Is raising fiber goats right for you?
When we think of cozy socks or scarfs and warm (sometimes itchy) sweaters, we assume these garments were made from sheep fibers.
And a lot of the time, we would be correct.
However, not all garments crafted from animal fibers come from sheep. Two of the most luxurious animal fibers in the world come from goats.
Certain breeds of goats are raised for the fibers in their coat, just like sheep are grown for their wool. This might sound surprising, but it’s true. The quality of the fiber is much more impressive than you might expect!
Keep reading to learn about fiber goats, what they are suitable for and how to raise one yourself.
What is a Fiber Breed Goat?
Goats are raised for all sorts of reasons. For example, some goat breeds are presented for the milk they produce. Fiber breeds of goats are raised for the high-quality coats that they grow.
Two of the most popular and luxurious types of goat fiber are cashmere and mohair. Many different breeds of goat can produce cashmere fibers.
In comparison, specifically, the Angora breed of goat is raised for the mohair fibers they produce.
Most fiber breeds of goats can be sheared twice a year. A sheep’s wool can only be sheared once a year. The average fiber goat can produce approximately 5.3 pounds of fiber every year.
What Are Goat Fibers Used For? The Benefits of Raising Fiber Goats
Goat fibers are predominantly utilized for manufacturing clothing garments, textiles, and other decorative items. The fluffy coats that come from goats are weaved into:
- Doll hair
Using animal fibers from goats is a better option than using synthetic fibers. You cannot duplicate the strength, durability, and comfort of goat fibers.
Goat fibers are biodegradable, renewable, and ethical. On the other hand, synthetic fibers, like acrylics, are not.
Fiber goats grow a new coat every year, like alpaca and sheep. Shearing the coat off is the best way to keep the goat healthy and happy.
Synthetic fibers made from plastics have a larger carbon footprint. In comparison, goats raised for their fiber are taken care of by ethical goat husbandry practices.
As a consumer looking to purchase goat fibers or garments made from goat fibers, you will have the ability to select and support a specific fiber farm.
You may even be able to know which goat the fibers came from!
Goat fibers are insulating and moisture-wicking. They keep you very warm in cold temperatures. On top of that, they also breathe. Goat fibers absorb moisture and wick it away from your skin.
Goat fibers are also flame-resistant. They have an awe-inspiring and high ignition rate, between 1,058 and 1,112 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plus, if they do ignite, goat fibers tend only to smoke and will self-extinguish over time instead of giving way to more flames.
On the other hand, materials or garments made from synthetic fibers are highly flammable. And when they do catch fire, they tend to melt and stick to the skin. Synthetic fibers will also produce more smoke and release toxic fumes when caught on fire.
Lastly, goat fibers from small producing farms create much fewer allergic reactions. When folks try on clothing made from fibers produced by a large retailer, it’s common to have an allergic skin reaction. Typically, they believe they are simply allergic to the fiber itself.
However, if that same person were to try on a garment purchased directly from a farm, they would probably not experience an allergic reaction.
The reason is large retailers tend to treat their fibers with chemicals. In comparison, small fiber producers do not. Usually, the chemicals in the fiber irritate the skin, not the animal fiber itself.
Best Fiber Goat Breeds
When it comes to cashmere, many different breeds of goat produce it. In other words, cashmere goats are not a particular breed.
In comparison, mohair fibers only come from a specific breed of goat. We’ve done some research, and below, you will find a list of the best fiber goat breeds.
The Angora goat produces a coat that looks a lot like sheep fleece. The hair has ringlets or locks of hair. Both males and females have horns.
Angora goats are raised for the mohair fibers in their coats. Angora goats are typically relaxed, calm, and docile.
Hexi Cashmere Goat
Hexi goats are raised predominately for the cashmere fibers in their coat. They come from China and are typically only found in parts of Asia.
Hexi Cashmere goats are medium-sized and are usually black, brown, or pied in color.
The Changthangi goat is typically found in Tibet and Nepal. The wool of the Changthangi goat produces an ultra-fine cashmere fiber called Pashmina.
Pashmina fibers are the world’s finest cashmere fibers, with a thickness between 12 and 50 microns.
Changthangi goats are strong and very active goats. Both males and females have horns and can weigh between 50 and 70 pounds.
The Nigora goat is an American hybrid breed of goat that came from crossing female Angora goats with Nigerian Dwarf Bucks.
Nigora goats are known to be loyal and loving. They come in various sizes and color combinations, and both males and females have small horns.
Adult Nigora goats can weigh between 80 and 150 pounds. Nigora goats have three classifications of fiber.
- Class A: a high-quality mohair type of fiber
- Class B: a “cashgora” fiber from the goat’s undercoat, and that is a cross between cashmere and Angora fibers.
- And Class C: a cashmere type fiber that is typically shorter than standard cashmere fibers
The Pygora goat breed results from crossing the Angora breed with pygmy breeds. Pygora goats are playful and friendly.
