For the Love of Goats
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Angora goats are not just cute. They also produce mohair, which is an exquisite fiber used in clothing, tapestries, and rugs. In this episode, Chris McLaughlin of Laughing Crow & Co Flower and Fiber Farm talks about her angora goats. Since she also raises Nigerian dwarf dairy goats, she explains how the angoras have different needs and personalities. She also shares her secrets on how they can co-exist with her flower farm.
Chris is the author of several books, including …
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Deborah Niemann 0:18
Hello everyone and welcome to today’s episode, which is sponsored by GoatsGivingBirth.com, an online course to help you survive kidding season without losing your mind. I am so excited today to have Chris McLaughlin with me because we’re going to talk about so much fun stuff. And the episode is about angora goats. Broadly, we’re going to talk all about angoras, but Chris is also a flower farmer. So we’re going to get to talk about some really fun stuff with flowers, too, and how the goats and the flowers all complement each other because it does sound like a recipe for disaster. But it doesn’t have to be. So, without babbling on any more. Welcome, Chris.
Chris McLaughlin 1:02
Hi, Deborah. Thanks for having me.
Deborah Niemann 1:05
I am so glad to have you here. Chris is also the author of a bunch of books, which I’m sure we will be mentioning throughout the podcast, because they’re going to fit in just perfectly you know, like she wrote a book about poop of all things. So we’re gonna talk about that too, because goats have the best poop in the world if you’re a gardener. So let’s kind of start at the beginning. Tell us a little bit about your story. Like when did you get angora goats and why did you get angora goats?
Chris McLaughlin 1:32
Well, the first thing I had, as far as fiber is I had angora rabbits. And at that time, I wasn’t actually using the fiber. I really didn’t know how to spin. But I would when I sheared the rabbits I would give it away to people and things like that I was actually showing the rabbits. And then what ended up happening was I slowly started moving away from the rabbits and my, we made a big move. And came that point we were not at our farm we kind of have gone from farm to farm and then you know, suburban home and then farm so it’s kind of was like that.
Chris McLaughlin 2:09
And when we move back out to our farm, my daughter for Christmas, found a rescue place that had some goats that had been displaced. So they were angora goats. And I went there. She said, “Mom, I want to give this to you for Christmas”. I was all for it. And we went there and all of them have been taken but one. And so of course I don’t really like to do that with goats. We had already had, we had a couple of Nigerian dwarfs at our house. So we thought we’d bring a couple of angoras and it turned out there was only one. So we brought her home, that’s Betty White.
Chris McLaughlin 2:42
We still have Betty White to this day. Yeah, and she’s getting up in age and actually we’re a little concerned that she’s getting pretty old but…but she, always just the shyest thing and everything but wonderful fiber. And it just really got me really to understand how different fibers are, I mean, going from angora rabbit to angora goat. And I want to explain the difference between that — those two words. Both of them are originally from, Turkey Ankara, that sort of thing, which is where they get the term angora but angora goats do not produce angora, they produce mohair.
Chris McLaughlin 3:24
So, yeah, the mohair fiber is very different from angora rabbit. It’s even different from sheep and alpacas and all those things. It’s super different sort of fiber. And so that got me kind of excited, and I happen to know a guy. Oh my goodness, he was like the gateway drug. It was like the minute I opened my mouth. Oh my gosh, and that’s Allen Mesick at Eureka Mohair Farm. He is a rabbit judge, which I had known for many years. What I didn’t know is he raised angora goats, and that was like one of his big loves, and I did not know that at the time.
Chris McLaughlin 4:00
But the second day I opened my mouth and said I had this goat. He’s like, toss some goats at me. Oh, you gotta check this one out. You got it. And all of a sudden, I’m raising angora goats. So, yeah, it was like there it was and, they’re wonderful as you know, you know, goats. For me, they’re so personable. I find them so curious. We like that at our house. Some people really prefer and I’m not saying they’re not low key. These are actually the angora goats are kind of the low key goats. I think of the goat world. They don’t test fences all that much unless they’re in rut. Is there at rut like, forget it, all bets are off. But other than that, they really respect the fences. I mean, there really has to be sort of a gap for them to go huh .
