Goats – Fibre

 

Overview

The goat fibre industry in New Zealand predominantly produces mohair from angora goats.

The other main goat fibre is cashmere, which is the soft undercoat of some breeds of goat. Despite cashmere being of greater value, it is laborious to harvest and little is harvested in New Zealand.

South Africa is the global hub for the angora market and the main market to which New Zealand mohair is sold.

At its peak in the 1980s, worldwide mohair production reached 24 million kg per year. Today it is less than 3 million kg, which to many farmers indicates a large unfulfilled demand.

 

 

 

Markets

Currently, NZ mohair is grown for the global knitting market, where prices can range from $1–$5/kg for low-quality, contaminated or stained fibre, to over $30/kg for high-quality fine micron mohair from kids, with an average of around $16/kg.

Mohair fleece in New Zealand is sold to brokers in the North or South Island who on-sell to customers overseas, principally the South African market. From there, the mohair is processed and used in many applications, notably knitwear, blankets, furnishings, upholstery, curtains, carpets and lightweight suits. Its resilience and durability make it particularly suitable for household textiles, such as upholstery fabrics, curtains and carpets.[1]

There has been recent interest in New Zealand in growing ‘premium’ mohair for the weaving industry, which buys for luxury apparel and textiles. Weaving prioritises fibre length over the fineness of the fibre. This new approach is being used in Australia, where returns have risen from NZ$14/kg to NZ$62/kg in less than five years,[2] and is starting to be used in New Zealand. Since 2016 there has already been a 10 percent increase in prices.

In 2016, New Zealand exported a total of 17.6 tonnes of mohair with a Free on Board value of $341,770.[3]

[1] Mohair Technical Information, Mohair South Africa

[2] http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/agribusiness/76309922/a-new-road-opens-for-mohair-producers-but-will-they-take-it, 27 Jan 2016

[3] Stats NZ – Infoshare

 

Production

Although in New Zealand goats are often farmed on small lifestyle blocks, goat farming can often be more effective for a farmer when incorporated into existing livestock farming systems with sheep, beef, dairy cattle or deer, where they can provide a number of benefits to the overall farm system including:

  • increased revenue and profitability from the sale of goat meat and fibre;
  • improved productivity from the livestock presently farmed;
  • improved pasture quality and lower-cost weed control;
  • a non-chemical alternative to weed control.[1]

Fibre goats suit a property of easier contour with some weeds, compared with meat goats, which can handle hillier farms and steeper terrain.

Animal selection and breeding has a significant influence on fleece weight, yield and quality, so it is important to know the product and focus on those traits that will improve income from mohair. It is also important to select/breed a goat that is physically sound, robust and fertile.

In terms of farming, firstly ensure boundary fences are secure, then the property can be broken into ‘blocks’. Each block can contain several paddocks, with these blocks being goat proof to enable some rotation through the farm, enabling some control and management.

Goats have high mineral requirements and therefore need a varied diet. A diet that contains hay, tree fodder, grass, mineral blocks, straw and pellets, as well as chaff, will help to meet these needs. Trees like willow[2], tree lucerne and poplar, as well as pine needles, will help with overall digestive health. Herbs like fat hen and chicory aide digestion and provide vitamins.

Be aware of the plants on the property that may be poisonous to goats, and know how to recognise them visually. Plants include: rhododendron, yew, azaleas, hydrangeas, bay trees, any wilted leaves and all flowers and bulbs, as well as anything that is sprayed.

Shearing

As shearing approaches, every effort should be made to protect the long mohair from the possibility of contamination from vegetable matter, dust and pigmented fibres. Such contamination will depreciate the value of the mohair. Fineness of the fibre, to a large extent, is determined by the age of the animals, and therefore it is advisable to draft the herd into age groups, e.g. kids; 2 – 4 tooths; and mature aged goats, prior to shearing. The various age groups should then be shorn separately.

[1] Goats and Pastoral Farming, Goat Industry – An Overview, Meat NZ (http://www.mohairproducers.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Goat-industry-overview.pdf)

[2] NB. Some species of willow are pests. To find out more, visit www.weedbusters.org.nz.

