Fiber goats can be the basis of a profitable business, as well as an amazing hobby or art form.
Why are fiber goats so special? Well, you may be surprised to know that some of the most sought-after fibers on the planet, cashmere and mohair, come from fiber goats.
If you've ever worn (or even touched) a cashmere sweater, you most likely were shocked. The word I hear from most people is "luxurious", usually along with "smooth" or "silky".
No wonder so many people desire it. When it comes to sophistication, it's right up there with diamonds or caviar.
Same thing for mohair, which is another luxurious, sought-after fiber for sweaters, socks and other clothing, not to mention lots of other items we all use every day. It's no wonder that fiber goats are in such high demand.
If you're anxious to learn how you can get into your own profitable fiber goat business, or you are a hobbyist/artist who would love to grow and create your own cashmere and mohair for home spinning and creativity with these amazing fibers, you can get started right here.
Check out these 8 top strategies for breeding, production and sales.
A goat designated as a fiber goat is a goat whose fleece can produce cashmere or mohair fibers. Sometimes people refer to a fiber goat as a hair goat.
Video Credit: Allen Mesick
Mohair is coarse and has long fibers. It is used for knitted garments.
Cashmere is used in woven garments as the fibers are shorter.
The word mohair has it its roots in the Arabic mukhayyar, meaning select or choice. It is the textile (fabric or yarn) produced from the Angora goat.
It is nicknamed "The Diamond Fiber" and considered to be a luxury product like silk or cashmere. It is silky and soft and usually mixed with other textiles to make garments such as sweaters, scarves, hats and gloves, as well as blankets and carpets.
Image Credit: Blue Hydrangeas
Cashmere is a luxurious fiber produced from Cashmere goats. It's in high demand and expensive, and it's used to make products like Cashmere sweaters.
Cashmere is the fiber from any goat that grows a fine, soft, downy undercoat in the winter. To be considered as "cashmere", the fiber must meet certain specifications.
It is harvested in the Spring when the goats begin to molt. The undercoat naturally separates from the skin, providing a pocket of air.
The undercoat is then combed away from the surface hair (called guard hairs). Clothes made from cashmere are 8 times warmer than clothes made from sheep wool, despite being a lot lighter in weight.
This, plus the fact that it is very soft and not scratchy, are factors that make it a premium product.
Angora Goat - A breed of goat that produces mohair
Angora Wool - a textile that is derived from Angora Rabbits. This wool does not come from goats. The only fibers that come from goats are Mohair, Cashmere and Cashgora.
Cashgora - A quality of goat fiber that is somewhere between the Angora-type fibers and the Cashmere-type fibers. Goats that produce Cashgora-type fibers are often referred to as Cashgora goats, and are usually a cross-breed between Angora goats and Cashmere goats.
Cashmere - A textile that is derived from any goat that grows enough quality, downy undercoat in the winter. Cashmere is known for its softness and warmth and is considered a luxury item.
Fiber Goat - A general umbrella term for any goat that produces mohair (the Angora), cashmere (a number of breeds we discuss below), or Cashgora (from Angora goats cross bred with cashmere goats).
Goat Fiber - Fiber is the material that comes from the goat that is either mohair, cashmere or cashgora. There are several stages of fiber:
Guard Hairs - The hair that grows through the undercoat and stays all year long after the undercoat molts or is combed out.
Mohair - The fleece and silky fiber obtained from the long hair of the Angora goat. Mohair is made into yarn for knitted products as well as fabric. The word Mohair is derived from the Arabic word Mukhaya meaning cloth of bright lustrous goat hair.
Angora Goats (aka Mohair Goats) are one of the most popular fiber goat breeds because they produce Mohair. Other popular fiber goat breeds are Cashmere goats.
However, a Cashmere goat is not an actual goat breed, but is a category of goats which produce fibers that meet the requirements to be considered Cashmere fibers. Cashmere fibers are actually gathered from different goat breeds, which are collectively referred to as Cashmere goats.
Other popular fiber goat breeds include crosses between Angora goats, Cashmere goats and other goat breeds. Examples are the Nigora and Pygora breeds.
We will talk more about those cross-breeds later.
Let's take a look at the history and characteristics of these different types of fiber goats.
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An Angora goat can be used to produce luxurious Mohair which is expensive and in high demand for sweaters, other clothing items and various products. Don't confuse this with Angora Wool which is unrelated and comes from a rabbit.
Angoras are an ancient breed. Their presence can be traced back to the Paleolithic period in history in the area of Ankara in Asia Minor.
It is likely that they are a direct descendant from the wild goat, Central Asian Markour (Capra Falconeri). Actual records of the use of Angora goat hair are found in the 14th century BC.
Here are some fun facts about the history of the Angora Goat: In 1550 a man from Denmark discovered the goats (now known as Angora and began his own successful fiber goat business.
They were so impressive that by 1554 a pair were presented to the Pope. Between the marketing efforts of the Dutchman and the notoriety gained from presenting these goats to the Pope, the popularity and demand for Mohair outstripped the supply.
