I keep a close eye on search terms people use to find my Blog and today found “Cashmere sheepings dont use mulesing”.
I despair. I really do. Never a day goes by without someone from some country in the world landing on my Blog having typed in “Cashmere Sheep” or something similar. How many times does it have to be said, by me and hundreds of others – Cashmere comes from GOATS not sheep!
Cashmere is the undercoat grown for part of the year to keep the animal warm. It moults in the Spring. Only undercoat or down from specifically bred races of goats qualifies to be called cashmere. Fine undercoat must meet strict quality standards or it is only Caprine Fine Fibre or even Cashgora. There is not one race of Cashmere goats. The fibre is grown by many different races and groups of goats found all over the colder regions of the world. The Cashmere goat is a type – not a breed.
Misunderstanding about goats is so common here in the UK. Our tradition of keeping them goes back more than a thousand years but they fell out of favour with farmers and cottagers when breeding made dairy and beef cattle more affordable for even the smallest holdings. Keeping a “house cow” was suddenly the way to out do the neighbours and if you still kept goats you clearly had not made it in the world!
That snobbery and image problem has never gone away. Mention them to a typical farmer and they smirk and clearly don’t think they form part of REAL farming. Mention them to Jo Public and they laugh and say “Oh how do you ever stop them from eating your washing? They eat anything don’t they? And they’re SOOO naughty!”
Well, here are a few goat facts that might make you think differently and I hope, treat these wonderful creatures with the respect they deserve.
Goat is the most widely eaten red meat in the world.
Goats in the UK are kept in units of everything from one pet to 6000 dairy goat units.
Goats are browsers not grazers and will always eat shrubs and bushes in preference to grass. Brambles, gorse and thistles are particular favourites because they are very nutritious. They are incredibly useful in managing difficult habitat.
Goats have naturally short tails which do not require docking. Their horns are important for thermoregulation. Remove them and the goats will lose the ability to regulate their temperature so efficiently. They also cannot communicate as well and will tend to be more vocal.
Goats are incredibly intelligent and have more sense than to “eat anything”. What some people interpret as eating is often mouthing – exploring things with their mouths in the same way as a toddler will. Goats who truly eat unusual things may be suffering from mineral deficiencies.
Goats that escape constantly are usually doing so because they are seriously bored. Well kept animals with sufficient stimulation for their level of intelligence will not escape. There is no need to! Goats can indeed open gates, jump 6 ft from a standing start and every other story you may have heard but they won’t if looked after correctly. If a goat escapes it’s the owner’s fault – not the goat’s!
Goats are NOT sheep! It’s surprising how many vets and goat keepers have not realised this. In many ways, they are closer to cattle in matters dietary and veterinary.
Goats are the supreme flock animal. A goat on its own is miserable. Breeds vary widely but some, like my Cashmeres, will not be happy unless kept in quite big groups.
Goats have a VERY strong social structure and can suffer great upset and distress if that’s disturbed unnecessarily. They recognise each other very well even in big groups and can remain closely bonded to their mothers for life.
I could go on all day but I hope you get the picture. Goats are serious farm animals which in most parts of the world (including mainland Europe) are treated with the respect and dignity afforded to other farm animals. Only here in the UK are they regularly laughed at. Time for the goats of the UK to get militant I think!!