Establishing an Angora Flock
The Angora goat produces a fleece of mohair. While small flocks can be of great interest, it is important to note that the objective is the production of mohair. As such, flocks of 200 or more are required to give economies of scale and useful volumes of fibre for sale.
Angora goats have similar requirements to sheep. Yards, shearing facilities, fencing and transport are essentially the same. There is however, an extra need for protection of stock at kidding and following shearing, when cold and wet conditions can be extremely dangerous.
Angora goats fit well into existing wool production systems since there is no conflict with fibre contamination or grazing. Angora goats also provide a weed control facility for some important weeds such as blackberry, boxthorn and some thistles. In areas where wattle or other edible scrub is present, goats can be added without reducing sheep numbers.
Mohair production cannot be carried out in areas where high levels of vegetable matter contamination are experienced. In particular, trefoil presents a serious problem to quality fibre production. Most other weeds can be controlled but VM is a serious fault in mohair.
Commercial mohair production can be achieved using wethers. These are easy to manage and only require crutching (and ringing) and normal worm control. Since the best fibre comes from young stock producers should consider replacing all stock at 3 years of age.
A self-replacing breeding flock can be used for mohair production. Again, early sale of older stock at 3-4 years of age will keep returns high since fibre quality falls off after the 5th or 6th shearing. Reproductive efficiency however, is maximised with older does.
Stud breeding occupies the time of the majority of mohair growers. This activity provides enormous interest and is potentially the most rewarding. The term "stud" simply means a flock which breeds animals for sale. The breeding process implies that a positive effort is made to select superior animals to continue the flock. Usually the stud flock and the animals are recorded with Mohair Australia Ltd. The animals are either individually registered and have a Herd Book Certificate, or are "on farm recorded" by the breeder who must be able to supply pedigree information and "transfer" animals thus allowing them (or their progeny) to be fully registered if required. All bucks used in a stud flock must be registered with Mohair Australia.
Breeding flocks require more work. The control of mating and kidding is important and the supervision of young growing stock also requires attention.
Predator control and the problems of cold, wet conditions at kidding, need careful attention. Major losses can occur up to 6 weeks of age from foxes, and the birth process requires good protection from even mildly poor climatic conditions. While the newly imported strains are much larger and stronger at birth, some form of shedding and close supervision is required to achieve high survival and weaning rates. Many breeders have found Maremma guard dogs very effective at protecting flocks.
The quality of Angora goats varies greatly and unregistered stock are unlikely to produce top quality fibre. Even registered stock may prove inferior. Such is the variation in the breed.
Animals can be purchased from stud auctions or from breeders "in the paddock". Since high levels of supplementary feeding and preparation can improve the appearance of stock, care is needed in assuming that fancy sale animals will repeat the performance under paddock conditions. Over-fleeced animals may appear better than they really are.
Look for healthy animals in good condition (you should not be able to feel a prominent ridge along the backbone). Animals should have an even fleece without obvious shedding or the presence of hairy or kempy fibres along the back-line and in the fleece. There should be no pigmented fibres on the animal though some pigmentation on the face and ears is acceptable. Animals should be free of lice and foot problems.
Until 1992 the Australia Mohair Industry was based on stock originally imported in the 1800's and early 1900's. The renewed interest in Angoras in the early 1970's resulted in much crossing with milk and feral goats and fleeces were generally light in weight, low in grease, and kempy. Importation from Texas and South Africa was permitted and these animals have become prominent since their release in 1992.
Since 1992 Texan Angoras were used to cross over the original Australian type. In 1995 Angoras of African origin became available. The Texan animals appear relatively greasy and have a darker fleece tip because of soil colouring. Both Texan and African types have much lower levels of kemp (even at old age) when compared to the Australian animals. Fleece weights are nearly double those of the original animals and production flocks are now almost entirely comprised of 3rd, or higher, crosses to imports.
There is considerable debate about which strain should be favoured or whether some cross will produce the best fibre and productivity. Mohair becomes stronger with age or body size. Texans appear to grow slowly therefore their fleeces tend to remain finer for longer. On the other hand the Texan fleeces tend to become shorter and less well structured with age. Some cross would appear justified but since there is considerable variation within both strains, care is needed when attributing particular characteristics to strain effects, rather than to specific sires.
The fertility of Texan and African Angora goats is likely to be similar to the Australian type however there has been only limited time to evaluate this characteristic. What is apparent is the increased vigour of kids, making the kidding process easier. Because of the remarkable fleece weights and the dramatic drop in kemp levels buyers should select animals which are at least 75% imported bloodlines or crosses.
What, when and where to buy stock and how much to pay presents a difficulty. Public auctions offer a selection and allow new breeders to get an idea of prices and quality. Stud animals usually bring from $50 to $1000 depending on quality and bloodline
Larger numbers of animals are available from bigger breeders using private treaty and animals can be assessed in paddock conditions. Value is more difficult to assess but "non-stud" does for mohair production should be available for between $30 and $50 depending on age and quality. Shorn wethers can be purchased for $20-$25 at 12 months of age.
For those without experience in goat management and assessing quality, it is suggested that you purchase (in the autumn) 10-20 pregnant does of intermediate quality and price. Having experienced the kidding process and general management requirements, more expensive purchases can be made and you will be in a better position to purchase bucks.
If you wish to breed animals for sale, you will have to determine what is likely to sell, purchase the right stock, learn how to manage them, promote your stock and take part in the breeding system.
If you wish to produce mohair, then larger numbers of animals will be required and a management system developed based on a knowledge of fibre quality and efficient harvesting.
In any case it is recommended that you implement the FIBRE FIRST PROGRAM which incorporates management, breeding and clip preparation techniques aimed at producing the best mohair possible.
Mohair production is a serious business and takes a good deal of management. It is not recommended as an enterprise which will run without supervision. Potential growers are reminded that Angora goats require ongoing supervision and careful timing of operations such as shearing and kidding.
© 2000 D.L. Stapleton