Tuesday, March 10, 2015

GOATS - A colour kaleidoscope - Breeding coloured angoras

One of the prime qualities of white mohair is its ability to accept synthetic dyes and produce vibrant colours. However, if you are a hand-spinner or weaver, the warm subtle grey or brown tones produced by naturally coloured angoras are a delight to behold.

Smokey grey, silver, charcoal even rich brown and ginger, and more rarely, apricot are all available, and if you want to experiment with synthetic dyes over these, the resulting hues are amazingly rich and warm.
Apart from the fibre shorn from these attractive animals, staples of coloured fleece can be used for dolls wigs or felting. Tanned skins (I used the Leidreiter’s Tanning method) are used to make naturally coloured teddy bears or floor rugs, and the goats themselves make an interesting tourist attraction.

It is not only the colour gene that makes these angoras different. The inside of the skin of a culled animal is sky blue and if held up to the light is very dense as against the skin of a white angora. In some Asian countries a premium price is paid for these blue skinned goats.
Coloured angoras are naturally good mothers and often mate earlier in the season and twin more often than their white counterparts – perhaps due to being less inbred and closer to feral stock from which the line was developed.

However, breeders who run coloured angoras together with white animals must follow certain protocols to ensure the white fleece does not become contaminated with coloured fibres.

Shearing of black/coloured goats should be performed separately from the white flock – preferably on a different day as you would if running coloured sheep along with whites. Also if possible – run your coloured animals in a separate paddock, even then fibre contamination can occur from animals rubbing on wire fences. Care and observation are prerequisites in fleece preparation.

For the coloured breeder, kids should be tagged at birth and unwanted male kids culled or castrated at one week old. Don’t forget that white kids born of black mothers will carry the black recessive gene.
Breeding coloured angoras provides some of the breeding challenges which angora breeders experienced before the importation of new genetics from South Africa and Texas in the late 1990s - namely a desire to increase yields without forfeiting micron fineness.

For breeders of coloured flocks, kidding time is particularly delightful and exciting. What colour kids will the doe produce?

Most coloured kids are born with a jet black fleece which is short, course and very curly.
As the coloured kid grows, true mohair replaces the kid fibre and the grey fleece may appear ginger on the tips. But the tinged ends will disappear as the fibre grows into a true shade of grey.
Well before the fame of the book, Fifty shades of Grey, I marketed my coloured mohair under the name Shades of Grey Mohair.

Skins from coloured angoras make attractive floor rugs and the skin from an aborted or culled newborn black kid has the properties of astrakhan. For makers of doll wigs, these are very desirable for boy-dolls, the shaped pate being cut from a tanned kid skin and stuck directly onto the dolls head.
As mentioned earlier, imported lines of improved genetics were introduced into white flocks almost 20 years ago (in Australia) to produce heavier and denser fleeces. However, though fleece production can be improved, some breeders of coloured animals do not want to depart from the silky soft and extremely fine micron fibre size of the diamond fibre that the coloured angora carries.

The natural coloured fleece is highly sought after by hand-spinners and weavers and can be used virtually straight from the goat’s back. Though slippery due to its silkiness, it is a delight to spin on its own but is even better when blended with alpaca or fine wool, silk or other natural fibre. It produces a soft, silky luxury yarn.
Just like white angoras, the goats need shearing twice a year (unless you want to grow a particularly long coloured fleece suitable for dolls’ wigs.)
This speciality product will return a premium price.

As a hobby farmer or tourist park, if you only want to run a handful of goats, the small framed, dainty and docile coloured angora is a delightful choice and, while black fibre cannot be sold in commercial quantities, crafts people will welcome your product as it is a sheer delight to spin.

Some agricultural shows have special categories for both coloured animals and their fleece.
Why not let coloured angoras colour your world?

Note: Years ago the author ran a flock of 20 coloured angoras in Western Australia. She has spun coloured mohair and also made teddy bears and other soft toys and floor rugs from the tanned skins. Part of this article by Margaret Muir first appeared in The Goat Farmer magazine from New Zealand.

No comments: