A Brief History
As with each breed of goat that comes to our farmstead, I research specifics, from their history to health care to herd management. With the Angora’s I also researched the history of use in their fiber. We found it interesting that Angora origins can be traced back to Asia Minor and early references in Sumerian cuneiform tablets. The Bible dates the origin of the breed to somewhere between the 12th and 15th centuries B.C. In 1849, the first Angora goats were imported into the United States, having been received by Dr. James B. Davis of South Carolina as a thank-you gift from the Sultan of Turkey for his assistance in experimental cotton production in that country.
In fiber, Angora goats produce mohair fiber (not to be confused with Angora fiber, which is produced from rabbits). An Angora goat’s fleece grows at a rate of ¾ to one inch per month and they normally are shorn two times per year, usually in the spring and fall. On average a single Angora produces five to ten pounds of mohair at each shearing. The fiber from the youngest goat is the finest and of most value. Angora fiber continually coarsens as the animal ages. Fiber also is coarser in bucks, than does or wethers.
Types of Angora Goats
When we first entered the Angora goat world, the majority of Angoras were found in Texas and the southwestern states. In the Midwest, Angoras were few and far between, with a small elite group of breeders. Like the S A Boer goats, cost was a factor in our ability to purchase a herd.
Our research also lead to the discovery there was 3 types of Angoras, the White Angora, the Colored Angora and the Navajo Angora. The type most are familiar with is the White Angora. Their registry is the American Angora Goat Breeders Association, founded in 1900.
From my understanding, breeders of the White Angoras found any offspring of color produced by their White Angoras to be inferior and felt these animals should be culled. These colored offspring were also unable to be registered by the AAGBA.
Other goat enthusiasts who found the colored offspring of value continued to breed and raise the naturally colored Angora goats. In 1998 the Colored Angora Goat Breeders Association was formed.
Last but not least in the Angora type is the Navajo Angora. Differences are seen in the fleece, coverage and size. Navajos are also normally found in the high elevation with its arid and often-harsh climate of the Colorado Plateau.
We began our herd with a Navajo Angora. As time has passed and the popularity of Angoras has increased the price of Angoras (all types) has decreased, allowing us to have a variety of types in our small herd.
Caring for Angora goats is much similar to caring for your other breeds of goats. Meeting their basic needs is actually the same. It is the exceptions of the breed that are important and need to be addressed to have a healthy, happy herd.
Yes, proper routine care of Angoras includes lice prevention. Sad to say lice can be common in Angoras. Especially the White Angoras if preventative measures are not taken. Lice are more commonly found on Angoras during the winter months than the summer.
There are 2 (two) types of lice that Angoras can have - biting and sucking lice.
According to Goat Medicine, the sucking louse has a " narrow head with piercing mouth parts" and is a bluish gray. Biting lice have “ broader chewing mouth parts" are pale and hard to see. One study conducted suggested that sucking lice were more prevalent over the withers area and biting lice were more commonly seen on brisket and shoulders (where the hair is the thickest).
If by chance you do not have a microscope to examine the little biters a way to tell is that biting lice run away from light. So if you see moving lice this means that it is the biting variety. Sucking lice will attach to the skin, suck blood, and stay immobile. Most Angoras get biting lice as opposed to sucking lice.
Fortunately, lice is easily treated with a number of pour on, oil based de-lousers such as Permethrin for the biters and Ivermec for the suckers. Recently Sterling Plough has labeled a pour-on Permethrin insecticide for goats called Ultra Boss which controls lice and flies. And if you use Ivermec for internal parasite control (de-worm), you most likely won’t have the sucking type.
For the biters, you can also “Dust” with 7-Dust, but it is very hard to get the dust down through the fiber of an Angora goat to skin level where the lice harbor. The best time to treat for lice is after shearing. Though if treatment is needed at any time it is easy to do with the pour on. You run the oil down the neck and back line to tip of tail, making sure to part the fleece to ensure you apply directly to the skin.