The Sultan of Turkey placed a ban on the export of raw fleece, goods and goats. This lasted several centuries until Queen Victoria was successful in persuading Turkey to lift the ban.
After the ban was lifted, Angora goats reached South Africa, Australia and New Zealand in the 1830-1860s. These exports are formed the foundations of the lines of the breed we know today.
Angoras arrived in the US in 1849 and finally thrived in Texas which is the largest supplier of Mohair in North America and the 3rd largest in the world.
Angora goats produce Mohair. They do not produce Angora wool. That product only comes from rabbits.
Is there such a thing as Angora Goat Wool? No.
The term wool only refers to the fibers from sheep or the Angora Wool from rabbits.
Angora goats tend to suffer with more problems with their feet than sheep, especially on lush pasture, and this causes lameness, ill-thrift, and even sudden death. Diarrhea is common in Angora goats (from worms or infectious diseases).
They are also prone to getting lice, flystrike, dermatophilosis and scabby mouth. They are more susceptible to external parasites because of their dense coats.
They are not considered hardy and are not prolific breeders. It is important to note that they have high nutritional requirements to support their rapid hair growth.
A diet lacking the best nutrition will result in less Mohair.
After shearing, Angora goats are virtually naked until the coat regrows sufficiently to provide some insulation, and this can take weeks. Goats do not have the layer of fat under the skin that sheep do, which makes them vulnerable.
In general, they are very susceptible to cold stress in wet windy weather, particularly if they are not well fed. A rumen full of food, particularly roughage, produces heat as it is digested, and this helps keep the animal warm.
If you are aware of their needs to thrive, preventative measures can be taken to mitigate these vulnerabilities, you can raise a healthy herd of beautiful Angoras.
Mini fiber goats are crosses between Angoras or larger dairy/meat goats with smaller breeds. Let's look at examples of the Angora goat crosses.
Image Credit: Slope Brook Farm
A Pygora goat is a great choice when you want to produce your own Mohair fiber but you want a goat that is smaller, easier to care for and requires less space.
The foundation of the Pygora breed is a cross of a registered Pygmy goat with a registered Angora goat.
Pygora goats are a recent breed. They were the result of a deliberate crossing by Katherine Jorgensen from Oregon, US. in the 1980s.
She wanted to develop a small goat that could produce fine fiber for hand spinning.
In 1987, the Pygora Breeders Association was established in the U.S.
First generation (aka F1) Pygmy-Angora crosses are not considered true Pygoras. These F1s must be bred with either: 1) other Pygora goats, 2) other F1 crosses or 3) to registered Pygmy or Angora goats to produce true Pygora goats.
Registered Pygoras produce 3 kinds of fleece (to be discussed in more detail later) Type A: mohair Type B: cashgora Type C: cashmere.
The wethers produce better fiber than the does because their energy is not going into pregnancy, lactation for kids or dairy production.
Pygora goats live 12-14 years. Pygoras are mainly bred for fiber, but they can also be used as dairy goats (producing approximately 1 litre of milk a day) and appear in competitions, fairs and 4H shows.
They have no known health issues specific to their breed. Care is required that would apply to goats generally.
Pygoras are easy to handle and good natured. Pygoras colors are white, red, brown, black, gray or a mix of any of the colors.
Image Credit: Backyard Goats
A Nigora goat is a cross between a Nigerian Dwarf goat and an Angora goat. You get the best of both breeds. Nigerians are smaller, easier to handle and care for, they breed year-round, they tend to produce multiple babies with each birth and they produce a lot of extra-creamy milk. Angoras, of course, produce Mohair which is in high demand and can be the basis of a profitable fiber business.
The Nigora is a breed of small goat, raised both for milk and fiber. It is generally the result of crossbreeding Nigerian Dwarf bucks with Angoran does.
Todays Nigora goats may also contain the bloodlines of registered Swiss type mini dairy goat breeds. The requirements for a goat to be considered a Nigora goat are actually somewhat complicated.
Primarily, a Nigora goat must meet certain specifications set up by the American Nigora Goat Breeders Association (ANGBA).
Even more recent than the Pygora, the Nigora breeding did not start till 1994.
The American Nigora Breeders Association was founded in 2007.
Nigora goats have calm temperaments and make a good choice for a goat as a pet. They produce the same 3 fibers that Pygoras produce, but the Nigora produces mainly Type 2, the Cashgora type.
Nigora goats can tolerate all climates. Their colors are white, red, brown, black and mixes of those.
Nigora goats are generally very hardy. Considerations for care apply to Nigoras that apply to all goats.
As mentioned earlier, an Angora can be crossed with many other breeds. Many goat keepers report loving their Angora mixes with dairy or meat goats such as Alpine, Nubian or Boer breeds, but they do report significantly less fiber with such crosses.
