Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Although we haven’t had Angora goats for many years, they are still near and dear to my heart. Angoras were the very first goats we purchased 24 years ago!
These ethereal creatures, although work intensive, are so much fun to have around. They are laid back, calm, quiet, gentle, and contrary to popular belief excellent mothers. They are very protective of their young!
One very interesting thing we observed in our Angora goat herd was the use of “baby sitters”. One of our older girls “Lily” always stayed behind will all of the babies while their moms went off to browse. She would just lay and watch all of the little ones run, jump, climb, and make general nuisances of themselves, always with a little smile on her face.
When the moms would get ready to head out, you could hear lots of talking between them and their kids. It would almost seem that they were telling the little ones to stay with “Aunt Lil! y” and behave themselves. Then the moms would leave, browse and return about a half hour to an hour later. In the meantime, Lily would calmly keep peace and order out of that gaggle of tiny, curly white darlings.
In order to harvest the very best fleeces, though, you must keep after these goats as their hair grows. Mohair fleece grow about one inch of each month! The goats are shorn twice a year, spring and fall. Our rule of thumb was to shear just prior to kidding in the spring and just prior to breeding in the fall. This schedule worked out fantastically for us. The spring shearing would insure removal of hair from around the udder and the teats so that once the kids were born, the little ones could find the teats easily. Close trim around the butts made for an easy post-partum clean up. By shearing prior to breeding we were assured that the fleece would stay clean during the breeding process. The bucks can be rambunctious sometimes. And, by making sure the boys were shorn, it was less likely they retained the “eau du buck&! rdquo; scent once they had bred all of the girls.
Between shearing’s, we watched both boys and girls like a hawk making sure that their fleeces stayed clean. To accomplish this required a bit of effort. The girls need to have nicely trimmed back ends so that their urine doesn’t wick into their fleece and ruin it. Urine soaked fleece can also cause some nasty skin problems!
As for the boys, they need to occasionally be sat on their butts and the fleece around their pizzle trimmed close to their skin. Again, urine soaked fleece can cause severe skin problems especially in the heat of summer. When we were novices, I encountered a serious problem from urine soaked fleece. This poor little guy developed some oozing sores that eventually attracted maggots! It took hours to get all of the maggots not only out of the sores but they had also traveled up into his pizzle button. Quarts of peroxide and multiple doses of antibiotics later, he finally recovered, b! ut it was tough going for a while.
Folks have asked me how to clean mohair fleece; the process is similar to the way you would do a wool fleece. No sudden changes in water temperature, no agitating of the fleece, and I highly recommend Dawn Dish Liquid to cut the grease and remove the dirt. The best way to keep lice off your goats and your fleece is to make sure the goats are de-loused immediately after each shearing!
Here is some really exciting news! We will be doing a Goat School in Minnesota (another cold spot this winter!) in June! Matthew and Elizabeth Pendergast, North Country Farm, in Littlefork, Minnesota will be hosting Goat School on Saturday, June 22nd, Sunday, June 23rd, and a Soap Making and Cheese Making class on Monday, June 24th. For the registration form for this event, click here.
Also coming up earlier in June is Goat School here at our farm, Stony Knolls, in Saint Albans, Maine! We are accepting registrations now, so reserve your spot for Saturday, June 8th, Sunday, June 9th, and a Soap Making class on Monday, June 10th!
Maine is so beautiful in June, our weather is perfect, the flowers are blooming, the snow is gone J, and we invite you to come and see why we put up with such cold, nasty weather. Come and see our summer!
And don’t forget, my books are always available! “Goat School, the Manual”, and “Goat School: A Master Class in Caprine Care and Cooking”!