 

Infrastructure

The overriding message on infrastructure is that it needs to be secure and practical. The main infrastructure associated with a goat enterprise is:

  • fencing
  • water
  • yards
  • handling equipment

Fencing

Secure fencing is a must, as goats are one of nature’s great escape artists. Fences are generally 7–8 wire (9 wire for boundary fences). Best practice is a bulldozed line with a post and batten fence and a bottom wire no higher than 75 mm from the ground. Barbed wire on the bottom can be used if erosion is a problem. An electric wire on an outrigger is useful but optional.  Netting should be avoided.

Shelter

Shelter is crucial for goats at kidding and in cold, wet environments as, unlike sheep, they do not have an oil or fat layer to protect them from the extreme elements. Therefore goats should have access to some form of draught-free and leak-free shelter year-round.

Shelter doesn’t need to be expensive or elaborate. A-frame shelters or similar can be made from bits and pieces lying around the farm. Small shelters made from corrugated iron and plywood will suffice. Shelter made from pallets and plywood can be added on to make the shelter accommodate more goats as required. Untreated material should be used in construction as the goats may try to eat them. Portable shelters can also be purchased from rural supply stores if the budget allows.

Access to a shearing shed is a bonus for both shelter and shearing. If there is no shearing shed, portable shearing units are available.

Yards

Handling facilities are always good to have for shearing and routine animal health jobs. For an existing farming operation, there may be existing stock yards or something similar already available. Yards can be as simple as a race leading to a small pen, which will make animal handling safer and easier.

Water

Access to sufficient quantities of high-quality fresh water is critical. Goats drink 4–10 litres per day. Ideally water should be supplied through a reticulated water system.

 

 

Nitrogen Leaching: Med-Low

Environment

Angora goats tend to thrive in areas of low rainfall and humidity, and can survive extreme temperatures, but are sensitive to cold after shearing, particularly a combination of cold, wind and/or rain.

Goats are browsers, which means they eat a variety of plants and weeds including broom and gorse. Angoras will improve pasture by eating the weeds, which allows clover and desired pasture to grow. There is less need for herbicide use, so this makes for sustainable farming.

However, angora goats need to avoid contamination of their fleeces, so it is best not to graze them on weeds with small seed heads, like thistles, in the six weeks prior to shearing. This will maintain the quality of the fleece and avoid downgrades of their mohair.

The internal parasites that infect goats are the same as for sheep, however they are different for cattle and so farming goats with complementary stock such as cattle helps reduce the parasite problem for goats.

Foot infections for goats, such as scald and footrot, can be a problem when pastures are continually wet and when hooves become overgrown. Trimming hooves and foot baths/spray can help overcome these problems, although many farmers over the years have culled animals with recurring foot problems from their herds.

Good grazing management is about having enough of the right quality feed to allow stock to achieve their target performance, doing it in a way that enhances the natural ability of pasture to grow, and at the same time, minimising feed wastage.

 

Returns

Infrastructure costs will be influenced by whether the farm’s existing assets can be used or modified for use. By farming fibre goats alongside existing farming systems, e.g. cattle, the investment can be held to relatively low levels with perhaps improvements to fencing being the most significant factor.

In terms of returns, a kid yields 3–4 kg per year from two shearings, while older goats yield 4–6 kg per year. A good fleece has plenty of lustre and good body. July 2016 fleece pricing was as follows:

 

This could provide a gross return of, on average, $100 per animal per year. Cull goats can fetch on average $40 per carcass.

The related benefits that goats can provide to the farming system, i.e. improved pasture quality, reduced weed costs and additional income, help bolster the case for fibre goat farming.

 

Useful Links

Mohair Producers North Island

John Woodward
T: 09 2948 412
M: 027 2336 581
E: mohair@hotmail.co.nz
Website: www.mohairproducers.co.nz

Mohair Pacific South Island

Jackie and Grant Freeman
T: 03 312 6228 (Office)
M: 027 362 0896 (Jackie) or 021 157 9627 (Grant)
E: mohair_pacific@farmside.co.nz
Website: www.mohairpacific.nz

Information sources:

Farming Goats for Fibre, Meat and Wool NZ, May 2008 (http://maxa.mpi.govt.nz/sff/about-projects/search/04-059/farming-goats-for-fibre.pdf)

Lifestyle Block NZ website: https://www.lifestyleblock.co.nz/lifestyle-file/livestock-a-pets/goats/angora-goats

Meat and Livestock Australia website: https://www.mla.com.au/extension-training-and-tools/going-into-goats/