Other common names: Merrrit Cashmere
Cashmere is a fine soft downy winter undercoat (with a diameter of less than 19 microns), which is produced by most goat breeds. However, over the centuries, goats have been crossbred to create breeds which produce cashmere fibers in greater, commercially viable amounts.
The Australian Cashmere Goat breed is said to have evolved from many years of selective breeding of the native Australian Bush Goat. The objective was to develop a dual-purpose goat for both meat and cashmere fleece. With the further introduction and interbreeding of imported Chinese cashmere breeds and a couple of cashmere goats from India in the latter part of the 1800s, the Australian Cashmere Goat became an improved breed that grow dense cashmere in winter while possessing the hardiness and fertility traits of the original bush goat.
In the United States, cashmere on Texas meat goats (derived from Spanish Goats) was reported in 1973, but domestic interest in commercial production did not occur until the mid-1980s, when Australian Cashmere Goat were imported from Australia and New Zealand (Journal of Animal Science). Today, the majority of cashmere producing goats in North America are Australian Cashmere Goats.
According to the Australian Cashmere Growers Association, "After 25 years of selective breeding, the Australian Cashmere Goat has evolved into a distinctive breed of goat, far removed from its bush goat origins. Whilst retaining the fertility and hardiness of the bush goat, the Australian Cashmere is quite different in appearance and temperament. In mid winter it will have an excellent overall coverage of long dense cashmere. Many of the animals now grow cashmere year round and can be seen with good cashmere growth in Summer. After years of domesticity, farming Australian Cashmeres is not that dissimilar to farming and handling crossbred sheep. The Australian Cashmeres of today are far easier to handle and manage than the bush goats from which they originated."
The Merrrit Cashmere is a refined type of Australian Cashmere Goat. "Farmed Australian Cashmeres are very very variable in quality. The Merrrit breed brings together the most highly elite selections and identifies them as 'A' grade. At the breed launch in 2010 there are only 115 goats identified as grade A, from a population of more than 10,000 Cashmeres on farm in Australia."
Appearance / health:
Australian Cashmere Goats are typically white although other colors are common. The neck is long and straight, the shoulders are wide and muscular, and the chest is broad and deep. Both sexes are horned, and the ears can be erect or droopy. The cashmere from the goat’s wool is usually slightly crimped.
Goats are sensitive animals that can suffer from various infectious and chronic diseases that are sometimes undetected until too late. Vaccinations, as well as de-worming and de-lousing applications must be conducted as needed. Milking goats should be checked regularly using prescribed mastitis tests for udder health. Milking areas should always be clean and the goat’s teats treated with teat dip after milking to prevent mastitis.
Goats must be inspected frequently to detect any signs of poor health, infections, or other ailments. Signs include cloudy or teary eyes, dull or fluffed up coat, droopy tail, hunched back, or poor appetite. A veterinarian should always be on call to address health concerns.
Behavior / temperament:
Goats are inherently curious, active, intelligent, and social. They are known to have the ability to overcome enclosures by unraveling the gate, climbing over the mesh, or pushing and ramming the fence down. Goats have good coordination and balance and can manage to climb low trees, ledges, and overhangs. Their curiosity leads them to constantly investigate items with their mouths; most items get chewed and swallowed. With a little patience, goats can be taught to carry or pull loads, respond to calls, and lead a herd. As social animals, they easily get along with other farm animals.
Housing / diet:
As herd animals, goats are best kept in pairs or groups. As grazers, they require an outdoor habitat that is securely fenced to prevent escape or foraging in restricted areas. The area should be large enough to allow the goat to roam. The recommended habitat per goat is 200 sq. ft. of yard or pasture plus a sheltered or indoor area of about 15 sq. ft. The sheltered area should be adequately built to keep the goats safe from rain and strong winds.
Keeping goats inside the house is not recommended because of the pet’s tendency to gnaw and chew on furniture and furnishings. Goats are also not known to adhere to toilet training.
The ideal food for domesticated goats is alfalfa hay and grass hay. This should be available daily in quantities of at least 3% of the goat’s body weight. Small quantities of feed grain and concentrates (often protein-enriched) like goat show or goat grain can also be given to add nutrition. Supplements are often used to address deficiencies inherent to local habitats.
Clean water is essential to a goat’s daily diet. It should always be available and provided where it cannot be soiled. Dirty and moldy water is hazardous to the goat’s health. Milking goats should be kept away from aromatic or strong-tasting foliage like garlic, onions, mint, and cabbage, which could taint the flavor of the milk.
Cashmere producers, great cashmere fiber
Wise and Wily
Blanchette was one of two goats that we acquired, effectively rescuing them from somebody who had rescued them herself but could no longer look after them.
Blanchette jumped out of the back of the vehicle on arrival and looked quite lively.
"What have we done?"
Her age, however, meant that she was not the nightmare that people had assured us she would be.
She destroyed most small trees and plants within her range, but nothing was worth running too far or too fast in her opinion. She escaped multiple times, but could normally be herded back into her enclosure, which was a farly simple wire fence, fortified with logs and branches in places. I say 'fortified', but as I write this I recall that logs also served as steps for her to climb up and over.
The dogs immediately challenged her for the enclosure. She head-butted one of them and the dispute was quickly over. Both dogs decided that they didn't like that part of the garden anyway, but that they might come and splash around in her water when she wasn't looking.
Blanchette used to watch my hands when I locked up the gate behind me. She'd look from my hands, to my eyes and back to my hands, suggesting that she really understood the mechanism of what I was doing, but fortunately she had hooves instead of fingers and thumbs, otherwise she'd have been in the cottage and I'd have ended up in the enclosure for the night.
Bit by bit, she tested and discovered weaknesses in the fence, which then had to be strengthened, but on the whole this seemed like an exercise in exerting her independence ... and sometimes attempting to eat the rose bush.
I was hoping that Blanchette would keep the grass down, but she was not particularly interested in grass at all. I'm afraid I don't recall why that was. Perhaps it was the time of year or simply that goats don't care that much for grass.
At first, I would go out to the field and suggest that she, you know, got up and ate some grass. Now! Eventually, I ended up just sitting down next to her.
"You know, you're right," I'd say. "This view is amazing."
The grass grew up around us, but we could feed her the sharpest, nastiest brambles and they'd disappear in seconds, so that was good.
I don't know much about milk production, quality of meat or fibres. We didn't go there.
An interesting animal to have around, but, yes, do watch out for the destruction of your plant life and other structures, especially if your goat is quite young. And yes, they will escape at some point..
From Deano123 Feb 14 2015 3:38PM
With the split hooves that goats have, it can be a great habit to check their feet. You won't necessarily "pick" them as you would a horse hoof, but you can check for any kind of injury, infection, or object stuck between the hooves. .
From DrHill 690 days ago