We have been growing and developing our herd of cashmere-producing goats for a number of years now. When we bought our first four goats, we had no idea how much we would end up enjoying them. We now have close to forty with more babies on the way.
And there is nothing cuter than a baby goat. I mean, just LOOK ….
Goats, we have learned, can be very smart, are highly sociable creatures, and are prone to get into mischief. We have been investing in lots of good goat fencing on our farm, as they are gifted escape artists.
So what is a cashmere goat? Rather than being a particular breed of goat, cashmere can be produced by any goat. That’s right – dairy goats, meat goats, all goats can produce cashmere.
Our little heard of goats are Black Spanish goats. We have been selectively breeding and increasing our herd to favor good cashmere producers. We have some beautiful cashmere producers in our herd right now.
Goats actually have two types of fiber – guard hairs, which are coarse outer-hairs, and the downy undercoat, which is the cashmere.
You can see in these pictures from last spring, the black goats are sleek, shiny and mostly black. (You can also see their tendency towards orneriness).
This next picture is of our goats just recently.
These are the same black goats from the summertime, but you can see the fuzzy grey cashmere sticking out from under their guard hair.
Goats begin to lose their cashmere during mid-late winter. Shearing would mean taking off all the guard hair along with the cashmere, which means our poor little goats would freeze for the rest of the season. Which leaves combing.
Yes, that’s right. You have to COMB the cashmere from each goat. Which might be why we have yet to do it in all the years we have had goats.
But a few weeks ago, I noticed that one of the goats’ cashmere was beginning to come lose. I had some time on my hands (usually unheard of!), so I thought I would give it a try.
After more than an hour of combing … and combing … and combing … this is what I had.
One bag of cashmere fiber that weighed in at 0.6 ounces. I have not done the math to figure out how much cashmere it takes to make a sweater, but I guarantee it is a lot more than a measly 1/2 ounce. This is probably why cashmere is so expensive. (Admittedly, I was probably pretty inefficient at harvesting the fiber and would get better with practice. But still ….).
The one goat I have had my eyes on all winter is this one. Shelly, the Cashmere Queen. After my first try at harvesting cashmere, I coaxed her up onto the stanchion to work on her lovely fiber. Only to find she was not ready for harvest. *sigh*. Maybe this weekend!
Regardless of the fact that we still have yet to truly harvest cashmere (and in reality, may never harvest cashmere), we still love the goats, and have the benefit of their brush-clearing skills. (I will post “before and after” pictures of our wooded areas soon.)