The Fiber Goat industry has been in existance in the United States for over a hundred years. Natural fiber was the first available material for clothing and the cashmere and mohair were luxury fibers used for the finest of clothing and other items. The fiber industry has struggled in recent years and numbers have been lost as many producers switched to other breeds of goats in order to survive. Today, these fibers are still in demand, but at reduced levels and efforts are being made to grow the industry.
Angora goats originated in the district of Angora in Asia Minor. The Angora dates back prior to early biblical history. The Angora is a very picturesque animal in which both sexes are horned. The ears are heavy and drooping. The Angora goat is a small animal as compared to sheep, common goats or milk goats. The most valuable characteristic of the Angora goat as compared to other goats is the value of the mohair that is clipped. The average goat in the U.S. shears approximately 5.3 pounds of mohair per shearing and is usually sheared twice a year. The Angora goat is a browsing animal, which has made it very adaptable to certain agriculture sections. They have often been able to provide economic returns to land that is unsuitable for usual agriculture pursuits.
Feral goats from Australia and Spanish meat goats from the American Southwest, selected for fiber traits, form the basis of the American cashmere goat industry. Any goat can grow cashmere, but those we call “cashmere goats” have been selectively bred to produce it in significant amounts. The goats’ down and the guard hair which surrounds it may be any color, but the combable or shearable parts of the body (excluding face, stockings and belly) should be of a single color. The guard hair may be long or short depending on individual situations and preferences, but the guard hair should be coarse enough that a mechanical dehairer can easily distinguish it from cashmere. Traditionally, cashmere goats are not de-horned. Both male and female goats have horns.
Cashmere is the goat’s soft, downy undercoat, grown to its maximum length by mid-winter and shed in early Spring. The quality of the cashmere fleece is determined by three factors: its length, its diameter, and the degree of crimping. Cashmere fiber is crimped (rather than wavy), soft, and lacking luster. By industry standards it must be at least 1-1/4′ long with an average diameter less than 19 microns. The crimpiness of the fiber gives it “loft” and enables garments made of cashmere to provide warmth without weight.
The American cashmere industry promotes high standards in regards to raising good healthy animals bearing exceptionally good cashmere fiber.