Fun Farm Friends - Goats

What are you looking at Marvin? And who’s that in the background? Oh, left to right, Edgar, Bert and Frith, the “Billy Goat Gruff” family. They’re Norwegians! But what is that sheep doing there? 


In truth, “Billy Goat Gruff” is a 19th century Norwegian folk tale about three Billy Goats trying to avoid getting eaten by an ugly troll. 

This is Ellen Ruth Phillips of Ballwin, Missouri acquainting herself with goats at Grant’s Farm near St. Louis.


Goats are smarter than sheep. Goats are sometimes used to lead a flock of sheep. Note the sheep is standing behind the three goats!, waiting to be led away or protected. Goats are also more stubborn while the sheep are usually gentle. 

Will Cushman, reporting for  “Wisconsin State Farmer,”  has said dairy cattle farms are dwindling in Wisconsin while the goat industry is in an accelerated growth pattern. In fact Wisconsin now dominates the nation’s goat industry, with 83,000 goats in 2017.


Goats produce milk which in turn can be used to produce  milk products, such as butter, cheese and cream. A problem has been that there are only a few goat milk producing plants in Wisconsin and the ones that do exist may not always accept small producers.  As is often the case, the small goat farmers find it hard to compete against the larger ones.


Will Cushman wrote in his article, “Goats are a little more high-maintenance than cows, and getting a high level of performance means really tailoring the diet in some ways even more than cows.”

Pause for a moment, to meet some more Wisconsin goats in the above photo. To start, how many goats do you see in this photo? If you say “two,” Buzzer, wrong! There are three. See if you can find the third one. The “Billy Goat” is named Wilbur, the “Nannie Goat” is Hildegard, and the third is named Humphrey, which means the goat can be a boy or a girl!


Believe it or not, “goatscaping” firms are popping up in US cities. They rent out a group of goats to people who want them to weed fields and their lawns!


But that’s not the end of it. Let’s switch to the subject of cashmere.

Nordic Horn of St. Croix Falls boasts that its is home of the largest herd of red cashmere goats. 


It is astonishing to city folk from the to learn that cashmere, that incredibly soft, long-lasting, warm and luxurious material comes from goats, and only goats, goats referred to as “cashmere goats.” 


These goats are not a breed, but rather a type of goat. That said, goats are bred to produce a lot of especially fine down. 

So you wonder why cashmere is so costly. Take a look at this photo of a goat bred to deliver cashmere. Look at this goat’s skin. There are fine ringlets between the long and shiny, course “guard hairs.” That’s the cashmere, the soft down of the goat. In essence, these goats have a dual coat of hair.

Obtaining the cashmere ringlets from a goat does not require sheering. Someone combs it from the goat to harvest it.


Robert W. Stolz has written, “Cashmere, like wool, takes a great deal of care and preparation before it can be made into men's cashmere overcoats. Cashmere (fiber) comes from the backs of cashmere goats. These agile goats, along with their herders, call home some of the harshest lands on earth. The arid steppes they graze experience extreme temperature swings. Excruciatingly hot days and bitter cold nights are common throughout the year. Daily temperature changes of 20 to 30 degrees (Celsius) are typical. The acute temperature fluctuation lends itself to fine fiber production.”


It’s worth wondering how anyone “way back when” ever discovered these ringlets and then made them into cashmere. Experts have said Marco Polo discovered representations of wild goats in caves in Mongolia, in the Himalaya Mountains. 


Jennie Hogg has written, “The super fine goat hair is said to have first been discovered and used by Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani to make a pair of socks for a Kashmir Sultan in the 14th century. “


What is interesting here is that a tradition for this kind of fiber had already existed in India before the Kashmir Sultan story. As a result, it is hard to pin down exactly when this fiber was discovered. It is amazing that anyone so long ago would be able to discover it and make such terrific use of it. The human genius is remarkable


Then in the 18th century cashmere shawls were being exported from Kashmir, largely to the West. Today much of the hair needed to make cashmere is shipped from Asia to Italy.


These goats come in a variety of colors. Mountain Hollow Farm of Tennessee has said, “The average Cashmere goat produces 4-6 ounces of cashmere per year and it takes about 16 ounces of cashmere to make a sweater. On the other hand, 1 ounce of cashmere will make a very warm and lightweight scarf.” It can take a year for one goat to produce enough cashmere for a scarf.


Others have written the fleece is found in Inner Mongolia, China, Iraq, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan. 


That’s one set of reasons why cashmere is costly.


Now that you are acquainted with goat cashmere, here’s what might be another surprise. 


A business named Lucy’s Handcrafted Goat Milk Soap operates in Wisconsin not far from Mondovi. Julie and Vince bought acreage in 2001 and started building a small family farm. 


Julie says she is the only one in the family who liked goat milk, so she searched for what do to do with the leftovers. She learned how to make goat milk soap in 2005 and is still going.


Came across these gals on a back road northwest of Colfax, Dunn County. 


Consuela, here, really took a liking to me.