Cashmere is the goat's warm undercoat. It keeps the goat warm in the winter and sheds in the Spring. Actually, almost all goats have some cashmere, but Cashmere goats, originating in the high Himalayas, have lots of it.
The fiber is super fine which gives it its warmth. It is super soft as well. It is luscious.
Here, at Cloud Valley Cashmere Farm, we are in a high dry mountain valley south of Westcliffe, Colorado. We have a long and often windy winter with generally mild days, but cold nights. The goats here on the farm keep their winter coats until mid April.
There are two ways to harvest the cashmere from the goats, shearing and combing. Large production farms usually shear the goats. Shearing doesn't depend on timing the goats' shed and it allows for the job to be done all at once, shearing day.
At Cloud Valley Farm we comb the goats. It's pretty much fun to spend combing time with all the silly goats, but mostly it is the more economical way to begin processing the fiber. Mainly only cashmere fibers come out with the comb while shearing includes all the fiber, including the guard hairs, the thicker outer coat fibers.
We just prepare a little goat snack, load up the stanchion with a hungry fluffy goat and start combing.
This is Raj, he always gives us a nice bag of cashmere about tax day, mid April.
This is the cashmere straight off the goat. You can see it's full of dirt, stickers and little pieces of hay. It also includes a few "guard hairs", those are the thicker outer hairs. Next it goes to the fiber mill for cleaning and "dehairing".
At the mill the fiber is "scoured" which is actually a really gentle cleaning. Then it is sent through machinery that separates the fibers and allows the bad stuff to fall out. Only the clean and soft cloud of pure cashmere comes back from the mill. Luscious!