GK Moon Pie and daughter -cashmere does.
STC Alexander, an adult cashmere buck.
What is cashmere?
Northwestern Cashmere Association
Cashmere has long been one of the most exotic and rare fibers to be
found. The soft undercoat of hardy cashmere-producing goats has traditionally
come from nomadic herders in the remote mountains and deserts of the
Orient. The fleece of the cashmere goat is made up of two distinct types
of fiber - one is a fine undercoat (under 19 microns) which is the source
of the luxurious cashmere fiber. The other fiber is a coarse guard hair.
All goats (except angora goats) produce some cashmere, but it usually
isn't long enough to be marketable. Cashmere goats have been bred specifically
to improve the quality and quantity of cashmere they produce.
How did cashmere goats come to the U.S.?
In the early 1970's researchers began investigation of the down produced
by American goats. They found that many goats did produce cashmere but
not enough to make it economically viable. Because of the potential
for cashmere in the U.S., animals and embryos were imported from Australia
and New Zealand to establish herds here.
Why would I want to raise cashmere goats?
Cashmere goats are a wonderful small animal that can be raised on a
few acres. They can also be raised to compliment an existing sheep,
cattle or other livestock farm. Goats help improve pastures through
weed and brush control. They produce a luxurious fiber that can be harvested,
processed and sold to others or used by the owner to create beautiful
garments. Cashmere goats are presently used for for breeding stock,
fiber production, weed control, meat and pelts. They are wonderful for
small homestead enterprises and 4-H projects.
How much cashmere does one goat produce?
The amount of cashmere a goat produces depends on a number of factors
including genetics, age, health, pregnancy and size of goat. A good
cashmere doe will generally produce about 4 oz. of cashmere fiber per
year. The quality and quantity of cashmere produced depends on the fiber's
diameter, length, style (crimp of fiber) and coverage on the animal.
It takes the cashmere from about 3 goats to produce a sweater which
is why good cashmere is generally expensive.
When and how do I harvest cashmere?
The cashmere fiber is actually the goat's winter undercoat. It begins
growing in late June and stops growing in late December. The best time
to shear here in Oregon is late January or early February. Shearing
must be done before the animals starts to shed its winter coat. Shearing
in colder climates is usually later in the year. Breeders with small
herds have successfully harvested cashmere by combing out the cashmere
when it begins to shed. Combing is more labor intensive but the raw
fleece can generally be successfully hand dehaired if necessary and
requires little in special equipment or skills. Hand combed cashmere
may also be commercially dehaired. Cashmere harvested by shearing requires
commercial processing to remove the guard hair. There are several dehairing
mills in the U.S. and Canada capable of washing, dehairing and processing
cashmere into rovings or yarn. There are now several options for turning
your raw fleece into a marketable retail product. This has not always
How do you care for cashmere goats?
Cashmere goats are cared for much like any other goat. Goats are browsers
and thrive on brushy pastures. They also do well on hay or improved
pastures. Some does may require grain during late pregnancy and lactation,
depending on browse available and hay quality. The less land you have
to provide feed for your animals, the more supplemental food (hay) will
be required. Trace mineral salts need to be available. In some areas
additional selenium and other vitamins may need to be supplemented.
Parasite control and foot trimming are a necessity for the general good
health of the goat. Cashmere goats very hardy animals, easy kidders
and good mothers. Goats require shelter from the wind and rain. Buildings
can be simple 3-sided sheds.
What about fencing?
Goats require good fences. They do not do well tied out to a stake as
they cannot defend themselves against predators. We prefer 4 foot woven
field fence with one strand of electric wire about a foot off the ground,
but others have success with electric fence systems. Keeping your goats
contained is important, for keeping peace with your neighbors and for
protecting them from predators.
How can I start with cashmere?
Do as much research as you can. Talk to other goat owners. Visit other
goat farms/ranches. Get in touch with one of the cashmere associations:
Cashmere Goat Association
(formerly Eastern Cashmere Association)
Canadian Cashmere Producers
Be sure you know what you want from your goats and are ready for them
before you bring them home. It will make for a more enjoyable experience
for you and your new goats.