One example was a goat breeder who reported that one cross produced 6 lbs of fiber in a year whereas a pure Angora produced 16 lbs.
Examples of common Angora goat crosses include:
Angora goat crosses tend to shed their fiber, in which case they don't have to be sheared, but they also don't produce as much fiber as an Angora goat.
Image Credit: Livestockpedia.com
A Cashmere goat is not a particular breed, but is any goat which can produce fibers in its undercoat of sufficient fineness, length and quantity to meet the specifications to qualify as Cashmere fibers.
A cashmere goat is not a particular breed of goat, but any type of goat that produces cashmere wool fibers. The main characteristic of cashmere goats is their fine, soft, downy, Winter undercoat.
If this undercoat can produce cashmere in commercial quality and quantity, then it can be considered a cashmere goat.
Cashmere (or Pashmina) goats are not as ancient as the Angora goats, but we do know they have been bred and raised in Mongolia, Nepal and Kashmir for thousands of years.
The history of Cashmere is as diverse as the history of each individual breed. Over time, the rest of the world discovered these goats with their soft, warm fiber that could be collected from their undercoat.
As a result, numerous other goat breeds have been raised and cross-bred for cashmere.
Besides producing cashmere, it is not possible to list many general characteristics as so many different breeds can be cashmere goats.
Cashmere goats tend to be sensitive to cold/wet weather, especially for a few weeks after combing out the undercoat. They definitely need good shelter.
Because Cashmere goats are not a specific breed, it is recommended that you seek out specific care and health information about the breed(s) you choose.
These goats are derived from feral goats introduced to Australia by Dutch and Portuguese navigators in the 17th century. They are a medium size and produce meat and dairy as well as fiber.
Australian cashmere goats are hardy and easy to raise but require regular grooming. They are intelligent and curious, and less likely to jump fences than other goat breeds.
Their colors are white, red, tan, brown, grey and black.
Pure Spanish goats have been crossbred with cashmere goats producing a dual fiber/meat goat. The Spanish meat goats are very strong and hardy as purebreds, the cross breeds take on this durability.
Spanish meat goats can be any color or variation present in any kind of goat.
Image Credit: The Self Sufficient Living
Some goat breeds can serve a both a dairy goat and a Cashmere goat. Such a goat can provide multiple income sources, including both milk and Cashmere fiber.
The Toggenburg goat is a Swiss dairy goat and the oldest dairy goat breed in the world. It is a medium size, with a color spectrum light brown to dark grey.
They prefer colder temperatures, and actually produce better in colder climates. Toggenburgs are friendly, quiet and gentle animals, so a great choice for a farm with children.
Saanens are a medium/large size dairy goat from Switzerland with a classic white/beige coat. They are gentle and said to carry themselves with an air of grace and dignity.
They do better in colder climates but will adapt to warmer climates with care given to provide shade. Saanens are recommended as a starter goat breed for beginners, and one of the best breeds to have around children.
Nubian goats are social, outgoing goats who actually love being around humans. They originated in the Middle East and can tolerate very hot climates.
Nubians are large goats that produce milk that is high in butterfat.
Nigerian Dwarf goats were originally from West Africa, bred for meat. When discovered by Europeans, they were shipped as meat goats, especially for feeding the large cats in zoos.
Some of the animals were unharmed and kept as zoo exhibits. Eventually a few ended up at Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas.
This is the place where the Nigerian Dwarfs started being deliberately bred. Nigerian goats are gentle, lovable and playful.
They are suitable companions for all, including children, the disabled and the elderly.
The Pygmy Goat is a small domestic goat breed that originated in Western Africa. They were discovered and brought to Europe by the British during the colonial era in the 19th century.
They are small goats with colorings of gray, white, brown, or black. They can be light or dark and colors sometimes mix on one goat.
Pygmy goats are very social (they always need animal companions, but not necessarily required that they be of the same species). They are good natured, affectionate, friendly and fun.
They have no breed specific health concerns; they tend to be hardy in a wide range of climates. They enjoy having items to jump on and may be able to leap onto small vehicles.
Good fencing is a must.
Fun fact: They love to go swimming when it's warm, which is unusual because most goats hate to get wet. They are natural born swimmers.
If there is access to a body of water around where they are being raised, then they will likely spend time in it on hot Summer days. It is worth noting that typically, Nigerian or Pygmy goats do not produce enough fiber to be worthwhile as cashmere goats per se.
However, many people breed these with Angoras to produce the Nigora or Pygora goats. This enables them to produce suitable fiber, but with a smaller goat that requires less space and food and is easier to manage.
Fainting goats get their name from a congenital muscle condition called myotonia congenita.
When they are surprised and try to use their muscles to jump or run, they experience painless, short term muscle spasms which may result in them falling over for usually 10-15 seconds.
They are not fainting in any real sense; the condition is muscular and does not affect the nervous system. They are fully conscious but can't move.
The fainting goat is believed to have come from Nova Scotia to Tennessee in the 1880s. A man brought 4 of them, they were sold to another owner who bred them and discovered that their kids also exhibited thefainting behavior.