From our experience, rule of thumb, lice would be like worms, if one goat has it, most likely the entire herd will have it. So it would be wise to treat the entire herd at the same time. Every 6 months at shearing time we do all preventative treatments, vaccinate, de-worm, hoof trim and physical exams.
Note: Most lice found on goats is breed specific, meaning that it can not be transferred to you or other animals on your farm. The sucking lice can be transferred from sheep to goats.
(Tip - If by chance you find lice in your fleece at shearing, put the entire fleece in a plastic garbage bag, close and put in freezer. Leave a day or two. The lice freeze, die and fall to the bottom of the bag. Remove the fleece from garbage bag, throw bag away and you can continue working your fleece lice free.)
Other Skin Ailments
Rare but has been seen in Angoras who are not properly cared for. Mites create Mange. Ivermectin will also clear this up. However, mange will cause the hair to fall out in patches, leaving your fleece unusable.
Keds are tick-like creatures that are generally found on sheep. In our 10 years of experience I have never saw a Ked on any breed of goat.
Dandruff or Scurf
Dandruff is a frequent topic of conversation with Angora owners. After shearing they sometimes find a dandruff type skin condition. There are many theories on what the dandruff is caused by or a condition off. Most have a mindset this is just dry skin. Scurf (dandruff) can be a sign of lice. Others believe that the dandruff is an indication the goat is lacking something in their diet. Some who find the dandruff will add a supplement to the goat’s diet such as sunflowers or additional minerals hoping it will add the missing nutrient back.
Internal Parasite Control
We run fecals monthly to determine if there is a need to treat for worms. We also watch for signs of worms on a daily basis.
Angoras have horns. They are generally never de-horned. They are shown with horns. For our farm we do not believe in de-horning. Goat horns are a temperature gauge for the goat. A way of keeping them cool in summer (can you imagine being in fleece in the hot summer months) and warm them in the winter. Like all other goats, the Angora use the horns to scratch in places nothing else can reach through their fiber. We also think they make great handles to work with the goats.
Many ask one question in regard to Angoras. They have heard that Angoras are more delicate or not as hardy as other breeds of goats. We believe feeding correctly is the main factor in their overall hardiness. Their nutritional requirements are a bit higher than other breeds of goats, (they put so much energy into growing fleece at the expense of their body condition), though we have found their rate of feed consumption is lower than our other breeds. We do constantly monitor their needs and adjust to factors in their conditions. (If you breed, you will be feeding the goat, the babies and the fiber).
As all other goats they need good quality hay and/or browse. In addition to their browsing, we feed Alfalfa Orchard grass hay mix. We have found if fed only grass mix hay, they eat constantly due to the little nutrition in the grasses. Goats are natural browsers and we have observed in pasture that they naturally choose a varied diet, so the Alfalfa mix proves to be the best suited in our opinion. They also eat less with better quality.
(Note: We have found when browse is depleted and goats are left to only graze on grass their worm issues can increase.)
With our having a small herd of Angoras (as well as other breeds) we chose to feed a bagged pellet goat feed from a local grain mill instead of mixing our own. In the field we set salt and mineral blocks. When new goat products came to our area we added a molasses based supplemental mineral lick tub. Other Angora owners say they find the lick tubs tend to soil the fleece and the molasses coats the fleece causing more VM (vegetable matter) to collect. We have found that the bucket style licks are more fleece friendly compared to the tub style. We also offer loose minerals and Bicarb to them at all times to allow them to correct their rumen pH if needed.
We don’t add other supplements to the feed except during the winter months. We do top dress their feed with Vitamin E & Selenium crumble supplement made for horses during the winter. Winter months when feeding stored forages (hay that has lost it’s green color), you will find that Vitamin E (an anti-oxidant) is lacking. We are also on the borderline with Selenium deficient soil.
