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~~*  Black Sheep Newsletter............Issue 101............Fall 1999  *~~


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THE HOMESTEAD: Breeding, Appraisals of Stock, and the Gathering


September is here, and in the southern Cascade mountains of Oregon that would account for the crisper mornings. The days are still languid and burn hotter than August ever did, and that gives me hope that autumn, lovely autumn, will be with us for a good long time.splash dot!


Our angora goats are signaling that breeding season is fully upon us. We were able to barter with Cornerstone Farm this season (angora goat breeders and friends): our registered white buck, Scion, in trade for the use of their stud buck, Silverado.splash dot!


I've always admired Silverado, the silver/black buck that David and Julie located in San Angelo, Texas, the "angora goat capitol" of the USA. As of this season, Silverado could no longer be used in their breeding program. Our Scion, on the other hand, with his exquisite spinners' fleece (a buck from Coon Hollow's registered herd), would add much sought after qualities to their herd. The barter was accomplished.splash dot!


Breeding Practices

At the Black Sheep Gathering this past June (my favorite time of year!), Dr. Martin Dally gave a lecture in regard to breeding practices. According to him, statistics on file from extensive studies have shown that back breeding son to daughter or mother to son, for instance, would consistently produce an instant "25 percent" reduction in overall size and productivity of stock.splash dot!


In the whirlwind of breeding practices utilized by shepherds today, it is plain to see that some things work and others don't. More often than not there are trade offs between available resources and desired goals. Dr. Dally affirmed that misapplied breeding methods can take a heavy toll on the overall health and richness of a herd.splash dot!


Though we have been very careful with the blood lines of our goat herd, the sheep are another story. We have for the past twenty plus years kept sheep, raising them mainly for meat. I like spinning wool for a change of pace (the ease of spinning wool, even in the grease, never fails to calm my nerves). We keep a dual purpose (meat and fiber) ewe or two for that reason.splash dot!


Last year we did not purchase a new ram for the sheep flock. Instead, the ewes were bred back to their sire. Everything postulated by Dr. Dally could be seen in our sheep fold. Though the next generation seemed healthy enough, it was very obvious that they were a third again smaller in size. Bone structure, minimal and slow weight gain and overall stature were clearly diminished.splash dot!


In our angora goat herd we have never taken any chances. That is not to say we haven't seen some reason to back breed in order to enhance some quality we'd like to see develop in the band. Many of our shepherd acquaintances have done this with a measure of success. But there seems to always be a price to pay. Very often the bad effects of inbreeding lay dormant in a herd, only to suddenly emerge at a much later date.splash dot!


For us the bottom line is FIBER in every color imaginable. To that end, we are utilizing the services of three different bucks this year. The proverb among breeders remains, "Your buck is half your herd." One doe passes on her traits to one or two offspring each year, but a buck will pass his gene pool on to every individual that is born. Choose him carefully and it will pay off in the end.splash dot!


yucky stuff from the field

Madia glomerata

You Often Get What You Pay For

There seems to be a misunderstanding in the minds of many people I have met (over Internet chat circles and in the general community at large) as to the worth of angora goats. Stan and I have had people write to us inquiring as to what it might cost them to begin a herd of their own.splash dot!


We have tried to be patient and explain to those who inquire that there are various factors involved. If you're looking to purchase angora goats to "browse the blackberry brambles" that have overrun a pasture, for instance (and many people BUY goats just for this purpose!), then you might do well to invest in boer goats or boer cross goats. Or you might even take a trek to west Texas and attend one of the many auctions where 2,000 head of sheep and goats run through San Angelo every week.splash dot!


If, however, you are truly focusing all your efforts in purchasing a "handspinning" flock, and quality hand spinning fleeces are your goal – you really have no alternative but to check with breeders of registered angora goats (or colored angora goats), especially bred over years to produce fine fleeces. I know that I am speaking from experience. Stan and I have learned that most often it just does not pay in the end to "cut corners" in the beginning.splash dot!


When colored angora goats first began to arrive on the scene amongst handspinners' flocks (approximately 15 years back), Stan and I were as yet oblivious that the phenomenon was occurring. I salute you, breeders, who had the forethought and insight that long ago to begin your breeding programs. Because of your persistence and tenaciousness, you have enabled many of us at a later time to obtain a quality colored angora goat for far less than it cost you in the long run. You know who you are – I won't name you here. Thank you.splash dot!


We are extremely proud of our flock of goats at the present time. Ten of our young yearling does are so exquisite in the way of color and "type" (resemblance to the registered angora goat in nearly every way), and each were bred this week to our buck of choice. I'm bubbling with excitement as I think of springtime kidding. The color born on this farm should only be rivaled by a rainbow after a summer rain...splash dot!


