Snuggling up to a soft mohair blanket is a simple luxury, and we are so lucky in New Zealand to have some of the world’s best mohair producers on our doorstep.
The Angora goats which produce the beautiful, fine mohair wool are a small breed of domestic goat which takes its name from Ankara in Turkey. They are known to be relaxed, docile and generally easy to handle. Much like all goats, they are intelligent animals. Introduced to New Zealand in the mid-19th century they failed initially to gain a foothold. In the 1970s and 80s, the industry was kick-started again with South African and Texan goats brought in to improve the quality of New Zealand Angora.
Angora goats are a great fit for small-scale, lifestyle block farmers. Angoras can be shorn twice a year and the fleeces are sold for considerably more than those from sheep. But they do require specialized and ongoing care. Shearing goats need thoughtful consideration to protect the valuable fleeces. Fleeces for individual goats vary in price with the finest and most valuable generally coming from kids and young goats. Fleeces do get coarser with age but a well-cared-for and healthy animal will also produce better quality fibre.
There are some important factors to consider when looking at farming Angoras. Fences need to be goat-proof and a place for shelter and yarding needs to be provided. Nutritional requirements are essential as the standard of feed impacts the quality of fibre. Mineral substitutes may be needed to overcome local soil deficiencies. Health problems such as parasite control and foot care need to be checked and extra care for the goats is needed around kidding time.
The industry in New Zealand remains small producing only about 1% of the world’s mohair with most coming from South Africa and the U.S. However, there is potential for good rewards in this specialized market. A goat study between 2004 and 2007 by Meat & Wool New Zealand Limited showed that due to the low costs of stock, Angora goat farming produced more than double the profit of lamb production! With such a small industry in New Zealand, there are just a handful of dealers and fibre prices do fluctuate. So whilst returns can be generous there are risks, and so it is important to understand how best to manage and care for Angoras to reap the economic and personal rewards.