Our Angoras are actually easy keepers so to speak. They are the smallest of our goats. They are easy to handle and have a sweet disposition. They are not aggressive with their horns, towards other animals or humans. They do not fight or jump fence.
(Note: The quality of feed and care given to your Angoras will be seen in the quality of fleece and fiber they produce.)
I want to also acknowledge that I do realize there are many different herd and care management methods. The ones I have listed are what we have found to work with and for our goats.
The Fiber- Mohair
The need to shear their fleece twice a year is the main care difference in raising Angoras versus other goat breeds. To have your Angoras sheared you can hire a professional sheep shearer or shear yourself. In the beginning we hired a professional, as our herd has grown we have purchased the equipment to shear ourselves.
The best place to purchase shearing equipment we have found is:
Their prices are competitive, their customer service, willingness to help, knowledge and shipping time has exceeded our expectations.
To learn proper shearing techniques you will want to do research for yourself as to which method you consider the best. We had watched and assisted our shearer in the past, purchased a shearing DVD, watched videos on line, plus worked with a friend who is a sheep farmer to decide on which method we preferred.
I always felt the goats should not be treated like the sheep. The sheep are rolled around every which way, sat on their rumps, turned on their sides, at times seems like they are turned upside down on their ears. That is not the way we want our goats handled. Some fiber producers lay the goats on their sides and shear that way. It seemed to me that method stressed them also. We decided to try a shearing method where the goats are standing, using one of our milk stanchions as a grooming table.
There are many members in our family (including myself) who have a fiber-related craft as a hobby, some knit, crochet, spin, weave, sew and even wet felt. How rewarding it is to produce our own fiber and yarn for crafts and clothing adding to our self-sufficiency!
Selling what fiber we do not use can also add supplemental income for the farm. Some Angora owners use mohair sales to cover the cost of raising the animal. The market for raw fleece and fiber can vary due to many factors such as color and quality of fleece, location and market saturation. Age and cut of fleece also effects the selling price: 1st cut or Kid cut is generally highest and most sought after, 2nd cut slightly less in value, a yearling fleece, lower still. Adult mohair is the coarsest and least expensive.
Mohair usually runs around $18 a pound for Kid, others are on a sliding scale down to as low as $3.00 per pound for commercial grade (coarse or straight mohair).
A Little info on Mohair - Why is Mohair Called the Diamond Fiber?
Mohair is one of the most versatile textile fibers. Its characteristics are similar to wool, except that it does not have the scales that can irritate the skin. Mohair has several unique properties that are not found in any other animal fiber.
Insulating capacity - mohair's hollow fibers do not conduct heat; like wool, mohair provides good insulation, even when wet.
Durability - mohair can be twisted and bent without damage to the fiber; it is the most durable animal fiber.
Comfort - the smooth fibers of mohair do not irritate the skin, even for people who are sensitive to wool.
Strength - mohair is stronger than steel of the same diameter.
Shrink resistance - because its smooth fibers do not felt, mohair fabrics shrink much less than wool.
Elasticity - mohair is very elastic; it can be stretched up to 30%, and will spring back to shape; mohair garments resist wrinkling, stretching, or sagging.
Moisture transfer - mohair easily absorbs and releases moisture, moving perspiration away from the skin; it is comfortable to wear in cold and hot weather.
Luster - one of mohair's most important qualities is its ability to take dye and to display brilliant colors that resist fading by time or hard wear.
Lightweight - mohair's smooth fibers can be made into fabrics that have a cooling effect; it is ideal for summer garments.
Non-flammability - mohair will not burn unless it is exposed to a direct flame
A note on selling goat related products.
The greatest reward for us is not in money made, but what the goats give us on a daily basis, especially in their wonderful companionship.
What they produce - the dairy girls' milk, dairy products and soaps made from that milk, the natural fibers of the Angoras for our hobbies, can't forget the fertilizer for the gardens - are essential elements to our self sufficient lifestyle.