24% butterfat. We placed the spatula in the bowl and the saponified fat temporarily held the weight of the spatula on top. When the spatula is dipped into the lye solution and lifted, you can clearly see a thin layer of the “butterfat”.
If powdered goat milk is reconstituted and mixed with lye, the results typically show even less butterfat than this. The heat used to dehydrate the milk into a powder, has the added disadvantage of damaging the nutrients and denatures the enzymes leaving little benefit.
In the second set of photos, we have Nigerian Dwarf Milk which tested out at 8.93% butterfat. The spatula is fully supported by the dense butterfat/soap mixture and does not sink through. We then insert the spatula into the butterfat and lift, it exposes a very thick, condensed layer that will need to be broken up and blended.
As you can see there is an obvious physical, tangible difference in the amount of butterfat present. Even low butterfat goat milk soap is far superior to simple vegetable oil based soaps……more vitamins, enzymes, minerals, proteins and fatty acids. But the “piece-de-resistance” comes with high butterfat goat milk in terms of delivering emollients in a cream, laden, highly moisturizing bar. Experience the difference and reduce or remove the need for lotion on your skin!
More fat means more emollients for the soap business and more cheese for the cheese business. The goat world is constantly evolving. A group of breeders are moving to combine the high butterfat of the Nigerian with the Nubian breed that produces a larger amount of milk. A quality Nigerian Dwarf can produce 1/2 to 3/4 of a gallon of milk per day, whereas the Nubian can produce 2 gallons or more per day. A new breed, called the Mini-Nubian is in the experimental stage. It is a cross between the Nigerian Dwarf and the long-eared, roman nosed Nubian. Time and milk testing will tell what this cross produces.