He decided he had a new breed. They were almost extinct by the 1980s, but The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (now the Livestock Conservancy) placed the breed on the endangered list.
Numbers grew, however there are still less than 10,000 worldwide. They are now listed as rare and on a watch list.
As a result of their rarity, they are relatively more expensive than other goats. They usually cost between $300-$600.
For the purposes of raising goats for fiber, if you live in a cold climate, the price might be worth it. Many fainting goats are reported to have especially large amounts of Cashmere when they live in cold climates.
Apparently, the yield is significant. Fainting goats are hardy, and do not climb or jump well, making them very easy to manage.
They have docile personalities and can adapt to being pets. They are not considered a dairy goat as they do not produce much milk.
Their muscles are stocky as characteristic of meat goats, but not always raised for meat because of their value for breeding and selling. We've covered various goat breeds that can be used as fiber goats.
If you'd like to learn more about the most popular goat breeds in general, you'll want to check out our blog post... "What's Needed to Raise Goats: 10 Critical Things to Know."
One of the best ways to get started with fiber goats is to get active in your local, state and national fiber goat organizations.
It's a great way to meet others involved with fiber goats, and to get involved with experienced fiber goat keepers who can mentor you as you learn.
Here are some examples of associations that are a great resource for everything from care and feeding to production and business in relation to the breed of goat you choose.
Image Credit: Craft Industry Alliance
A fiber goat show is a great place to visit if you're thinking about getting started with fiber goats. You can get your questions answered and meet a lot of other people in the fiber goat community who are always ready to help newcomers.
Fiber goat shows and festivals are a wonderful place to learn from experts and meet others who raise fiber goats.
Here are a few examples below. Check your local chapters of associations that may have more detailed information for your specific location and type of goats you are raising.
It is important for those who raise fiber goats to understand the quality of each fiber for purposes of bringing the fiber to market.
Image Credit: ElfKendalHippies
Fiber goat fleece is categorized into different types, including Angora fibers, Cashgora fibers and Cashmere fibers.
This is either from the Angora goat, or a cross breed that produces fiber which has both ringlets and sheen. Type A fiber is sheared. Mohair can have guard hairs mixed in, but Type A mohair has the least amount of guard hair.
These hairs have to be removed from any classification in order to get a good fiber product. Picking them out is often done by hand because, though machines can de-hair fleece, Mohair fiber is often too fine for the machine.
Comes from the cross-breed goats such as Pygoras and Nigoras, there is not much demand for this fiber except in cottage industry yarn and spinning craftspeople.
This type of fiber is defined as the undercoat from a goat.
Let's look at goat fiber properties and qualities for both Mohair and Cashmere.
There are several reasons that Mohair has the nickname "The Diamond Fiber":
The ideal fiber length for Mohair is 3-6 inches, depending on the fineness of the fiber. They typical diameter of a Mohair fiber is 25-45 microns.
The diameter of the fiber increases with age in the animal, so the fleeces from younger Angoras are used for fine products such as clothing while the larger diameter fibers are used for products such as carpets or heavy coats.
There are several qualities that set Cashmere apart:
The length of typical Cashmere fibers is between 1.5-3 inches long.
The diameter of each strand of cashmere is typically between 7 and 19 microns with an average of 14 microns as an industry standard.
Image Credit: My Plainview
When judging Mohair or Cashmere fiber, you have to consider the quality, length and fineness of the fibers to determine which Class and Grade the fibers fall under.
Mohair quality varies between herds and individual goats. The grades have been set by the American Society for Testing Materials.
The grades are based primarily on fineness and length, with minor attention given to character, luster, condition, strength and purity. Mohair is graded by classes and grades.
(Note: These are only names of grades and do not indicate the breed of the animal.
The most important factors in judging the quality of Cashmere are the length and fineness of the fibers.
The Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute defines Cashmere as: "The fine (dehaired) undercoat fibers produced by a Cashmere goat.
The fiber is generally non-medullated and has a mean diameter not exceeding 19 micron.
The co-efficient of variation around the mean shall not exceed 24%.
There can be no more than 3% (by weight) of Cashmere fibers over 30 microns."
Cashmere fibers that are classified as grade A are the thinnest and longest fibers. Their diameter is 14-19 microns and the length up to 36 mm.
The cashmere products made from grade A fiber are the highest quality and will be the most durable.
Grade B is about 19 microns. This is a good grade, but those who want to wear the best must choose grade A Cashmere.
Grade C Cashmere fiber has the lowest quality. The fiber is thick with a diameter of around 30 microns.
Of course, they are much cheaper than cashmere graded as type B or type A. Grade C is not suitable for products such as sweaters, scarves or gloves, but may be used for carpets or perhaps heavy coats.
Once you have a good understanding of goat fibers as a product, the next step before getting into the fiber goat business is to learn the skills needed for raising your own fiber goats.
