Goats! Time for plucking and shearing

 

It’s is officially the beginning of spring, and time to help my goats off with their winter coats. I have two goats right now, Sigma, a white Angora goat, and Marzipan, red and almond Cashmere goat. Angora goats, like Sigma, have long curly locks, and get sheared twice a year. Cashmere goats, however, grow a fluffy undercoat of really fine and fluffy cashmere that lasts over the winter and then starts to “break” (come out) in the spring. Marzipan can do a certain amount of work helping his cashmere undercoat come out by scratching himself with his horns and rubbing against things, but I can tell it gets a bit itchy. Different people have different ways of harvesting the cashmere, such as using combs or brushes, but I prefer the plucking method. It is easy to control, and he doesn’t seem to mind it – in fact I think he appreciates it taking care of some of the itchiness of the coat coming out.

 

Here is a video of the goats this past winter, in their full coats:

 

 

Just because it is adorable, here is another video I took the same day of Sigma, practicing some tricks that we hadn’t worked on since the summer (he’s the white Angora goat):

 

 

 

You can see that both Sig and Marzipan have very long and fluffy coats during the winter!

A few weeks ago I noticed that Marzipan’s winter coat was starting to come out, and I’ve just been waiting for a good day when it’s not raining and I have a little time to start plucking it.

Here is an image from a few weeks ago:

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As you can see, his fluffy winter coat is starting to look a little ratty on his back and haunches. (Note, the duct tape on his horns is a stick my dad put there so Marzipan would stop getting his head stuck through the fence! lol)

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This image is from earlier today, and you can see marzipan is starting to loose quite a bit of cashmere on the one side (the other side isn’t going so quickly), and it’s getting a little matted too.

My technique for plucking him was to lock Sigma in the goat house (which is why you will hear piteous bleating in the video I post, Sigma HATES to be left out of anything, especially anything involving treats), and hook Marzipan’s collar up to the fence. Then I alternate feeding him treats and plucking, an arrangement that seems to work pretty well for both of us.

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While Angora goats are some of the most efficient brush to fiber animals in the world, cashmere goats only create a very small amount of cashmere every year. You notice that I’m putting it into a regular sized sandwich baggy.

 

My parents came out, and took a few images and this little video. As mentioned before, Sigma was NOT happy to be left out of the fun, so he kept up a running commentary in the background about how unfair it all was.

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The chickens also decided that they needed to be in on the fun (and any dropped treats, so it started getting a bit crowded!

 

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I didn’t try to get all of Marzipan’s coat at once, it will loosen over a period of a couple of weeks and be easy to pluck. But this is what he looked like after the partial plucking today. A bit like a molting chicken, but happy to be free of some of the annoying extra itchy weight!

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And I made sure to give Sigma a little attention too, since he felt so left out. Don’t worry, his shearing is next! He’s got plenty of coat (the goal for Angoras is at least 4″ of curls), and he’s pretty smelly after the mucky winter. It’s always fun to watch him frolic around after shearing because he feels so light!

 

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This is what we ended up with after today’s plucking – super fine cashmere, that needs some gaurd hairs picked out, enough to pack full a regular sandwich bag. It’s actually recommended that I keep it in a larger bag and try to line up the fibers, but I will do that after I’m done picking out guard hairs and dealing with any clumps that formed before it was plucked.

For my first experience plucking marzipan, it went pretty well, and everyone but Sigma seemed pretty happy with it. It definitely brings home why Cashmere is such a luxury fiber. I enjoy having both kinds of goats for various reasons, and am happy to have the opportunity to work with both of these sweet boys (well whethers. :).