Key Differences Between Goat Milk and Cow Milk

Article written by Baby Steps® Nutritionist & Naturopath – Leonie McLellan

Trying to decide on which formula to use is rarely an easy task for a new mother.  Not only may you be battling with a variety of negative feelings for not being able to breastfeed your baby, you may also be sleep deprived, recovering from a traumatic birth and dealing with a screaming baby.

Picking the right formula that feels good to you and your baby is very important as you want to give the best you can.  There are many factors to consider while making that decision and you may question if all milks are the same.

Milk is made up primarily of water, fats, proteins, lactose and micronutrients and can seem very similar but if we look closely enough we can tell the difference.  In this article we will examine the differences between goat milk and cow milk.

Less likely to cause a reaction

Goat milk can be a less allergenic alternative to cow milk.  This is because of the the two major proteins in milk, casein and whey.  Casein has four different proteins; alpha-s1 casein, alpha-s2 casein, beta and kappa casein. Alpha-S1 casein, which is 36-40% in cow milk vs 4-26% in goat milk[i], acts as one of the main allergens and can show symptoms of digestive upsets such as wind, bloating, colic, vomiting, constipation or diarrhea.  Research shows that cow milk protein allergy (CMPA) is as common as 26% in children and it can manifest in other areas of the body, not just the digestive system.  Other areas include the skin where eczema, rashes and hives can appear and in the upper respiratory tract with wheezing, congested/runny noses and asthma.  A more severe reaction that can occur is anaphylactic shock[ii].

As a result of the lower levels of alpha-s1 casein, goat milk is reportedly less allergenic than cow milk[iv] and may suit babies that are sensitive to, or react to, cow milk.

Easy to digest

When the casein and whey proteins reach the stomach, proteolytic enzymes curdle the milk.  The softer the curd the quicker it will pass through the stomach and into the intestine to be utilized.  Research indicates that goat milk proteins form a softer curd than cow milk[v], which can make it easier to digest, softer on stomachs and can be of benefit to babies who spill or suffer from reflux.

In addition to the proteins being easier to digest and less allergenic than cow milk, goat milk fat molecules are smaller which can benefit digestion too.  Being smaller, the fat molecules are faster to digest because they comprise of a higher number of short and medium chain fatty acids, almost twice as much as cow milk, which are more readily absorbed by the body for energy.  Short chain fatty acids are also important to the digestive system as they benefit the gut microbiota, immune system[vi] and reduce inflammation[vii].  Cow milk however, has less short and medium chain fatty acids.

Goat milk is nutrient dense

Oligosaccharides are naturally found in milk and goat milk has 4-8 times more oligosaccharides than cow milk[viii].  Oligosaccharides are found to have anti-infective properties and stimulate the growth of good probiotic bacteria, namely strains of bifidobacteria, which are the predominant bacteria in babies’ microbiome[ix].  Studies show that by improving the health of the microbiome improves the immune system and as much as 70 – 80% of the body’s immune system resides in the microbiome[x].  Therefore, good quality food is extremely important.

Studies show that goat milk has higher amounts of vitamins and minerals (vitamins A, D, E, B6, B3 and minerals calcium, phosphorous, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium) than in cow milk[xi].  It also contains higher levels of six out of the ten essential amino acids the body requires (threonine, isoleucine, lysine, cysteine, tyrosine and valine) compared to cow milk[xii].

Furthermore, goat milk is not homogenized, it has smaller fat molecules which allows homogenization to take place naturally.  Whereby cow milk fat molecules normally float to the top and form a creamy layer.  To prevent this from occurring, cow milk is normally homogenized to equally distribute the fat molecules, which can reduce the nutritional value.

Nutritional profile of products

New Zealand Regulations state that all formulas for infants (FSANZ code 2.9.1) or supplementary foods for young children (FSANZ code 2.9.3 Division 4) need to be fortified to be a balanced blend of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals designed to support babies’ healthy growth and development[xiii].  However, not all the infant formulas or formulated supplementary foods for young children have the same nutritional profile.

Optional ingredients, for example the prebiotic galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), can be added to milk. That can be of benefit to the gastrointestinal system to improve the microbiome.  The bacteria in the gut feed off prebiotics and produce many beneficial substances such as b-vitamins and short chain fatty acids[xiv].   These can support energy, cellular repair, immune modulation and a healthy gut microbiome[xv].

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) such as Omega 3 and Omega 6 can be added for mental and physical benefits. The common form of Omega 3 and Omega 6 in the infant formula or formulated supplementary food for young children is Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Arachidonic acid (ARA), respectively. Studies show they are important for babies’ eyes, neural and brain development, growth, memory, mood and have anti-inflammatory effects in the body[xix][xx].


Choosing a high quality is of utmost importance when feeding an infant.  Check where it is made and sourced from, that it is from a reliable source and the product has been thoroughly tested both internally and externally by an independent agent.  Products with traceability system, which is represented by a QR code on the bottom of the can, can guarantee the true source of products and that it is a safe product for your child.


[i] Clark S. & Sherbon J. W. (2000) Alpha s1-casein, milk composition and coagulation properties of goat milk.

[ii] Masoodi T. A. & Shafi G. (2010) Analysis of casein alpha S1 & S2 proteins from different mammalian species

[iv] Maduko C. O. & Park Y. W. (2011). Production of Infant Formula Analogs by Membrane Fractionation of Caprine Milk: Effect of Temperature Treatment on Membrane Performance: Food and Nutrition Sciences, 2, 1097-1104

[v] Clark S. & Sherbon J. W. (2000). Alpha s1-casein, milk composition and coagulation properties of goat milk.

[vi] Sivaprakasam S., Prasad P. D. & Singh N. (2016). Benefits of short-chain fatty acids and their receptors in inflammation and carcinogenesis Retrieved on 15 March 2018 from

[vii] Tedelind et al. (2007). Anti-inflammatory properties of the short-chain fatty acids acetate and propionate: a study with relevance to inflammatory bowel disease.  Retrieved on 15 March 2018 from

[viii] Kiskini A. & Difilippo E. (2013). Oligosaccharides in goat milk: structure, health effects and isolation.  Retrieved on 15 March 2018 from

[ix] Gritz E. C. & Bhandari V. (2015). The Human Neonatal Gut Microbiome: A Brief Review.  Retrieved on 15 March 2018 from

[x]  Vighi et al. (2008). Allergy and the gastrointestinal system.  Retrieved on 15 March 2018 from

[xi] Park et al. (2007). Physico-chemical characteristics of goat and sheep milk. Science Direct. Retrieved 15 March 18 from

[xii] Kumar et al. (2012). Nutritional features of goat milk: A review. Indian Journal of Dairy Science. 2012; 65(4): 266-27

[xiii] Martin et al. (2016). Review of Infant Feeding: Key Features of Breast Milk and Infant Formula.  Retrieved on 15 March 2018 from

[xiv] LeBlanc et al. (2017). Beneficial effects on host energy metabolism of short-chain fatty acids and vitamins produced by commensal and probiotic bacteria.  Retrieved on 15 March 2018 from

[xv] Oliveira et al. (2016). Regulation of immune cell function by short-chain fatty acids retrieved on 19 March 2018 from

[xix] Markiewicz et al. (2012).  Fatty Acid profile in Milk – A Review.  Retrieved on 15 March 2018 from

[xx] Bernardi et al. (2012).  Fetal and Neonatal Levels of Omega-3: Effects on Neurodevelopment, Nutrition, and Growth.  Retrieved on 21 March 2018 from

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