One of the most natural, luxurious, rare fibers known in the world is cashmere. It is extremely soft, light-weight and very warm, with its own natural vitality, and is prized for the making of finer garments.
The fleece of the cashmere goat is comprised of a course outer hair known as guard hair, and the finer undercoat, which must be 19 microns or less to qualify as cashmere. Although cashmere is very fine in texture it is very warm and quite strong. Since there is a limited amount on each goat, only 4 - 6 ounces of fiber per year and it is much sought after, cashmere can be very expensive.
Cashmere fiber was first discovered on wild goats in the Indian state of Kashmir. Amazingly, goats are the only animals capable of producing this "Gold Standard" fiber by which other fibers are compared.
Harvesting starts as early as mid-January when the goats start to shed their winter coat. Timing is important and each goat must be watched closely to determine when the best time has arrived for each goat so as to avoid collecting too many guard hairs at the same time. Cashmere must be de-haired to remove the guard hair before it can be used for spinning and yarn. We harvest our cashmere by hand combing each goat. This process is time consuming but is worth it in quality of the product. Cashmere goats are not de-horned. Goats do not sweat and their horns are all they have to disperse body heat. For this reason there is some thought that it is cruel to de-horn them. They butt each other with their horns but seldom injure each other, and it is rare to be confronted with a lowered pair of horns aimed at a human. Although this hardy animal has kept many of the traits of its wild ancestors their unique personalities, intelligence and curiosity make them excellent pets and companion animals. Cashmeres are bigger than pygmy goats but smaller than dairy or meat goats, making them an easy size to handle. As with most livestock, goats are herd animals and are not content unless they have company. Happily this company does not have to be of their species, and can even be human! Cashmere goats are considered to be multipurpose animals as they are also valued for their meat which is increasingly being sought after in all regions of Canada. They also make excellent weed eaters as they prefer weeds and trees over clover and grass. They are good climbers, enabling them to reach steep areas not accessible by machinery. These goats do well on pasture when allowed to free-range with access to wooded as well as weedy areas and can be raised on the poorest of rough or dry habitats, mountainous regions or even desert areas. They are the perfect animal for places where other livestock cannot graze or crops cannot be grown. It is this ability to utilize any kind of plant material for food which makes them so useful in controlling unwanted vegetation. It is not true that goats eat tin cans. They will, however, chew on the labels from tin cans and their curiosity may lead them to nibble on shoe laces or coat zippers. It is also not true that goats smell bad. Only during breeding season is there a problem with stinky oders. This is when the males (bucks) urinate on their beards in an effort to be more attractive to the females (does). Surprisingly, from the view point of humans, the does seem to appreciate the aroma! Cashmeres are hardy animals that require only a minimal type of shelter against harsh winds, summer sun, rain, ice or snow. They are naturally very healthy animals that rarely require any medical assistance. The biggest challenge for owners of these goats can be fencing. Cashmeres do not climb or jump fences but they will go under or try to go through them if there is something to tempt them on the other side.