Classing mohair is somewhat similar to classing wool. The fleeces should be of good quality, as clean as possible, and classing lines should be uniform in length and fineness. Unlike wool staples, though, the locks in a mohair fleece can be handled individually, making precision sorting possible and opening opportunities for value- adding on the farm.
Clip preparation starts with flock management, which should always focus on producing clean, healthy hair. Angora goats are usually shorn with five to six months of hair growth. It could pay to shear slightly sooner if seed contamination from veld grasses, combing out in thornveld, or drought becomes a problem. Long hair picks up seeds, reducing clip value. Know your veld and keep the flock out of problem camps.
If the hair is contaminated with seed, dip the goats in clean water a few times before shearing to soften and break up the seed. Keep the goats free of blue lice (Linognathus spp.) or red lice (Damalinia spp.); they damage the hair and irritate the animals. Check for lice regularly when the goats have more than two months of hair growth, to minimise the use of dips or pour-on paracides. Avoid over-handling heavily pregnant ewes, or ewes with small kids.
Shearing: getting the timing right
Plan shearing time around the mating and kidding seasons. Bear in mind the effect of cold, wet weather on newly-shorn goats. Ideally the ewes, which have a gestation period of 150 days, should be shorn five to six weeks before kidding. This will give them enough time to grow new hair for protection against bad weather. You should therefore shear them in late January or early February, a month or so before the rams are put in.
Shear the rams separately a few weeks earlier. Don’t remove the hair on the scrotum as the skin here can get badly sunburnt. If you have to shear longer hair at this critical time, crutch the ewes (remove the hair below the tail) and clean the area around the ram’s penis. This keeps the fleeces cleaner and stops the ram from soiling the ewes. It also helps in mating and prevents twigs and thorns stuck in the locks from injuring the rams. If the ewes kid with long hair, shear them around the udder so that the kids can find the teats easily.
As the hair gets longer closer to shearing time, keep handling to a minimum. Moving the goats around, especially in wet or green veld, will stain the fleece. Wait until the dew has evaporated before bringing in the flock. In all Angoras – even kids, young goats and kapaters – keep the area below the tail clean by removing any long hair that can collect urine or dung. This can stain the hair of other goats when the animals rub against each other in the pen. A day or so before shearing, check every goat for thorns or twigs stuck in the hair. Removing these before shearing is easier than trying to remove them from the fleeces.
Shearing must take place in a secure, clean shed with enough space for a team of competent shearers to work. Make sure there are enough sorting tables and bins to handle, class, bale and store the clip. A sorting table is easy to make by stretching chicken mesh over a wooden or metal frame. The mesh allows dust to fall through but retains the locks. Place shorn goats in camps with sufficient feed and shelter against the cold. Each camp should have a weatherproof shed for when the weather turns really bad.
Shorn Angoras are vulnerable to cold stress if they are in poor condition or have been standing in the shearing pen all day without food. Farmers with large flocks shear the goats in sections to cut the risk and to make management and shearing easier. Well-fed goats are less susceptible to cold, so if you can afford it, give the goats extra feed at shearing time. A cold snap in spring is just as dangerous to shorn goats as cold, wet weather in winter.
In addition to being a freelance journalist focusing primarily on agriculture, Roelof Bezuidenhout is a fourth-generation Karoo small-stock farmer, specialising in Merino and Dorper sheep and Angora goats.