Angora goats may be the most efficient fiber producers on Earth. These markers of mohair came from and were named after Ankara (Angora before 1930), the Turkish province where they have thrived for centuries. Turkey guarded these goats against exportation until 1849 when seven does and two bucks were imported into the United States. Later, more were imported from Turkey and South Africa, the two principal mohair producers in the 19th century.
But now the United States has become one of the two biggest producers (along with South Africa) of mohair--the long, lustrous, wavy hair that goes into fine garments. The other primary fiber from goats is cashmere (see "A Small-Scale Agriculture Alternative, Cashmere Goats", December, 1992. Never the twain should meet! To cross Angora with cashmere goats results in a fiber called cashgora, with very limited use and characteristics of neither fine fiber.
The two goat types differ in temperaments, too. The angoras are pretty laid back and docile, while cashmere and/or Spanish meat boats are often flighty and high strung. (Incidentally, Angora goats, which do produce mohair, do not produce Angora hair, only rabbits can produce that.)
Although Angora goats are somewhat delicate, they grow their fleeces year-round. This puts considerable strain on the animal and probably contributes to their lack of hardiness.
About 90 percent of the U.S. mohair clip originates in Texas, but the goats are raised over wide areas of the United States. They adapt well to many conditions, but are particularly suited to the arid Southwestern States. Central and southwestern Texas have all the major mohair warehouses.
Shear Twice A Year
Angora goats are sheared twice a year, before breeding and before kidding. The hair grows about 3/4 of an inch a month, and adult hair should be 4-6 inches long at shearing. Shearing most often follows the method developed by the Mexicans, with the goats lying down with legs tied. Shearing should be done on a clear-swept floor or sheet of plywood.
Care should be given to keep mohair clean and free from contaminants--weeds, grass seeds, or urine. Buyers severely discount unclear hair and hair showing second cuts. Fleeces should be bagged separately in 6-foot burlap bags. Not acceptable are polyethylene bags or poly twine.
Each bag should show the grower's name marked with a permanent-type felt-tip pen, be tagged, and contain only one fleece type clearly marked: Kid, yearling, young adult, adult, buck, and stained with spring or fall clip. Special problems, such as burrs or coarse, extra long, or short fleece, should also be listed on the tag. Buyers slit the bag's side when inspecting before buying; sellers must present a uniform product.
An adult goat usually will produce 8 to 16 pounds of mohair a year. Kid mohair should be 4 inches long, is finer, and may yield 3 to 5 pounds a year. Mohair fiber diameter ranges from 20 to 40 microns.
If kemp fiber (long, straight, hollow and brittle) shows up on any goats, especially along the backbone and thighs, such "kempy" animals should be culled, as suggested by the U. S. Mohair Marketing Board. Kemp fiber breaks easily and does not readily accept dye.
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.
Bucks should be chosen for body conformation and fine hair. Preferred are open-faced bucks not blinded by hair. Bucks should be left with does for 6 weeks. Angora goats are seasonally in estrus. The normal breeding season is from late September into December.
The gestation period for goats is usually 150 days, but it can vary several days each way. Kids are usually dropped from late February through April or early May. Twins may account for 40 percent of births, with a much lower percentage being triplets.
Fiber Comes First
Angora goats have high nutrient requirements and give nutritional advantage to fiber growth at the expense of other demands. Meeting nutritional needs should be the producer's main concern. Range forage of browse and forbs, protein supplements, grain and crop residues, and cereal crop pastures can help supply needed nutrients for growth and reproduction.
Goats, browsing animals, can be pastured with sheep and cattle; each species prefers different plants. Goats prefer brush, tree leaves, and rough plants. They can improve pasture, clear reforestation areas, control leafy spurge, and destroy multiflora roses, red cedars, sand burs, knapweed, hound's tongue, Canadian thistle, sagebrush, buckbrush, giant ragweed, sunflowers, and many other weeds.
When growing plants are not available, Angora goats need supplemental hay and perhaps grain. While gaining at breeding time, young does should weigh at least 55 pounds (sheared weight) and mature does at least 75. Does need extra feed before and after breeding so fetuses can develop hair follicles.
During pregnancy and lactation, does need almost 1/2 pound of crude protein daily. Supplement feeding must start as soon as does begin to lose weight and condition. Improved nutrition brings more and better big growth kids and heavier fleeces. Poor nutrition is the leading cause of abortion and poor mothering. Young or lighter-weight goats are most subject to abortion. Stress from disease, moving long distances, or cold wet weather also cause abortions.
Goats should be given adequate nutrition before and after shearing. Angora goats must be able to take shelter from wet and cold, great depth loss can occur without shelter for 4 to 6 weeks after shearing. Goats do not carry layers of body fat, unlike sheep.
Kidding on the Range
Due to lack of labor and facilities, large herds are usually kidded on the range, while many small herds use a more intensive confinement system. For open-range kidding, small pastures with shelter, centrally located watering and supplement feeding areas, and bedding spots reduce numbers of lost kids.
Angora does and kids should be undisturbed for several weeks, since does may abandon their kids. When goats are moved, pastures should be rechecked for kids.
An even more intensive kidding system uses buildings, small individual stalls, heat lamps, and feeder space. This "system kidding" can be done earlier in the year but is much more labor intensive and therefore more expensive. But a larger kid crop can be realized with good management. Before kidding, does should be outdoors except in cold or wet weather or at night; this helps keep bedding clean and dry and encourages needed exercise.
As does kid, they should be moved into stalls and kids' navels treated with 7 percent iodine. C and D antitoxin should be given. Cold kids will not try to suck and may need a heat lamp. When warm, they will usually suck by themselves but may need help to begin. Angora kids, very sensitive to cold, can die within a short time if too chilled. Immersion in warm water to speed restoration of body temperature and then thoroughly drying may save severely chilled kids.
After identification with matching paint or ear tags, well-fed does and kids can be moved to group pens or holding areas. Twins and triplets should not be grouped with singles since stronger kids often rob milk from usually smaller multiple-birth kids. Groups should contain kids of similar age.
Parasites Trouble Goats
Among goats, major health problems are internal and external parasites, coccidiosis (in kids before and after weaning), and pneumonia. A good health care program includes vaccination for most diseases and should be established between a grower and a veterinarian.
Goats' hooves may need to be trimmed, depending on walking conditions. Rocky ground may take care of that problem.
Goats may need special 4-foot-high fencing to keep them in and predators out. Goats like to go under or through obstacles. Five-wire electric fences, with three wires hot and two grounded, make a good system. Woven-wire fences may be used with the addition of a 12-inch "outrigger" electric wire about 12 inches above the ground. Small-mesh fencing also may be used.
Horns caught in the fence or the crotch of a tree become life-threatening, not only from predators but also from other goats. While most goats are not aggressive toward humans, they are not always kind to other goats and in seconds can be serious or lethal damage with their horns. A goat raiser may find horns useful--as handles. For safety, both for the handler and for other animals, horns' sharp points may be clipped, using a bolt cutter or similar device.