Industry body Mohair NZ estimates the national Angora goat flock stands at about 15,000 to 20,000 and at the industry’s peak there were about 3000 Angora goat farmers. It’s now down to about 200 and most of them are in their fifties.
Glen Gamble, 40, is an exception. He bought his first goats in 1980 while he was still a schoolboy. Motivated by poor sheep prices he moved into seriously farming the animals eight years ago and his goat flock of 600 to 700 at Eyrewell in North Canterbury is believed to be the largest in the South Island.
Gamble says mohair goats are still considered a bit of a joke but he’s the one laughing when it comes to banking payments from fibre sales which in March fetched on average $17/kg.
“We can get up to $30/kg for finest kid (mohair). For lambs’ wool we got $3.80 and for ewe wool $3.60.”
He says goats are similar in many respects to merinos, being prone to footrot and scald in the winter. They also like plenty of roughage and can’t handle too much lush grass.
“It goes straight through them. They get the runs.”
And goats are susceptible to cold after their twice yearly shearing.
“The kids are very sensitive to cold too, so if I have kids I’m out there picking them up with their mothers and putting them in a shed for the first night if it’s going to be cold. If it’s raining and the kids are born, they’re dead within 20 minutes. But once they’re up on their feet and have a feed, they’re away then.”
Nor are they the easiest animals to fence in.
“One only has to poke under a fence and others follow.”
And shearers aren’t always that keen on working with them.
“Because they have horns; sometimes they sit there and cry while they’re being shorn and they bite you on the bum.”
In other respects goats are easier than sheep.
“If you have a bucket of barley, they’ll follow you from one paddock to another.”
Mohair NZ chairman John Woodward, who established the first mohair sales pools in the late seventies, says the stigma attached to goats remains and given the high returns that’s a shame.
With the importation of good bloodlines the quality of stock now is far higher and careful, selective breeding is producing animals less prone to foot problems and with greater resistance to worms.
“They’re clipping 5kg annually from reasonable does.”
– Amanda Cropp, Young Country Magazine