The rule of thumb is 10-15 sq feet of indoor shelter or pen space per adult, with a minimum outside pasture space of 500 square feet.
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A goat's favorite shelter is usually something cheap and simple, as long as it protects against rain, snow and wind, and has at least one side open to the outdoors. Goats hate to be closed-in.
All goats are prey animals, and should have shelter and protection from predators, especially at night. Generally, goats need shelter from heavy wind, rain, snow and sun.
They always need a dry place. Sometimes kids and does need a little extra room to be secure and comfortable.
Minimum back eave heights of 4-6 feet and front eave heights of 6-8 feet accommodate all breeds. You will want concrete flooring as wood soaks up odors.
Keep the straw and bedding clean. If you are in a place with a very cold and/or windy climate you will want to have a place for them with doors.
Shelter is also for protection. An enclosure can keep them safe at night from predators. Otherwise, livestock guardian dogs are recommended.
For ideas about inexpensive shelters you can make using wooden pallets, you'll want to refer to our blog post... "25 Easy Goat Shelters and Sheds Using DIY Pallets."
Goats are curious and want to eat their way along, as long as they can keep moving. Most breeds are agile and known to be escape artists.
A good fence is a long-term investment so do your research on this and don't skimp. To learn more about the most popular fencing types for goats, visit our blog post... "Goat Fencing: 3 Most Popular Types."
Note: All animals should be able to eat and drink at the same time.
Straw or pine shavings are often used. Do not use cedar as the shavings can cause respiratory problems.
Collar are usually needed on your goats. It helps you hold onto and handle them as you bring them in for milking, shearing, health care and medical procedures.
Make sure the collars are easy to take on and off in case one of your goats gets their collar stuck on something. Otherwise, there's a risk that a goat could strangle if you're not around when there's a problem.
Leashes come in handy when you need to lead your goats from one area to another, or when you have to move your goats in and out of a trailer during transport. Most goats can be easily leash trained.
A good pair of hoof trimming shears is inexpensive. But test different brands to find one you like.
Different hoof trimmers can look the same. But one brand may wear out quickly, while another brand may be durable and last for years.
Watch videos to learn how to properly trim a goat's hooves. Your goats will need their hooves trimmed at least 4 times per year.
Otherwise, they can develop hoof rot and other serious health problems.
Image Credit: From Scratch Mag
A goat's favorite food is browse, which is the leaves and shoots from various plants and trees. If there's not enough browse around, you'll want to supplement your goat's diet with things like hay, grain, minerals and plenty of fresh, clean water.
Goats in a barnyard will mainly eat hay, alfalfa and grain (no more than 1 cup/day per adult and 1/2 cup per day per kid). If you have land where your goats can eat natural forage, that's ideal and should be rotated into their diet as well.
For more information about feeding your goats, check out our blog post... "What to Feed Goats: Ultimate Guide to Goat Nutrition."
Clean water is essential to a goat's daily diet. It should always be available and provided where it cannot be soiled.
Dirty and moldy water is hazardous to a goat's health, and often they will not drink it so will risk dehydration.
Goats need supplemental minerals, and it's advisable to keep both minerals and baking soda (for digestion) available to them. Copper and Selenium are minerals that are sometimes lacking in plants your goats may eat, depending on the geographic area where you live.
If certain key minerals are deficient in your area, it may be advisable to supplement your goat's diet with extra sources of those minerals.
Mineral deficiencies can cause certain serious illnesses and diseases in goat's if not taken care of.
Besides good nutrition, water, fencing and shelter, you need to be aware of the general health care needs of goats.
Educate yourself on any specific health care needs or vulnerabilities of the breed of goat you choose, and make sure you have a good vet available for consultation and treatment.
For more information on goat health care, be sure to check out our blog post...
Image Credit: Agri-View
Angora goats can only breed during breeding season in the Fall. On the other hand, with Cashmere goats, some breeds can breed year-round which makes them more productive and desirable.
Bucks can breed most any time except in extreme heat or cold conditions. Angoras are naturally seasonal breeders.
The buck is introduced to the doe in autumn, and after a gestation period of 150 days, the kids are produced the following spring.
Young does (2-year-olds) kidding for the first time tend to produce single kids, but subsequently twins are more likely. Angora goats produce only enough milk to suckle their offspring.
The kids may be weaned at about 3-4 months or left until they are naturally rebuffed by their mothers. Other goat breeds vary with the seasons that the does go into heat.
Nigerians,Boers, Spanish, Fainting Goats, Pygmies and (sometimes) Nubians can breed year-round. Most other dairy breeds are seasonal breeders, August-January or May-October.
The cycles of the does are approximately every 21 days. The Angora crosses such as Nigora and Pygoras only have one breeding cycle each year.
Talk to your vet about the needs of your goat according to its breed or cross breed to determine how to manage their reproduction with the best possible results.
For more information about goat breeding in general, take a look at our blog post... "Goat Breeding 101: Beginner's Guide to Breeding Season."