Chris McLaughlin 4:48
And, my Nigerian dwarfs, could actually use, power tools right? They put things together. I mean, they could get out of anything. It was super funny and we still loved the Nigerians. Doesn’t matter. But we feel these guys were a little more laid back. And they’re very friendly. But at the same time, they maintain that same curiosity that we love in goat so much. We like that huh, we like to be doing things around our farm. And they’re sick in their head, and they’re wondering what we’re doing.
Chris McLaughlin 5:18
To us, it’s like, that’s what helps make them part of our family. So it’s something we enjoy. But these guys, they’re the highest fiber producers in the world. So they need to be shorn every six months, you could go a little longer, if you want a longer staple length, you can do that. But, these guys produce an inch of fiber a month. And so what happens is maybe if you’re in an area that has, you know, high humidity, you might get a little more matting a little bit quicker. So those people that live in high humidity areas, in general, we’ll make sure that every six months, they’re shorn, because much after that, they start to get kind of matted and stuff just because of the atmosphere.
Chris McLaughlin 6:03
But they, oh my goodness, they produce so much fiber, it’s just absolutely amazing. And we couldn’t believe even a small number of goats how much we got off of them in every six months. You’re getting these giant fleeces. And so, we just really quickly fell in love with that aspect, too. We always had enough for selling or using to make it a yarn or, whatever we were doing. Some people felt, which that doesn’t felt all that well. So we add a little bit of sheep’s wool, but then it’s like, wonderful. So anyway, we just, we enjoy, their luxury fiber, which is so brilliant. And, it’s very soft and shiny, which is wonderful to add to almost any other fiber, it’s gonna give that luster to it. Add a little thing.
Chris McLaughlin 6:55
And, we love their little dog-like personalities. There is…they’re not big goats. I mean, they look, when someone sees a photo of them in full coat, they look like they’re kind of, kind of on the bigger side, like maybe like a big dairy goat. They’re really not. When I shear my does, for instance, they are probably, I kid you not, maybe two inches. Maybe taller than my Nigerian dwarfs which are not big animals. That said, there are different lines just like anybody else. Some people have much taller ones. And some people have very, very small ones. It’s just the line of them, but they’re, they’re easy to handle for everybody. I mean, so that’s a nice thing, too. That was what they really like.
Deborah Niemann 7:42
So other than what you mentioned, is there…because I was curious about the difference between them. And Nigerians, do you think they’re as hardy as Nigerians or because I’ve heard some people say that , angoras are very delicate animals. And I just kind of wondered if they’re comparing them to sheep, or…
Chris McLaughlin 8:00
Oh, this is so interesting. Okay, so I got two things to say about this. What is that? That, you know, it’s interesting, as far as goats go, I haven’t had every goat in the world clearly. But I would say they are the most delicate. But that said, where I am in Northern California, and people in Texas, place that’s dry. Places like that. They just have a, you’re the worm person, right?
Deborah Niemann 8:30
Chris McLaughlin 8:32
I know. But I will tell you that across the country, I see much more problems with worms and those very wet regions and things like that. So they become more susceptible. Of course, you’re shearing them and then they get cold. And they really do have to have a lot of, just protection around them. But they are a little more delicate. But I wouldn’t say they dropped like flies. I mean, you know, already thing. It’s certainly not where I live, where I lived very hardy that they’re not any less hardy than my Nigerians. But I think it’s because of where I live. I don’t think that that’s across the board.
Chris McLaughlin 9:07
The other thing is so interesting. I have heard people say, and I don’t know if they just don’t raise goats, or maybe they haven’t had as much goat experience, or they’ve had sheep experience. I’m not sure. But maybe it’s just different visions. And I mentioned in my book, and I hope I’m not 100% wrong. But I find that the kids are much, you know, if something’s orphaned, and you have to bottle feed and things like that. I have found that the kids are way hardier than sheep. Now, I think that depends on the breed of sheep, for sure.
