Are You Thinking of Raising Angora Goats?

Angora goats are successfully raised in almost every state in the US.  They do well from Texas to Alaska and from New Jersey to Oregon if provided adequate shelter, feed and care.  Areas with high humidity, hot temperatures and no freezing weather are the most challenging as the environment will be optimal for parasite infestation.  Other than that, how will you get started? 

Evaluate Your Resources

1.     Land: How much land do you have and what is its productivity? One acre of lush irrigated pasture will be more productive than 5 acres of sagebrush.  Land that can be hayed can be measured for productivity.  Calculate the number of tons produced per acre and that will give you an easy land productivity rate.
Each goat unit will require approximately 1 ton of hay/forage per year. (5+ pounds per day).  Keep in mind that goats can be successfully raised on a variety of browse so straight pasture is not required.  Goats can also be successfully raised in dry-lot conditions where they get all their nutrition and roughage from you.  Calculate the number of animals you plan to have, determine the availability of feed or the cost of supplemental feed and that is a start on your financial commitment dependent upon the land capabilities.
All feeding formulas require greater supplementation in winter months than in the spring or summer when browse or pasture might be available.  More feed is required for does in the last weeks of gestation and while nursing kids than for wethered or breeding males.

2.     Buildings: Does your land currently have a barn or other shelter than can be used for goats?  Each goat should have 16 square feet (4' by 4') of shelter.  Calculations should include the kids you plan to have each spring.  Angora goats do not like to share so provide adequate space for even the most timid goat to have shelter from harsh weather and covered feeder space.  Several feeder spaces are best so the most dominant goat canít hog a single feeder space.
Separate kidding stalls are recommended for Angora goats for the highest survival rates.

Also consider what fencing is currently in place and what changes are needed to accommodate an Angora goat. 

3.     Machinery and Equipment: Do you have the equipment and machinery to harvest hay, clip pastures, clean barns, etc.? Small operations may only require a couple of wheel barrels, water tanks and hand tools.  Donít forget halters, a stand, hoof trimmers, ear tag, burdizzo and shearing equipment.  Maybe hay can be purchased as needed but check your locale to see what challenges you will have in obtaining feed in your area.  The more animals you plan to have, the more likely you will want to have access to a tractor. 

4.     Markets: How will you market your products? Will you sell only mohair?  Raw, washed, dyed, processed, made into finished products?  Will you sell pelts, skulls and meat?  How about breeding stock and/or pets?  Is there a local market for those items?  If not, how will you cover expenses while you pursue a customer base? 

5.     Labor: Do you have the time to properly care for your goats? A goat will know if you are not happy caring for them and will respond likewise.  An uncared for goat will be stressed and will become unhealthy.
Most labor is not hard but each step requires proper time and attention.  Care needed must be done when it is needed!  Donít wait until next week because next week will have its own set of chores that must be done.  Ignoring an ďoffĒ goat for a couple of days can result in a dead goat or an unnecessary vet bill.
How much are you willing to do yourself and how much do you need or want to pay someone else to do for you?  Are you willing to do castrations, shearing, inoculations, worming, and treating for routine illnesses?  Learn to do these things yourself and you will keep down costs and have more control on how well your animals are cared for.

6.     Predator protection: Predators love goats!  That includes the obvious cougar and coyote but is also the crow that tries pecking out the eyes of a newborn kid born in the pasture or the neighborís sweet dog (or your own!) that would never hurt a fly found amidst a pile of bloodied goats.  Good fences are a good start.  Check your environment and determine what your risks are and prepare your defense against them.  Getting a livestock guard dog puppy today will do nothing to help you for the immediate 12-24 months.

7.     Attitude: Do you like goats?  If not, you sure arenít going to be happy when you do those midnight checks in the kidding stalls.  Or missing that football game because thatís the only date the veterinarian can make it out to your place.  Or going out in the freezing rain or blazing sun because they need to be fed and cared for every day.
If this sounds like torture to you, you are not destined to be an Angora goat owner.  In fact, you are not destined to own any livestock!

 If you pass these steps and still think you want to raise Angora goats, congratulations and welcome to the wonderful world we live in.  You can now proceed to the next step.

 Acquiring your Angora goats.

Donít get the first cute goat you see.  Avoid rescues.  Investing in good quality stock with known desirable traits and preferably from a reputable breeder is an important key to success.

That means you need to do your homework.  Review the AAGBA & CAGBA breed standards and learn what makes a good Angora goat.  Those are the minimum qualities and traits required for Angora goats. Take the standards with you when you go to look at goats. Angora goats donít need to be show quality to produce quality mohair but it helps to know that the goats have been evaluated by an unbiased party and were found to be good quality.  Registered stock may not be better than unregistered stock but there is a certain assurance of quality in purchasing registered stock.  Additionally, ICAGR, CAGBA or AAGBA registered Angora goats will be more sellable and should bring in higher prices when you sell stock in the future.

Rescue or ďfreeĒ animals bring with them unknowns related to disease and quality.  You might get lucky but if you are not experienced in knowing the difference between a high quality and healthy Angora goat and a poor quality or ill Angora goat, donít take that risk. 

Angora goats are endearing creatures.  Once you get one, and then find they are not good quality animals, you will have a hard time parting with them.  If they are diseased, you will be required to spend time and money on trying to save them.  Some diseases are not curable and you risk exposing your other animals to the same terminal fate.  Avoid that mistake! 

Not only is it a heart breaker to realize you purchased a diseased or sub quality animal but you then have poor quality fiber to sell.  That will damage your reputation quickly and prevent you from being able to adequately market or get the best price for your fiber.  In some cases the impact may simply be that the animal produces less marketable fiber either because of the need to skirt out more undesirable fiber or because they lack density.  In either case, you still have the same number of mouths to feed and hooves to trim, but will get less back on your investment.

Visit as many breeders as you can.  See their management style and the way in which the animals are raised and treated.  Donít just look at the cute little kid for sale but also look at the parents and herd mates.  Are they well cared for?  Are they in a safe and clean environment?  Are they free from snotty noses, coughing and scours?  Get your hands on the animals if they are in full fleece.  Feel for bad body condition, lumps, sores and avoid such animals.  Look carefully at the animalís coverage and quality of their fiber. Look for healthy and balanced feet and mouths.  Do not buy defective, ill or "cull" animals (those destined for the butcher because of quality problems).

How much time is the seller willing to spend with you?  How comfortable are you in asking them questions?  If they are not willing to invest much time in answering your questions prior to a sale, donít expect much help after the animals are purchased.

Carol Ronan @ Ronan Country Fibers
Angora goats & Gotland sheep
Selma, Oregon
www.ronanfibers.com

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