Wednesday, October 14, 2015

long, overdue report

I owe you a fiber report, and apologize for the delay. Thank you, readers who inquired and reminded me! I hope you won't regret it when you see how long this post will probably be.

Remember when I sent five bags of 2015 cashmere to the Cashmere Goat Association show in Maine? And then someone offered to personally transport fiber across the border if any of the US exhibitors would care to enter the Canadian National Cashmere Fleece Competition the following month?

I am astonished that I got this group in one frame.
As I mentioned at the time, I'm not very interested in competition for it's own sake; what I was after was "judges' cards." A judge looks at each bag of fiber - there were over 100 entries at the Maine show - and makes quantitative and qualitative assessments. Some relate to the elements that actually define cashmere, such as the length, diameter, and form of individual fibers. Some relate to the productivity of the goat and overall quality of the entire fleece. Since my own fiber-producing experience is very limited, and my judgement is undoubtedly influenced by my feelings about my animals, I value the expert opinion of professionals.

For maximum educational value, I sent fiber from some very different goats. When the cards and fiber came back, the judges' notes were as informative as hoped for, and while some supported my own opinions, others showed me areas that I need to consider in future breeding plans.

And then there were some flat-out surprises, and I think this is the part my readers will find most interesting...

Remember Vinca and Dara? Here they are, during combing season last Spring. Gosh, just looking at this picture makes me tired!

By comparison, here's what they looked like in June:

At the Maine show, in a class of 5 first-year wethers, Dara's fiber won a 4th place ribbon! Aw, Dara! Who's a lovely boyo, then?


And you know Lily's daughter Azalea, right?
Here she is greeting baby Fern back in April:

At the Maine show, in a huge class of 14 first-year does, Azalea's fiber won a 3rd place ribbon! This made me very happy indeed, because I've always had a good feeling about this girl and her cashmere.

And of course you know LeShodu, Herd Matriarch. Here she is, in a photograph taken seconds after the one at the top of this post:

"Yes, that's right. Still The Boss."


I interrupt this Report for a little background on the herd:
I did not breed LeShodu; she was one of two mature does I bought in 2010, hoping to slowly build my cashmere herd from a solid foundation of their genetic input. Both does were producing excellent fiber in great quantity, but their kidding histories were unclear.

LeShodu presented me with two beautiful kids the following Spring, but unfortunately I couldn't seem to get the second doe bred. Even so, if she had been a pleasant, easygoing animal, she'd still be here today: not producing kids, but hopefully making cashmere, and eating her head off every day. But after about a year and a half of my increasing frustration with her attitude, I made the decision to return her to her prior herd.

Which left LeShodu as my sole foundation doe, and every goat on the place is related to her to some degree. It's very tempting to breed her one more time, especially since cashmere quality often declines as an animal ages, but LeShodu is still producing lovely cashmere and lots of it. But I made the decision to retire her from breeding after her 2014 kids, and I'm sticking to it, even though she is looking very well and would undoubtedly be interested in Mr Right Buck.
We now return to our Report:

Since it wasn't my breeding that produced LeShodu, I hope you won't think it's bragging when I tell you that at the show in Maine, in a class of 7 does in her age group, LeShodu took the 1st place ribbon.

LeShodu, Spring 2014

So. Three of my five goats were in the ribbons in Maine. Totally unexpected. Kind of fun! And I must admit, it made the prospect of the Canadian show even more interesting.

I discovered that Dara could not "compete" as a wether in Canada. But his fiber could still be assessed by the judge, which is what I wanted anyway, so I gladly paid his entry fee.

In Canada, Azalea was in another big class: 12 first-year does. And she again won a 3rd-place ribbon! TOTAL BRAG ALERT: I am thrilled to bits about this. Not just because two judges think Azalea is showing real promise as a cashmere producer, but because that's what I think, too. When I looked at the first comb-full of fiber from Azalea back in the Spring, I stopped combing and hugged that little goat. Who turned around on the stanchion and indicated that, while a hug is all very well from time to time, a handful of oats is always welcome.

Azalea standing on tiptoes at the barn door,
supervising the next goat being combed.

And last but never least...LeShodu. 

"You got the second part right."

In a class of 11 does of her age group,
LeShodu's fiber again took the 1st place ribbon.
(Which, by the way, is red in Canada. As in Britain.
Fun fact for the US "blue ribbon" folks.)

And then, as a class winner, LeShodu (in the form of a bag of cashmere) went on to compete against the winners of the other Adult Doe classes.

And she became Champion Senior Doe.

"Surely you're not surprised."

And then...cough, cough... 

she was declared Grand Champion Doe.

There was fiber from about 70 does at this show, and LeShodu took the rosette. I feel awkward writing about this because I'm afraid it must sound very braggy, but I take absolutely zero credit for this goat. I have already congratulated her breeders.

But LeShodu has been at the center of my goatherd-life every day for years now. And even though she could not possibly care less about the color of a ribbon - being far more interested in the color of a carrot - it does makes me smile to think that she entered her first show at the age of eleven, faced significant competition, and was judged to be top doe.

Because I am a sap.