Chris McLaughlin 9:44
But because I belong to the sheep pages and all this. I see so many more people having trouble with keeping these lambs alive, and certainly when I was bottle feeding lambs, I had the same problems. They did survive, but it was really touch and go. They were orphaned, their mom didn’t want them. And she kept rolling into the dirt, and they got navel ill and I was like, whatever. Right. But they were fine. But with the baby goats, I mean, my gosh, I feel like I mean, as long as they get that colostrum, I tell you what, you throw anything. Give them a bottle. I mean, they’re good. I mean, it’s like, so I find that the orphan kids and stuff, they seem hardier to me than the lambs.
Chris McLaughlin 10:31
But I’m not sure if that’s because I could be comparing that to, specific breeds of sheep. I think some are definitely hardier. Obviously, some of the more primitive sheep are going to be hardier, then, then maybe some of our fancy shmancy ones. So, I don’t really know. So that’s very interesting. But I would say as far as goats go, these guys are the most delicate, but it doesn’t make me afraid because I know so many people who raise them. And sure some people struggle with the worm situation, many don’t. But you do have to keep their hooves trimmed. Remember, their fiber is the same thing their hooves are right.
Chris McLaughlin 11:07
So my Nigerians, oh my gosh, they’re running around, they’re on rocks…are doing their thing. They keep their hooves. So we trim them but not nearly like with these guys, we do every couple of months, we trim their hooves, because that fibers growing at an inch a month, that’s what’s happening to their hooves. And so what I have found is that, in the wet months, I like to make sure those hooves are nice and flat, trying not to get that soil to come up and, get inside a curled hoof. And it’s, so they don’t get hoof rot. If that happens to be the bacteria in your soil, you know, whatever. Not everybody will get that. But I mean, I tried to make it to where it’s nice and open, and, as much as I can, so. So that’s another thing there.
Chris McLaughlin 11:56
I think, other than really like people thinking they’re delicate, I think that they’re just they’re divas, I think they’re just, they really are a little more work, I mean even have to be fed a higher protein level, because of, these guys, their body says 100% of the time “we must produce, we must produce”.
Deborah Niemann 12:17
Chris McLaughlin 12:18
It does not care if they’re pregnant. It does not care, if the animal starts losing weight and becomes a rail, that fiber will be produced. And it will be at the cost of the animal. So we do make sure that they are fed very well, high protein, things like that. Whereas I have seen some awesome sheep that people are able to just take and put them out in pasture somewhere moving from place to place. And they do fibers like, it’s crazy, they’re just totally full and filled up.
Chris McLaughlin 12:47
I kind of feel like, I don’t know if that would happen with the angora goats, maybe unless you had hundreds of acres or something, I suppose. But I do feel like they do need a little help from people to keep that, to be healthy, and where they should be in body weight on top of producing that fiber. I think that they are, obviously more hands on, you’re shearing twice a year, you’re trimming hooves two to three times, like, every two to three months, you’re trimming their hooves, depending on what’s growing, you know?
Chris McLaughlin 12:18
So and then you have to, so I don’t shear for the springtime, I don’t shear ’til March, but many kids are born in February. So what we’ll do is we’ll crutch them. So we’ll shear just the lady bits. And so it’s a nice clean birth, we can see what’s going on, and also so that the babies could get to the teats. Because many times what they’ll do is they’ll find a long, strap. And they’ll suck on that. They think like, here I am. It’s like, Oh my gosh, now, so we make sure that udder is nice and clean and that teats are right there, but then we leave that if we’re leaving the fleece on until it’s a little longer, we can leave the good parts on it. Just give them a little crutching.
Deborah Niemann 13:20
Chris McLaughlin 13:45
You know, a little, lady trim, there.
Deborah Niemann 14:09
Chris McLaughlin 14:11
By the way, I also do a man trim because not all of my guys do this, but some of them are very heavy with the fiber at their bellies. And by their pizzle and they can, what happens is when they pee, then it becomes very wet right there on their stomach. And then we’ll get pizzle rot.
