For angora goat raisers, like us, Fall means that it’s time to shear the goats again! Angora goats produce mohair (the fiber “angora” is actually produced by Angora rabbits) and a typical 6-month growth produces gorgeous locks from 4 to 6 inches in length. Shearing takes place in the Spring and then again in the Fall. At Phoenix Farm Fiber, we shear in April and October. This provides relatively mild weather for the goats to be shorn and allows regrowth of fiber before it gets too hot or too cold. In the summer, their fiber protects them from the heat of the sun and in the winter, from the cold. Rather than a sweater or coat, think of their fiber as a temperature regulator; allowing cooling in hot weather and warming in cooler weather.
In past years, we have had mixed seasons of shearing our animals ourselves and hiring the job out to professionals. There are pros and cons to both. By shearing ourselves, we save money, put hands on each and every animal for evaluation, and make progress in our goals toward self-sufficiency. By hiring out the job, we save time — a good shearer can shear 50 goats in a day with ease. When we shear the goats ourselves, we tend to only shear 3 to 4 animals a day, so shearing season lasts a bit longer. For the Fall 2016 shearing season, we have opted to shear ourselves!
We get a lot of questions about shearing, so here are some of them, along with their answers:
Q: Does shearing hurt the goat/sheep?
A: Absolutely not! Shearing a goat or sheep is like a human getting a haircut. We use specialized clippers that easily cut the fiber from the animal without causing injury.
Q: How much fiber do you get from each shearing?
A: It really varies from breed to breed and from animal to animal. Typically, an adult angora goat will give an average of 3 to 5 pounds per shearing; the coveted kid mohair is usually much less for that first shearing, maybe 1 to 2 lbs. Our Shetland sheep produce fleeces that weigh around 3 lbs and our big Cotswold and Romeldale sheep can easily produce 8 lbs in one fleece!
Q: What kind of shears do you use?
A: We use the Premier 4000c model clippers from Premier 1 with the “coarse” comb and cutter. We can usually shear 20 to 25 goats with one set of cutters before they get dull, so we always keep a few pairs on hand. At the end of shearing season, we have them sharpened at a local barber shop.
Q: Why are the goats standing in the photo?
A: We shear our goats standing in a goat stand. We find that when we do our own shearing, it is the easiest for us and the least stressful for the goat. Their heads are secured in a chin rest with a strap that goes behind their head to keep them in position. It is not painful or harmful to the goat. We usually give them treats while they’re in the stand so they don’t mind very much.
Q: What do you do with the fiber after you shear it?
A: After shearing, the fun begins! We usually start by washing the fiber and then it’s ready for a variety of things! It can go to the picker and carder to be prepared for spinning; it can be combed for doll hair; it can be left intact and used in felting or mixed media — the options are endless!
If you can think of nay other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! Leave your questions in the comments below or shoot us an email!