Sunday, February 11, 2007

Pygora goats

Often overlooked, barely understood (by ALL of us...) are the goats. So it's time to give them a little shout-out and a post of their own...

We've been marveling at their fleeces this winter. For those that don't know, Pygoras are an all-purpose goat (meat, milk, fleece) but the reason we keep them is for their fleece. Wonderful, lofty, silky fleece. Can you tell?

Cicero is the silver wether on the top, Clio is the white doe on the bottom of the photo. I estimate the fiber is 4+ inches long. To harvest it, we have to shear them with the clippers. We don't tip them like we do the sheep. Rather, they will "tolerate" me taking care of them still standing. So far, it's been a lot of me chasing them in a circle and shearing in spurts, as they get haltered to a single spot, and they need to be convinced to stand still. But this fall I built a stanchion (yet to be tried out) that should alleviate the movement. The theory goes, that as soon as they feel their hind legs just out there in thin air, they will stop moving. We'll see. A bit of grain is supposed to keep them busy as we lock their heads in with a pivoting bar so they can't pull back out. I usually start with a strip down their center back to remove the greatest amount of guard hair. Then I shear down each side. Unlike sheep fleece, it doesn't really stay together to any great degree, so we collect the shearings from the drop cloth when we are finished with the sides. I take all the "good" fleece (the stuff not matted or too dirty) and that has to be de-haired before it can be spun. Then I clean them up, smoothing out the lumpy spots, taking tangles, stuff underneath and around the face. Clio has wattles (goatie jewelry) which always take an extra degree of care.

She refused to pose to show you her face, but here you can see how lucious the fleece is...IF we get it off in time. See, every year since we've had her, there's been some reason or another, and we've lost her fleece to matting and felting. It's been one of the most frustrating aspects of raising them...fleece to die for, almost overnight destruction if it begins to matt. Really. One day it's gorgeous, the next it's one large, un-usable carpet.

So the wait is on...can we make it to warmer weather, when it is realistic to shear, without the fleece going to hell? We'll see....and keep our fingers crossed.

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