Deborah Niemann 14:32
Chris McLaughlin 14:34
Yeah, it’s kind of gross. So what we do is in between shearings, we go in and we just…I put him up on the stand and when I’m doing their toenail, their hooves. Okay, their toenail. I just, we give a little trim around their pizzles and stuff just to make sure that doesn’t happen. So you could kind of see how you’re going to handle these goats. Maybe more than you would a different goat. Certainly not anymore , than you would a dairy breed, because dairy breeds, you’re always handling because you’re milking.
Deborah Niemann 15:04
Chris McLaughlin 15:04
Angoras very hands on, but there’s a lot of goats, obviously that don’t need that kind of hands on, so they do you know, and then when their little fur locks get really long and we’re not ready to shear yet, some people will shear that off. I go out there with a rubber band, you know, ponytail holder, and I just give ponytails and they got like these band buns going on. It’s pretty great.
Deborah Niemann 15:28
Oh , thats cute
Chris McLaughlin 15:28
Yeah, cuz we call that mohair blind. When they get mohair blind, we do that.
Deborah Niemann 15:33
Chris McLaughlin 15:34
Yeah. Pretty cute.
Deborah Niemann 15:36
So I have a quick question about the bucks because most bucks have a very nasty habit of peeing on their faces and peeing on their front legs.
Chris McLaughlin 15:48
Yeah, that beautiful perfume.
Deborah Niemann 15:52
Do Angoras do that?
Chris McLaughlin 15:54
You know what, they do. But here’s the cool thing. I love this about angoras. They come into rut like end of September beginning of October something, you know, around there. So in the fall, and then, they say they’re about through January. And then they come out of rut. So our goats instead of like, we had some dairy goats next to us at our other house. And, when I had dairy goats, I only had those. So I didn’t have a buck of my property. So I didn’t get to really, really, you know, experiences.
Chris McLaughlin 16:31
This guy, he was literally smelly. All year round, all year round. He had pee on him all year round. And he was a friendly, subtle thing, which was sad, but, he just so much hair and you’re trying to scratch his little head and you’re trying to Oh, you know, but this guy so once I shear my bucks, which actually I wethered them. They’re in for a big surprise.
Chris McLaughlin 16:56
So once I shear them, this time for the spring, this will be a pretty bucky coat, and that whole front end, I won’t even…I won’t mess with that. Even the sides and stuff, which is what we’d really keep. It will still smell slightly bucky. But it does wash out. I mean, that part, I don’t do the urine soak. So I’m not even testing that. No. But the next coat they get, the next one, they’re going to grow for State Fair, when I want to show in July. So they’re going to grow from March till July. They will not pee on themselves at all. They will be just like a doe. So, it is a whole beautiful season there where your bucks don’t smell at all. So it’s just during the rut for these guys. So that’s kind of different than some of the other breeds.
Deborah Niemann 17:42
Yeah, that’s good. Because the fibers, the important thing, and it would be terrible if you were just always shearing them and throwing it away.
Chris McLaughlin 17:51
Yes. So let’s talk about wethers and the coolness of wethers.
Deborah Niemann 17:55
Chris McLaughlin 17:56
So yes, people Okay, so funny. Okay, I hear people say like, there’s not a wether market. I mean, I’m sorry, a buck market, because of course, a buck can cover a lot of does. So when you have a lot of baby bucks, and it’s like, a lot of people will sell them for meat or whatever, which is, I mean, that’s certainly fine. But that’s really not necessary. If, when people get these bucks, if they wether them, and (a.) they will never pee on their coat again, that’s never going to happen. And, (b.) when you wether them, their fiber remains finer than a bucks ever will.
Chris McLaughlin 18:34
Because, yeah, the testosterone of the buck really makes that fiber coarse. And it’s just kind of what they do, it just, they’ll thicker and everything, it’s so soft, it’s just thick. And so which won’t do if coarse. And so these guys just mature and as they turned into older bucks, it gets even, like, their curls start to get a little straighter and all that. When you keep a wether their fiber never changes, they’re never going to get pregnant, they’ve never have hormones for that. They’re never going to make anything pregnant. So there’s no hormones for that. They just remain a fiber producer forever of this gorgeous fiber.