Fiber goats are more sensitive to Copper toxicity than other goats, but less sensitive than sheep.
Goats are also easier to handle than sheep if you want to start a small fiber business.
Here are some specific fiber goat needs to bear in mind:
Besides the general goat feeding guidelines covered earlier, a fiber goat requires a higher level of quality in nutrition than most goats to support the maximum growth of the Mohair or Cashmere.
Angora goats in particular need a high protein diet with plenty of grain or alfalfa.
Black Oil Sunflower Seeds (BOSS) are also a good source of fats which help to produce luxurious, shiny fibers.
With some non-fiber goats, it is often desirable to disbud baby goats so they won't grow horns.
However, there are significant reasons why you should not disbud or dehorn an Angora goat
First of all, disbudding Angora goats is contrary to ideal breed standards established by associations like the American Angora Goat Breeders Association. Also, with goats raised for their fiber, horns play a role in their overall health.
Horns have a lot of blood circulation and help to regulate body temperature under the thick coats. The horns of the goat work kind of like a car radiator that cools the engine coolant with air and circulates the coolant back into the engine to absorb more heat.
The problem with keeping goats with horns is that the horns have sharp points and can be dangerous to both people and other goats. However, a fiber goat's horns can be "tipped" (the last 1 cm of horn clipped off) with hoof shears or secateurs.
This is a good solution to the safety issues while keeping the horns for their temperature regulating function.
Other breeders choose not to disbud because when they are raising cashmere goats. Some of the reasons are:
You can build a goat business with multiple streams of income by harvesting Cashmere from your meat and/or dairy goats. In this way you can create multiple income sources from fiber, dairy products and meat.
Beginning with one or more of the breeds listed above you can build a solid foundation for a successful business with multiple income streams by using this strategy.
Now that we've covered the basics of raising your fiber goats, let's talk about the next step - how to harvest the valuable fibers from your goats.
The raw fiber that is harvested from a fiber goat is either the sheared Mohair from an Angora goat, or the combed Cashmere from a Cashmere goat (or cross breed) with the guard hairs removed.
A Cashmere goat's shedding season depends on the climate. In colder climates, they usually shed in the Spring.
That could be March through May. If you live in a warmer climate, you may see shedding begin as early as December.
Goats with both Types B fiber (Cashgora) and Type C (Cashmere) can shed their fibers. Angoras do not.
Gathering the naturally shed undercoat is not a preferred way to harvest Cashmere as it comes off in tufts and small bits, and the goats will often rub on fences to get it to come off, which will ruin the fiber. It will also be full of guard hairs and other debris.
It is important to note the time when your goats begin to shed, because this is an excellent time to comb the fiber off as it begins to release. You don't want to start too early as it will be difficult.
The natural separation of the undercoat from the goat helps the combing process. You don't want to wait too long either.
If you see tufts on the fences, a lot of your fleece will be lost. When combing, you'll need a variety of combing tools to lift the Cashmere out, through the guard hairs.
There are some great resources, including many YouTube videos of combing online that can help you learn. If you have the right tools and work at the right time, the Cashmere lifts off quite easily without distress to the goat (some even like it, or fall asleep) and with very few guard hairs mixed in.
There are tips and tricks for separating out the guard hairs that are left in the fleece.
Note that there is a difference between "combing" that occurs when you're removing fiber from your goats, versus the "combing" that occurs during the later processing of the fibers. Combing the raw fiber from the goat is the first step to harvest the fleece.
The second type of "Combing" that occurs later is another process that involves opening and separating the clean fiber, and is one of the last methods in the processes that lead up to the fiber being ready for spinning.
Carding refers to the process of straightening the fibers and preparing them for spinning. Carding can be done by hand, with hand carders that look like two wire dog brushes.
Carding can also be done on a larger scale using a carding machine which has the wires on rollers. A carding machine can be a small tabletop machine for home use, or a large industrial machine for commercial use.
Image Credit: The Mohair House
Shearing Mohair from an Angora goat takes lots of practice and is a rough job. Many goat farmers hire contract shearers to come in and do the job.
Angora goats are always sheared, not combed.
Angoras are sheared twice a year - Spring and early Autumn. The exact months or weeks depends on your local climate.
Make sure your goats are dry. If it's going to be raining prior to shearing, put them in an enclosed barn to keep them dry.
Put them inside 24 hours before shearing. Also, some fiber goat breeders provide goat coats to each goat prior to shearing to keep them from getting hay and other contaminants in their fleece.
Remove debris such as hay, dirt, dust and manure from the goat before you start shearing. Start with the youngest goats first, ending with the oldest.
This is because the youngest have the finest and most valuable mohair. You don't want the coarser fibers from the older goats mixing in with the finer fibers.
Start at the belly, moving from the chest to the udder/scrotal area. Then, shear the sides working from the belly, then the back leg to the front leg.
Then, shear each back leg going upward toward the spine. Lastly, shear the crown of the head to the tail on the back of the goat.
