March 22, 2009

Angora (Mohair) Goat Basics: Fiber handling

Agriculture, husbandry, goats, Angora, Mohair, fibre, handling, shearing

By Dr Clive Dalton

Kid fleece, 26-30 microns

Fibre handling

  • Shearing gear has to run much slower for mohair or cashmere goats as there is not as much grease in the fleece to help lubrication.
  • Some goats are shorn standing up with their head held in a yoke.
  • But this method slows up shearing, and many shearers just want to get the job done as fast as possible and put up with the goat's protest.
Suggestions from goat shearers:
  • The handpiece should be set at 1500-200 rpm (2400rpm for sheep) to reduce overheating. This may not be possible with some plants.
  • Use air-driven handpieces or electric battery pack ones.
  • Stand the handpiece in a mixture of 2:1 kerosene and light oil after each goat is shorn.
  • If using extra oil, then use it sparingly to avoid fleece contamination.
  • Don’t use thin worn cutters and combs. A special goat comb is available to help prevent skin cuts.
  • Snow combs used for sheep are not suitable for goats.
  • Normal concave and convex combs can be used provided they have reasonable new straight teeth on the bottom side to give a good clean finish without second cuts.
  • Shear against the lie of the fibre as much as possible.
  • Leave all coarse fibre on the belly and leave the beard on.
  • Only shear the belly if it’s growing plenty of quality fibre.
Important point: If there is any risk of dampness, then expect the shearer to refuse to shear your goats. It’s bad for the shearer’s health (skin boils) and damp mohair will become mildewed and be worthless if packed damp.

Shearing times
  • Angoras are best shorn twice a year – in autumn and spring to provide a fibre 100-175mm long. Good Angora goats are capable of growing 25mm of fibre every month, especially over the spring and summer when nutrient intake is high.
  • The aim is to shear before any fibres are naturally shed and get caught up in the fleece causing felting which makes processing (combing) more difficult.
  • Shedding usually occurs from August to October but animals under stress can shed fibres earlier. So it’s important to keep a close watch on the state of the fleece as shearing should be done before shedding.
  • Shearing should also be done at least six weeks before kidding to avoid fibre break and felting caused by the stress of birth and lactation. This also makes it easier for the kids to find the udder after birth. If you cannot fully shear at this time, it could pay to crutch the goat to clear fibre from the udder area.
  • Autumn shearing should also fit in with mating. It’s certainly important to shear bucks before mating as when they start their urine spraying they contaminate most of their underside and front.
  • Newly shorn goats will need extra care as the weather in early spring can be unpredictable. Shearing after kidding will end up with poor quality fleeces due to felting.
Fleece contamination
  • Impurities that contaminate fleeces are either natural or acquired from the environment. The main natural contaminant is grease, which protects the fibre from weathering; it’s very important to help waterproof the goat.
  • Urine stain is another example and is most common in males as are coloured fibres from other goats or dogs in the shearing shed.
  • Acquired impurities picked up from the environment include vegetable matter (especially weed seeds such as burrs), sand and soil and chemicals from dips and pourons.
Sources of contamination
  • This is a common contaminant and gets into fleeces when goats crowd around when hay is thrown out.
  • When feeding from hayracks, it’s inevitable that hay and seeds gets into their fleeces.
  • One idea is to shut the goats out of the area where hay is laid out before opening the gate to let them in to feed.
  • Don’t throw the hay in large biscuits or the goats will shake it up before selecting mouthfuls. Feed it in small heaps and only what they can clean up, or they‘ll find it a very attractive dry bed to lie on.
  • Contamination is less here as any seeds from the crop are wet and won’t blow around.
  • But there’s still the chance of stalks getting into the fleece.
  • Use the same feeding trick as described for hay – keep the goats away till the fodder is laid out.
  • This is usually not a problem unless it’s very dusty.
  • Turn the troughs over after use to keep the rain out and to stop goats resting in them.
Weed seeds
  • These are a major problem when they are dry and hard and hence easily picked up on the fleece and spread.
  • If grazed or browsed when green, there will be no seed heads to worry about.
  • Burrs as seen on Bathurst Burr and Bidi-bid are the most serious.
  • Concern is mainly from dips, pourons and sprays to prevent external parasites, and consumers are becoming more concerned about their use in “natural fibres”.
  • They don’t like the idea of any chemical getting inside the fibre, or any ending up in the environment from scouring before processing.
  • Withholding times for all chemicals used must be adhered to and don’t treat for at least six weeks before shearing (the same rule as applied to wool).
Shed (dung) stain
  • This can seriously downgrade fibre and happens so easily when shearing is planned and rain unexpectedly appears. So you rush the goats inside straight off the pasture into the nearest cover you can find.
  • Even if you have a shed with grating, sloppy dung will still get rubbed from one animal to another as they mill around.
  • Floors without grating are a big hazard, as with the accumulation of dung overnight, they become very slippy and goats fall over (humans too!) when being caught and the fleece gets stained.
  • This green stain cannot be scoured out of wool to meet the high specifications of top quality mohair.
  • If goats must be left indoors overnight, then give them at least half a day emptying out in a bare yard or on very bare pasture. Make sure they have water.
  • Sand and sawdust floors are not a good idea either.
Urine stain
  • This is mainly a problem of bucks, which should be shorn before they start to become active in the autumn.
  • At least shear their bellies and chests. Leave them with their beards!
Sand & soil
  • Goats like to rub in earth banks, in many cases because they have lice so check regularly for that.
  • Sand and soil are hated by shearers as they ruin their combs and cutters. A good rain can wash out a lot of sand and soil due to the open staple formation.
  • Wet and humid weather can produce a yellow stain and little can be done about it, other than to shear twice a year so after rain fleeces dry out quickly.


  1. Thank you for the information. Do you have any suggestions on breeding kemp out of angora goats?

  2. Referring to how to reduce kemp in Angora fleeces. The trait is highly heritable so it can be reduced greatly by selecting parents with kemp-free fleeces. It's most important to put maximum 'selection pressure' against kemp in the buck, as he has more genetic influence than any single doe.
    See my blog posts on the principles of animal breeding.