The buzz of clippers vibrates through a pole barn as bleating “clients” get gussied up for springtime weather.
This beauty shop is Glen Cauffman’s farm, and his Angora goats are losing their winter coats of long fibers called mohair.
Cauffman, a 10th-generation Perry County farmer and his business partner, Judith Shoemaker, run Pure American Naturals farm.
Cauffman, Shoemaker and their friends spend two days each spring and fall shearing the 120 goats in the herd.
Cauffman manages the goats until they are about 10 years old. The animals finish their lives on Shoemaker’s farm in southern Lancaster County.
Angoras have a long productive life compared to other livestock because they are raised for fiber, not for meat, and can produce mohair long after they are done reproducing.
Shoemaker also manages the farm’s production of hides, skulls and luxury mohair goods such as hats, gloves and socks.
“We use everything but the bleat,” Cauffman said.
High-Quality Hair for High-Quality Yarn
Slowly, Carl Geissinger, the Pennsylvania Farm Show’s 2020 sheep-to-shawl champion shearer, clips the hair from ear to foot.
Shearing a goat is like shearing a sheep, but it takes about 10 minutes — twice the time needed for a sheep.
“It takes longer to shear because they are like a poodle. Lots of loose skin,” Shoemaker said.
Most of Pure American Naturals’ shorn mohair fleeces will go to Green Mountain Spinnery in Putney, Vermont, to make high-quality yarn.
The diameter of mohair strands determines the fiber’s quality. Angora goat hairs average 20-30 microns, but spinning mills prefer finer strands, 20 microns or lower. Young goats produce the finest mohair, worth $15 per pound.
Cauffman prides himself on delivering the best possible fiber on the market mills. Many of Pure American Naturals’ fleeces have a 13- to 14-micron count, Cauffman said.
Genetics and nutrition are vital to producing that quality.
“We breed the best for fine kid mohair,” he said.
Using data collected on each animal during the shearing, Cauffman and Shoemaker breed the goats based on their micron counts.
On the farm’s rough slopes, the Angora herd grazes rotationally for four weeks in 19 paddocks. The goats munch on various forages like sunn hemp, kura clover and cup plant. Each of these varieties is high in protein, which is needed to grow lush locks.
“Hair is a lot of protein,” Cauffman said.