Raising goats for fiber
The next time I put on my softest sweater, I’m going to thank a fiber goat that gave its hair so that I could be warm.
Ronald Pope is an animal fiber research scientist for Texas Agrilife Extension. He says the most common fiber goat is the Angora, which produces mohair. Other classifications of fiber include cashgora and cashmere, which are a type of goat, not a specific breed.
There is a perception that fiber goats aren’t as hardy as their meat cousins. Pope says this can be the case if they’re out in a cold, drenching rain after being shorn. The animals can develop hypothermia so there should be a shelter for them to go into. He says some producers create a natural “umbrella” for the goats.
"Some growers will shear the goats and leave a ridge of hair right down the middle of the back. We call them capes," says Pope. "It’s full-length hair, and it just acts kind of like an umbrella or a roof in rain to where it’s shed off of the body rather than soaking right down on the backbone and getting them chilled down."
Fiber goats like to munch on forbs, leaves, and other vegetation. They’re not fussy about personal hygiene and don’t seem to care if burrs and other vegetable matter become lodged in their luxurious hair. They leave this problem to the humans who shear them, which is done in the spring and again in the fall.
Pope says pasture management is a key in keeping fiber goats clean.
"Some of these plant species don’t cover the entire ranch, so you try and move them into areas where those are not a problem during that growth period," says Pope. "So, you try to avoid those just by pasture management or range management. In the winter months you might still have some growth, but we normally don’t have as much of a problem."
Learn more about the market, processing, and value-added potential of raising fiber goats
Here's how to shear the hair from fiber goats
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