Chris McLaughlin 19:16
So it’s like really cool and because they lose that reel? Oh, I have to breed everything that I see in front of me. They lose all of that. They are really great ambassadors of the breed. I mean, you can, hook them up to carts and teach them to pull carts. They can be in parades. They’re docile for children and stuff to pet and get to know so when you’re taking them out in public, they’re really…they got this gorgeous fiber. They’re not acting all masculine. Sorry, all masculine men out there. We do like you but, I mean, there’s some things that go along with having testicles. I mean, there’s just things you know.
Deborah Niemann 19:57
Right, especially for goats. I’m so glad I’m not really as much as I love them.
Chris McLaughlin 20:02
I know, and it’s like, so I just feel sort of like, you never have to worry too, about getting into the pen with that. When they’re in rut, do not turn your back. And I try, I tell everybody this because, I’ve had people tell me, “Oh, I have like this two year old and, he’s just my buddy, and he’s like…”. I go, “Don’t turn your back.” Because as they get older, they just become more male, especially if they’ve bred something, they know exactly what this was to do. And, they can put you on the ground. They’re not huge animals, but they can do some damage.
Chris McLaughlin 20:43
And so, we always say, just stay out of the buck pen when everybody’s in rut. And you’ll be fine. Or at least watch your back. I’d back up. I go in there with them sometimes, but I back up and walk around just to make sure somebody doesn’t think, “Oh, she’s threatening my authority here”. But with a wether you would never have to do that. So I try to encourage people, if they’re going to start a fiber farm, or they want to test that out, even in the case of sheep, it would work the same way. You know, if you had instead of a ram you have a wether you’re going to have a different experience.
Chris McLaughlin 21:24
And sheep, rabbits, alpacas, goats, all these guys that produce fiber, they always produce fiber, with like your dairy breeds, you’re looking for something that’s going to stay in milk and everything. You don’t have to breed with fiber animals for anything, because our fiber just as produce on its own. So I always like to remind people, you don’t have to breed things to be a fiber farmer. You can have, a couple of goats and, you know, angora goats. And they know you’re producing but you’re not necessarily having the other stuff that goes with it if you don’t want to.
Deborah Niemann 22:03
Right. So when you first got Betty White, your first angora, did you put her with your Nigerians? And if yes, how did she do with that?
Chris McLaughlin 22:12
At first I didn’t because I was concerned, she has horns, we do not dehorn our angoras. We feel as a whole as a group. Now, some people disagree and I totally get it because whatever your experience has been. But what we found it as you know, there’s blood running through those, those horns. If you cut one of those big horns off, you’re gonna, you have like, it looks like a mass murderer has been hanging out.
Deborah Niemann 22:41
Chris McLaughlin 22:41
And it’s a bloody massacre out there. And so what happens is with these angoras are carrying all this fiber and they get very hot. And in our opinion, the blood flowing through those horns is catching that wind, and it’s helping cool the blood. So we help that is a control for temperature for these animals. So when you look at the standard of perfection for angora goats, they always should have their horns, you can’t show them without their horns or anything because they need to be complete, how they were meant to be.
Chris McLaughlin 23:14
And so I thought to myself, well, my Nigerians had been disbudded as babies. And I thought, well, she’s just gonna hurt them. She’s just gonna, butt them, they’re gonna get hurt and all that. Well, I separated them on either side of the fence. And, I knew better than this because that poor goat, their whole mentality is I am safe or I’m in hurt. That’s how they acquire their security. And I’m saying, “No, you’re gonna live over here in this pen by yourself”. And she couldn’t stand it. She just cleared the fence. And I woke up the next morning, she’s in there with the niges. And do you know those niges have bossed her around? Like, I’m not kidding you. Dude, those nige’s – they will head bashed the boys with no horns.