"But, you can get commercial grade angora goats for .10 cents a pound on the hoof running through auction in west Texas!", someone counters. Yes, it's probably true. The governement subsidy for mohair has been removed . I have five of those "grade" west Texas does in my pen right now. Their fleeces do not have that special crimp that we are looking for and the micron count on those fleeces is the least desirable of our flock. I keep them for breeders. Bred by Scion, an incredible registered buck, their progeny has the kind of fleece I love to utilize.splash dot!


I hope you are getting the picture. Ultimately, in this business, you get what you pay for in the way of obtaining a quality animal with a fleece that will appeal to the fine tuned hands of a handspinner. If you begin to market quality fleeces, your good name will become known. There is a handspinners' market out there. The angora goat breeders I have met fastidiously scrutinize their flocks and cull with a vengeance. In the angora goat world, amongst handspinner flocks, we truly have come a long way – and Stan and I are proud to be a part of the continuing effort to perfect the breed.splash dot!


Honestly Appraise Your Animals

Most breeders carefully examine their herd on a consistent basis. Any animals with traits they don't want to see passed on to future generations are either put into sausage wrappings or sold. I do not mean to insinuate that the buyers are purchasing "inferior" animals. Indeed, the breeders that I am acquainted with sell very high quality animals. However, since new gene pools need to be constantly introduced into flocks, breeders are often on the lookout for "new blood". Older bucks consistently "recirculate" every year. Prime does are sold when the breeder knows the progeny from that doe is well established in the herd.splash dot!


The standards accepted by angora goat judges should be used to assess your stock. I must admit that amongst our herd are goats that would never pass a judge's grueling inspection. A doe with badly shaped horns, an undershot bite or airplane ears that is sporting a fire engine red high lustered fleece stays on the farm - no questions asked.splash dot!


Ultimately, the key seems to be that the shepherd must discover by what is known through science, his own shepherding instincts, the "wild card" of nature, and ultimately, "the purse" what he is looking to achieve in HIS herd and what qualities mean the most to him.splash dot!


some more yucky stuff from the field

Summer Tarweed Crop

Summer Pasture

I never tire of writing about pasturing the goats in the varying seasons. Summer, though, is an exception. Though I love the long excursions through the meadows and up the incline of the back forty mountainside, my zeal is quenched by a summertime dilemma. Tall stands of tar weed infest our fields and I suppose it needs to be eradicated, but to this date it comes back full force every summer. The goat fleeces are quickly coated with the sticky tar like substance the plant exudes.splash dot!


Stan and I began to joke wryly as we gazed at our tar-stained flock. Holding my glasses daintily in hand, I'd pronounce my words a bit hoity-toity: "Hello, sir – I understand you have a spinning flock? Are these THEM?"splash dot!


"Nah," he'd answer. Deez aren't dem, lady. Our spinners' flock is out grazin' right now. Whatcha see here – deez are our bramble eatin' goats. Dey are just our cull goats – we use ‘em to eat da berries down." Indeed, it would have been embarrassing if someone would have seen the soiled fleeces of my special "spinners' flock" in mid July.splash dot!


I was elated when a neighbor called one day and told us that she would love to have our goats in her irrigated and fenced pasture, a five minute walk from the homestead. Within two weeks of their pasturing there, the tarweed stains and nearly every clinging burr has disappeared. A couple of welcomed heavy summer rains seemed to only augment the returning beauty of the fleeces on our goats.splash dot!


The Gathering, June '99

I would be writing amiss if I did not mention the wonderful time I had at the Gathering again this year. The line up of angora goats was exceptional and I did not envy the judge whose duty it was to choose finalists in the various categories. This was another year in which my heart welled with pride as I saw the hard work of various breeders reinforced by ribbons on their goats.splash dot!


While a group of us sat quietly in the bleachers watching the registered angora goats be judged, you could nearly hear a pin drop. Finally, in a grand champion standoff, the judge placed a goat belonging to Magical Menagerie out front. The cute cowgirl who owns and showed the extraordinary animal was elated and in excitement, as the large colored ribbon was placed on the goat's side, she kissed the large buck full on the lips.splash dot!


In the bleachers, three simultaneous comments ensued. I said to someone close to me, "Wow, what a goat!" A photographer whispered, "What a shot I just missed – and I don't have my camera!" Finally, behind me, I heard the familiar voice of my husband. "Good way to get worms." We all see it a little differently perhaps, but our own shepherding perspectives and experiences are often what create a harmonious and unified whole.splash dot!


goats butting heads



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Alexandra Scribe
Homestead Home


Stanley & Alexandra Petrowski
34620 Tiller Trail Hwy.
Tiller, Oregon 97484