Goats for cashmere
Goats are valuable not just for their milk and meat. Or for their ability to help renew grasslands and control weeds. Or even for their ability to be friendly and gentle around children.
Goats can also be valuable for their hair.
Cashmere goats produce cashmere and Angora goats produce -- thought we were going to say angora? No, angora fiber in fact comes from rabbits. Angora goats produce mohair.
Mohair is used in sweaters, scarves, coats and other clothing. Mohair is also used in floor rugs and carpets and things like doll hair.
An adult Angora can produce as much as seven kilograms of hair each year. As the goats grow older, however, their hair becomes thicker and less valuable. Hair from white or solid-colored goats is the most popular, but the appeal of mixed-color mohair has grown in recent years.
The United States is one of the main producers of mohair, and exports most of its production.
Angora goats are also popular show animals. They require little special care. The animals need milk from their mothers for three or four months. They reach full maturity when they are a little more than two years old. But even then they are smaller than most sheep and milk goats.
Cashmere goats are usually larger than Angoras. They can grow big enough to be kept with sheep and cattle.
The outer hair of the animal is called guard hair. Behind it is the valuable material on a cashmere goat. Cashmere is valued for its softness and warmth without much weight.
Some farmers comb their cashmere goats to remove the hair. But if the animals do get a haircut, it often takes place at the time when they naturally lose their winter coat -- between December and March.
Angora goats generally get their hair cut two times a year, in the spring and fall. The job can be done with simple cutting tools or by hiring a professional shearer. Angoras may need special protection from the cold for about a month after shearing.
The value of an animal's coat depends on the age, size and condition. But whatever kind of goat you choose, be sure to have a good fence. Goats love to explore.