Chris McLaughlin 24:08
I’m like, What? What are you doing? I can’t believe it. It’s like you guys, you got a little man’s complex going on. But honestly…
Deborah Niemann 24:16
Chris McLaughlin 24:17
No, she was fine. She is my herd queen. She will put everybody in their place if they’re acting up. But she’s just not, she’s not an aggressive goat. So of course, she doesn’t actually hurt anybody. But she will lower her head and go “Hey, over there”, you know? But the Nigerians…No, no, they were the boss. And so I never had to worry. I mean, I know that’s been a lot of people’s experiences, certainly not everybody’s. So you have to be careful of that, and make sure that that’ll work for you. But all the angora people I know, the majority of them have had other goat breeds and they did absolutely fine together. So you know, even though there are other goats that have horns, so worked out fine. Yeah.
Deborah Niemann 25:02
Yeah, I was thinking about that since you were saying that they seem to be more mellow.
Chris McLaughlin 25:06
Deborah Niemann 25:08
Because I know in the beginning for me, I got a couple of pygoras, which I only had for three months because I literally thought they were gonna kill my Nigerians.
Chris McLaughlin 25:16
Deborah Niemann 25:18
Because they were so horrible. They were just terrible. They were very aggressive. It’s like, they were the perfect example of they have horns and they know it.
Chris McLaughlin 25:28
Yes, yes. Well, and and I’ll tell you what, I will tell you. My bucks. No, they have it. Now I had up until a couple weeks ago, I had oh my gosh, six bucks in the same pen, I mean, pasture. I had six of them together. And believe me, they knew how to use them. Like they would turn their head sideways, and go pick it out of the way to the other one. I’m like, “Whoa, you actually poked him?”. I mean, like you did what you know. So they do know, they just, you know, without being in rut, though. Or even when you’re talking about the does and stuff. They just don’t really have a lot of aggression with them. They just really calm.
Chris McLaughlin 26:09
But, when you talk about pygoras, remember that’s an angora goat mixed with a pygmy. Which is, so it’s like a nigora, where you’re going to mix a nigerian with angora, they’re going to have potentially the same attitude, obviously, depending on what comes out. But, they might probably really knew what they were, you know what they were about? They were probably, if they knew, they could bully them around. Oh, my goodness.
Deborah Niemann 26:34
Chris McLaughlin 26:35
That’s kind of crazy.
Deborah Niemann 26:37
So another thing I’m curious about, because this seems like it could be potentially challenging. Again, way back in the beginning, when I didn’t know any better I was feeding my goats on the ground until I learned that that was really contributing to their parasite problems. I was just throwing a flake of hay on the ground. So I got hay feeders, and I put them in the hay feeders. And I thought, that’s how my sheep should be fed to. Well, that completely ruined the sheep’s fleeces that year. So this seems like a difficult thing to balance because you have goats, that have less parasite resistance than the sheep do. So you really shouldn’t be feed them on the ground, but the hay feeder.
Chris McLaughlin 26:53
I know. Yeah, you know what, I have… Okay, I don’t have real hay feeders. For one, I’m in California. Do these things are like $900? You know, like, what? So then, we kind of just put like these tubs on the ground, and we put the hay in the tubs. But what I do is, we lined them up on the fence, and then I just kind of trick up my walk over to one spot, I stick it in the tub, and I just kind of sneak it over the fence and put it down into the tub. And, once in a while, though, for one, the goats will drag it over the other goats. That happens.
Deborah Niemann 28:00
Chris McLaughlin 28:00
Yeah. And then also on occasion, you don’t get it down there fast enough. And somebody jumps under you. And you’re like, Ah, you know, maybe it’s very frustrating. But I know other people who have done the regular hay feeders, and then they’ll put like, boards, like, what am I thinking like the flat oh my gosh, it’s like gone out of my head. But it’s just the flat boards are put flat sheets of plywood or something, in the spot where the hay would be loose up at the top. So it’s just like a little square at the bottom where they pull the hay out.
Deborah Niemann 28:36
Chris McLaughlin 28:36
So it’s not it’s not falling on their fleece.
