Sunday, November 4, 2007

Goats, Wooly and Otherwise

It's past time for us to shear our goats. Every spring and fall, we shear our angoras to harvest their mohair. It looks like doll hair, and in fact, many doll manufacturers use mohair for that purpose. As for us, we skirt, wash, and process our mohair into yarn to use for weaving and knitting. Alpaca/mohair blends are some of our favorite yarns to knit with and the colors of each compliment each other nicely. Alpaca is a wool, that carries some luster and takes very little to lend a lot of warmth. Mohair is a hair that carries loads of luster and is known for the halo is produces in finished goods. Both take up dye at different rates and the combination of the two together make for some interesting results.

The animals themselves originate in Turkey. Like most goats, they're social when hand raised and they like people, although they're suspicious of strangers. We leave their horns intact, rather than burn them off as babies. This gives us a nice way to handle them, although they don't like to have their horns messed with. Our angoras have never used their horns as weapons against people, but they can do quite a lot of damage to fences and can put up quite a show of head butting with one another. They're very territorial and will butt a fence when they feel that any other animal is encroaching on their turf or threatening their feed.

They're slop hogs, one and all, and seem to be able to eat constantly without ill effects. There's a myth that circulates out there that goats will eat anything whatsoever, but that's not the case at all. They can be quite picky when food is plentiful. The truth of it is that goats are survivors and will eat whatever they have to eat in order to do so. Our goats have never been in that position and never will be.

There's also an idea circulating that goats are geniuses at getting out of their pens and enclosures. This is, unfortunately, quite true. It's a case of the proverbial grass being greener. Our goats love to push at gates and fences and find a way out, which is immediately followed by frantic calls for help to be rescued from their own sins. They don't really want to be out because it's an unknown and they may be exposed to something apart from their routine--and like all livestock, they're creatures of routines and habit. They love their schedules and are the first to remind the care giver that she's late getting out to the barn. What an amazing sense of time they have!! When they get out, we open the gate and they all run back into the pen in a panic to see who is first.

They're actually a lot like children in the way they scrap and fight, in the way they compete to be first, in the way they hoard their food and in the ultimate sweetness of their temperaments. They're a lovely bunch of bickering ladies.

These are some of our kids from this past spring. We had 12 kids and sold all but 4, keeping two blacks and two whites. We don't really want to grow our herd. We already have more mohair than we can keep up with, but we absolutely adore angora kids. They look and act like puppies. They even chew and nibble like puppies. Bottle feeding can be a feeding frenzy and we just love it.

We don't milk our angoras, although you can. We get the milk to feed our babies, our kittens, our dogs and our family from two dairy goats, Nubians, that we keep for that specific purpose. Pansy, our Grandma goat, is 14 and past her prime. We don't breed her any longer and she'll live here until her life is over. I think she's given enough for one goat. Her picture is the one on our title bar above and in the last picture here. She's the nicest old lady I've ever met, and I've met more than a few!


Cowgirl said...

Loved hearing about your goats, they are so adorable particularly the little black and white one! Is the beautiful brown one at the bottom a Nubian? They must make for lots of joy, and hi-jinx!

Casdok said...

That was really interesting, and lovely pictures, thank you.

Elizabethd said...

Super photos, what pretty goats!

Blossomcottage said...

Lovely pictures they are beautiful goats, however I am so glad that at this moment in time cyber space does not have a smell function or I would have to get out the Vick for my nose!
Love Blossom

Suffolkmum said...

I've always liked goats! Fascinating post.

mountainear said...

What beautiful goats. We had a goat, briefly, when we were children. My mother thought she would keep the weeds down in the you say she was very selective about what she ate - and it wasn't weeds!

lampworkbeader said...

They are such lovely animals. What a wonderful way to earn a living.

marit said...

Thank you so much for sharing! The goats are really cute(I like goats, but have never seen any that are sheared, I used to work on goat dairy farms). Interesting information.