They are a hornless breed of goats that can weigh between 70 and 80 pounds. The Pygora breed of goat also has three fiber classifications:
- Class A: the mohair type fiber
- Class B: a mixture of mohair and cashmere, also known as cashgora.
- And Class C: the cashmere type fiber from the Pygmy side
How to Get Started With Your Fiber Goat Herd
In general, raising fiber goats is like raising other types of goats. However, a few specific details make raising fiber breeds of goats unique.
Fiber goats require a diet that is extremely high in protein. The best thing to feed fiber goats is either grain, hay, or alfalfa.
Most goats will need about 5 pounds of hay per day (about 1 ton per year). In addition, many fiber goat farmers feed their goat’s black oil sunflower seeds.
The nutritious fats from the sunflower seeds help produce lanolin. Lanolin is a waxy substance produced from the sebaceous glands of goats and sheep.
The lanolin acts like a “wool wax,” which helps protect and waterproof the goat’s coat.
Having shelter options is an essential part of raising fiber goats. The number of goats you want to keep will determine how many shelters you need to provide. However, most experts agree that a single goat should have at least 16-square feet of cover.
Typically, Angora goats do not like to share. This means there needs to be plenty of space so that the more timid goats do not get kicked out.
This is true for feeding also. Generally speaking, separate feeder stalls are essential for raising fiber goats so that dominant goats cannot hog all the food.
Similarly, individual kidding stalls are essential to increase survival rates during pregnancy.
Common Health Problems
Fiber goats can sometimes get sick. Most of the time, the common health problems in fiber goats come from issues related to their diet or living environment.
Some common health problems that might occur are:
- Coccidiosis- parasites that damage the lining of the intestine.
- Tapeworms- parasites that cause weight and gastrointestinal distress
- Pregnancy toxemia- a pregnant goat cannot ingest enough nutrients to meet the requirements of the growing fetus.
- Footrot- a bacterial infection that infects the area between the toes
- Sore mouth- a viral skin disease that creates scabs and blisters.
Carefully monitoring your goats, keeping them vaccinated, and staying in touch with your local veterinarian are two of the most important recommendations we can make for keeping your goat healthy.
Shearing Your Fiber Goats
If you are raising fiber goats, you need to be prepared to shear them. Shearing goats is a skill that requires patience, practice, and the proper tools.
You may also consider hiring a professional to shear your goats for you.
Most fiber goats are sheared twice a year, once in the spring before kidding and in the fall before breeding season.
Once sheared, the high-quality mohair or cashmere fibers will need to be separated from the kemp and medullated fibers.
Before you get to shearing, here are some tips:
- A clean goat is much easier to shear than a dirty goat.
- The goat must be dehydrated before shearing.
- Clipping is easier than shearing, especially for a budding fiber goat farmer.
- Avoid cutting the same area twice because longer fiber lengths yield higher quality yarn.
Kidding and Goat Pregnancy
With fiber goats, artificial insemination is not standard. Instead, a buck should be allowed to run with a herd of does for two to three months during the breeding season.
Typically, a pre-breeding regiment is recommended where the female doe is sheared and deloused.
In addition, supplementing the diet with additional feed, also known as flushing, is recommended to encourage multiple births.
Fiber goats, especially angora goats, generally do not have many breeding or kidding problems. Typically fiber goat kids are raised by their dams and weaned at about three or months of age.
After birth, it’s essential to allow a creep area where newborn kids can eat without competition from adults to boost their growth rates.
Afterward, the kids can then be evaluated for breeding, show-stock potential, or be kept for more fiber production.
Can You Make Money With Fiber Goats?
Yes, depending on where you live and your individual operating costs, is it possible to make money with fiber goats?
Every fiber goat farmer’s statistics will be different.
But in general, if you can reduce your operating costs, procure affordable feed and process the fibers yourself, you can make a valuable profit.
According to the USDA, in 2018, one pound of raw mohair in the commercial markets was valued at $7.88.
However, mohair producers can add value to their product by washing, dying, and preparing the fiber for spinners.
When they accomplish this, the same pound of mohair is valued at $40. In addition, producing yarn with mohair fibers can create a product valued at over $150.
The vast majority of goat fiber, approximately 57%, is sold in local and private markets. Roughly 24% is sold to commercial warehouses, and just over 21% is sold over the internet.
The remaining fiber sales are sold directly to mills or fiber cooperatives.
If these statistics tell us anything, processing the fiber yourself and selling it to local consumers are the two best strategies for making goat fiber husbandry a profitable experience.
Fiber Goats Final Thoughts
Sheep are not the only animals raised for the fibers that their coats produce.
When it comes to two of the most luxurious animal fibers in the world, mohair, and cashmere, goats are doing all the work (and the farmer).
Fiber goat breeds play a critical role in producing cashmere and mohair fibers that are woven into rugs, carpets, sweaters, and scarves.
Other animals mainly unmatch the quality of the fibers that come from their coats, sheep.
So the next time you are trying on a new cashmere sweater, don’t go imagining a cute little sheep.
A goat helped produce the delicate and soft fibers you now enjoy in your new look.