Use the scissors to remove any excess hair. Separate any stained or soiled fleece or other contaminants.
Weigh the unsoiled fleece, roll it up, put it in a burlap bag and indicate the proper identifications required for market. Store the fleece in a dry area.
Make sure you sweep and clean the area before the next goat comes in for shearing.
Most fiber goat breeders do not shear their cashmere goats because it lowers the value and quality of the fiber by mixing the coarser guard hair with the fine cashmere.
It is much more difficult and time consuming to remove the guard hairs from the fleece than it is to comb out the cashmere on the goat.
Skirting is the completion of cleaning the fleece, making it processable, spinnable and in good condition for sale to a hand spinner.
The undesirable parts of the fleece, including matted sweat locks, and fiber from under the legs, tail and belly that are discolored or not good quality for spinning, are cut off. Much of the skirting process is in the preparation as described above, and during shearing.
After that, the fleece is picked over carefully to remove anything from the fleece that is not salable quality Mohair or Cashmere.
Image Credit: Columbia Custom Carding
Mohair or Cashmere fiber must be dried like this after scouring, which is the process of washing the fibers to remove dirt, grease and debris to get the fibers ready for processing and spinning into yarn.
Scouring is the washing process to remove natural fiber contaminants such as dried sweat and the wax that is produced by glands. It also removes fine soil, vegetation, urine and other contaminants.
As an example of how a fleece is usually scoured, here is a typical producer's procedure for scouring a Mohair fleece:
Use very hot water. (approx. 145 degrees F) and some type of detergent.
Soak the fleece for 30 minutes, 2 times in a mesh bag, and rinse it at least twice.
In the last rinse, add either a few ounces of vinegar or denatured alcohol to bring out the natural shine and luster of the fiber.
After washing, dry the fleece flat as you would a sweater in a well-ventilated area.
Set a fan to blow on the fiber for quicker drying.
Dehairing is an industrial process after the fiber has been sold by the breeder. Dehairing machines remove the remainder of the remaining guard hair from the fleece.
The design of the machine allows for the fleece to pass through the machine while the coarse hair is removed. This process converts the fleece into weaving and knitting grade fiber.
Image Credit: Kit Rose
Combing wool, Mohair or Cashmere is the process that gets the fibers ready for spinning into yarn. Combing separates out the more desirable long fibers, and makes them line up so they are parallel to each other.
Carding and combing are the next steps after scouring. They are methods to separate the strands and lumps of washed fiber so that the yarn will be smooth and high-quality.
Both processes straighten and open the fibers as well as clumps that may have formed after scouring. They also remove any remaining vegetable matter or other matter in the fiber.
The main difference between carding and combing is the tools used. Carding is done with a tabletop mechanical machine or a hand carder that is very similar to a fine, rectangular dog brush.
Combing also straightens out the fibers and makes them well aligned with each other. Paddle combs are used.
These are similar to hand carders, but they have only one or two rows of teeth. They are good for working medium to long fibers or for working with Cashmere.
The straight metal teeth of the paddle comb move through the fiber slowly. Industrial combing involves large circular machines.
It is often not necessary to do both carding and combing. Both methods straighten the fibers and remove any vegetable material or contaminants that are left.
Both methods align the fibers in the same direction. If you want a fluffier end product, carding is preferred.
Combing aligns the fibers better and makes the fleece more compact.
There are three possible stages during which fibers can be dyed, for both Mohair and Cashmere. If dyed after scouring, it's called Stock Dyed or Fiber Dyed; stock dyeing is the recommended dyeing process for the best dyeing results.
If dyed after spinning, it is referred to as Yarn Dyed; yarn dyeing is when the spools of fiber are dyed after spinning.
If dyed after weaving or knitting, it is called Piece Dyed; piece dying is the least expensive method; this is when the dying takes place after the yarn has been woven or knitted into a product such as a sweater.
Cashmere is very fine to work with. There should be a high twist (tighter tension), as with any fine shorter fiber, but not so tight as to lose the soft feel of the cashmere.
Spinning Mohair differs from spinning Cashmere. Instead of getting a high twist, you want to have as low (loose) a twist as possible as long as it is stable as yarn.
Low twist allows light to bounce off of more of the fiber surfaces and it highlights the luster that Mohair is known for. A high twist will result in the yarn being duller.
Spinning can be done with a drop spindle or a spinning wheel. If you are interested in learning to spin your own yarn, find a specialty yarn store and find out if there are classes or local artisans who give spinning lessons.
This way you can explore whether you want to work with a drop spindle or wheel.
Video Credit: Expression Fiber Arts
Now that we've covered how to harvest fibers from a fiber goat, let's talk about how to use those fibers as the basis for a profitable business.
If you're thinking about starting a business selling fiber from your goats, you'll want to consider the different income sources your goats can produce and the supply and demand for goat fibers in the marketplace.
