Spring brings mowing to Angora farm | Latest news on farm animal husbandry, husbandry and health
The buzz of mowers vibrates through a pole barn as bleating “patrons” prepare for spring weather.
This beauty salon is Glen Cauffman’s farm, and his Angora goats shed their long fiber winter coats called mohair.
Cauffman, a 10th generation Perry County farmer and his business partner, Judith Shoemaker, run the Pure American Naturals farm.
Cauffman, Shoemaker, and their friends spend two days each spring and fall shearing the 120 goats in the herd.
Cauffman takes care of the goats until they are around 10 years old. The animals end their lives at Shoemaker’s Farm in southern Lancaster County.
Angoras have a long productive life compared to other farm animals, as they are bred for fiber, not meat, and can produce mohair long after they have finished breeding.
The shoemaker also manages the production of hides, skulls and luxury mohair items such as hats, gloves and socks.
âWe use everything except bleating,â Cauffman said.
High quality hair for high quality yarn
Slowly Carl Geissinger, the 2020 Pennsylvania Farm Show Shawl Sheep Champion Shearer, cuts hair from ear to toe.
Shearing a goat is like shearing a sheep, but it takes about 10 minutes, which is double the time it takes for a sheep.
âIt takes longer to shear because they’re like a poodle. Lots of loose skin, âShoemaker said.
Most of Pure American Naturals’ shorn mohair fleeces will go to Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, Vermont to make high quality yarn.
The diameter of the mohair strands determines the quality of the fiber. Angora goat hair is on average 20-30 microns, but spinners prefer finer strands, 20 microns or less. Young goats produce the best mohair, valued at $ 15 a pound.
Cauffman takes pride in providing the best possible fiber to the factory market. Many of the fleeces from Pure American Naturals have a count of 13 to 14 microns, Cauffman said.
Genetics and nutrition are essential to produce this quality.
âWe breed the best for the fine kid mohair,â he said.
Using data collected from each animal during shearing, Cauffman and Shoemaker breed goats based on their number of microns.
On the rugged slopes of the farm, the angora herd rotates for four weeks in 19 paddocks. Goats munch on various forages like sun hemp, kura clover and the cup plant. Each of these varieties is high in protein, which is necessary for growing lush strands.
âHair contains a lot of protein,â Cauffman said.