One consideration in determining potential profits from your goats is whether you can use your goats for multiple purposes. For this reason, many goat farmers want to know if they can use their goats for the dual purpose of producing fiber for sale and for producing milk and other dairy products as well.
Angora goats do not produce much milk, therefore they are not usually considered dairy goats. Angora does typically don't produce enough milk for more than one kid.
Angora goats don't produce a lot of meat, but it is reportedly excellent quality so it can be marketed and sold as a top grade meat for exclusive restaurants and high end meat purveyors.
Even so, with an Angora goat the Mohair is probably more valuable to the farmer than the goat's potential for meat production.
Another important consideration when considering the profit potential in raising fiber goats is the demand for goat fibers in the marketplace, especially in your local area.
Mohair is in high demand. The World Textile Information Network reports that the demand for the yarn, fabric and knit collections were up in the 2020/21 Autumn/Winter seasons because of its natural attributes and the industry's commitment to sustainability.
The University of California Small Farm Program notes this opportunity for mohair farmers: "The U. S. Government has a direct-payment program for Mohair producers to help maintain a viable industry.
The direct payment through the U. S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) is based on the difference between the national average market price and a support price.
In one recent year, producers received an average of $2.475 for every dollar's worth of Mohair marketed. Details can be found at ASCS offices in many counties."
In addition to understanding national trends in demand for goat fibers, it's also important that you understand the market in your own local area if you're wanting to go into the fiber goat business.
Contact your local yarn/knitting/spinning guild to find out what kind of fiber they are interested in.
This will give you a sense of your local cottage/niche market.
Image Credit: ABC News
When selling Mohair fiber in the general marketplace, it's necessary to combine fibers into bales so it's easier to weigh and ship.
A typical Angora goat can produce about 12-18 pounds of Mohair per goat per year.
According to 2018 USDA statistics:
Demand for Cashmere exceeds supply because the quality is so attractive (soft, lightweight, warm, durable), but the goats don't produce much volume.
According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, a good Cashmere goat will produce about 4-6 ounces of Cashmere fiber per year.
Cashmere fiber that is ready for spinning can sell for $25.00 per ounce which equate to $400 per pound. Once you understand your goat fiber marketplace, including the local supply, demand and pricing, your next step to starting your own profitable fiber goat business is to make a plan.
Image Credit: FTC Cashmere
If you're getting started in the fiber goat business, keep your herd small at first until you gain more experience. Also, it's a good idea to start with a smaller-sized breed like Pygoras or Nigoras since they require less space and food and are easier to handle.
Commercial farming of Angora goats can be very profitable. Cottage industry Mohair customers are using the fiber for various products, and that demand is on the rise.
In addition to the luxurious nature of the fiber for clothing, it is wanted because mohair is fireproof. People have started small businesses providing Mohair mattress padding and baby blankets, for example.
As long as you keep in mind the initial investment in equipment for raising your Angora goats (covered earlier), and the special considerations we've discussed for taking care of Angoras, a Mohair production business has a high chance of success as a profitable business.
Besides the basics, (equipment, setup and purchasing the goats themselves), the business plan considerations for Cashmere goats vary according to the breeds you are choosing, whether you are raising them for just fiber, or a mix of fiber and/or dairy or meat.
The fiber goat associations we mentioned earlier are wonderful resources for advice in starting your own Cashmere goat business. As you are setting up your equipment, you can join one or more of them, and any others that are local to you.
Ask questions, and follow threads on their forums. The experts are there with a lot of sound advice.
Image Credit: HuffPost
It's exciting when you buy your first fiber goats. Just be sure you have everything set up at your place beforehand to take care of them. Be sure the seller is trustworthy, and your new goats have been tested and examined for health problems or defects. Make sure you buy at least two goats, not just one. Goats are herd animals and get out of control if they can't be with other goats.
While it's worth checking Craigslist or local ads in the livestock section or classified ads, anyone can call themselves a breeder and sell goats that have problems. A more reliable source of fiber goats for sale is a recognized organization with official standards.
For example, you can find a list of reliable breeders selling Angora goats listed on the Eastern Angora Goat and Mohair Association. Also, livestock fairs and farmers markets are good places to meet reputable goat breeders.
Stay away from auctions, because that's where many people tend to unload their "problem" goats on someone else Cashmere goats can be searched by the breed(s) you want to invest in.
All of these numbers are estimates, of course, and depend on gender, age, registration, health and your location.
If you're looking for a lucrative business opportunity, and you love working with animals, hopefully this guide has inspired you to think about the fiber goat business.
It's a great time to get in. Demand for quality mohair and cashmere continues to rise, which results in big rewards for the goat farmers who are intent on producing these fibers.
If you're interested, we encourage you to test the water and buy a few fiber goats. You'll find that they require a lot of time and work.
But when you get your own herd started, and develop some marketing connections, it can turn into a lucrative business.
Not only that, you'll come to find you actually enjoy the pleasure of working with these entertaining and relatable animals.