Deborah Niemann 28:39
Chris McLaughlin 28:39
While they’re doing. So, I mean, I think everyone does it differently. And I feed pelleted feed also, one time a day, I don’t have to worry about that. But the other time of day I do. So but yeah, I’m not gonna lie to you, we tend to, we’re not as careful as we should be. We don’t have a huge flock, so, people with who have, 100 of these guys or something or even 40 that’s a lot of goats, I mean, and I could see a lot of hay being everywhere. And I just think that that’s harder but, we do have to sometimes I’m doing a lot of VM picking, you know, when I before I send it off to the mill, I do have to, what I always hope is when a goat gets under that it does that.
Chris McLaughlin 29:26
I always like it’s so funny. I literally say it my head. Okay, I’ve got two more months before I assure you that’ll probably fall out. Oh, you know, and we also go in there sometimes, we do this before shows too. We grab their sides, with our hands, and we shuuug…shuuug…shuuug…really hard so all of this stuff goes flying everywhere. So a lot, of the VM will come out like that if you do that or use a blower. You don’t want to use something to, you don’t want to make it towards blowing the locks out. But if you use even a reverse the shaft back.
Deborah Niemann 29:59
Chris McLaughlin 30:00
You could blow blow blow a little bit until, most of it out and then shear. Of course, the part you’re not going to get is the ringlets. If the VM went inside, the hay went inside those ringlets and they grew around it. Well, that’s something you’re going to pick out after it’s shorn. I mean, then you’re kind of just out of luck on that one. But it’s a little different in a sheep in that, I’ve never tried to blow out a sheep, but I’m picturing it thinking, I don’t know how you would do that. Because they’re kind of like, a dense slate. Whereas these guys, locks, these guys full in lock, they can’t be dense, but they also kind of have locks you could pick up and blow out under there.
Deborah Niemann 30:47
Yeah, and she had lanolin, which makes the VM stick in there. So I don’t really think that I would work with sheep either. But when we had llamas, when they would come to shear the llamas, they would use a shaft back that was reversed, and they would blow them out. And it was mind blowing. How much dust and everything came flying out of their coat?
Chris McLaughlin 31:14
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You know, what’s really funny is to blow dry an angora rabbit. Blow them out. There’s all this white dander. It’s just on their skin. And sometimes you can see it like, such as you could see it if you pat it, but sometimes you just don’t really notice it. And then you blow it with this, and all this white stuff is flying. It’s all over you. It’s all over your walls. It’s all over. I mean, it’s like, it’s so crazy. Yeah. So, but yeah, you know, it’s, it is a trick with the Hey, I you know, but as you know, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t trade that they’ve got to have the forage, like I won’t feed. I won’t feed them fully pelleted feed, it’s just not good for the ruminants and stuff.
Deborah Niemann 31:58
Chris McLaughlin 31:59
So I have to give them the forage and we’re not perfect at it. But you know, but we try real hard to, kind of be tricky about getting it down in there. Before they they brought all over, you know, jumping all over.
Deborah Niemann 32:11
Chris McLaughlin 32:11
Deborah Niemann 32:12
Because if you’re kind of wondering if you’re listening this and kind of wondering exactly what we’re talking about. So what happened with my sheep, when I switched to the hay feeders, because the you know, the hay feeders are like up at head height. And so a sheep grabs a mouth full of hay, and then they turn their head while they’re chewing. And all of this hay starts falling into the coat of the sheep standing next to them.
Chris McLaughlin 32:34
Chris McLaughlin 32:36
Yep. And this is why I prefer it low to the ground too even if I’ve got feeders, I would get those super short ones that are almost to the ground, and I do the plywood sheets in there, like I said, so they can only pull it out from the bottom.
Deborah Niemann 32:50
Chris McLaughlin 32:51
You know, and it would just keep it just a little bit, low key with the, with the VM flying around.
Deborah Niemann 32:58
Chris McLaughlin 32:59
And VM is short for vegetable matter of if people aren’t sure.
Deborah Niemann 33:03
Chris McLaughlin 33:04
And when I say VM.
Deborah Niemann 33:05
Yeah, thank you for having that out.
Chris McLaughlin 33:07
Deborah Niemann 33:08
So as you mentioned, they are producing 365 days a year. So, do you give them grain?
Chris McLaughlin 33:17
I do not grain. No, I never, I never grain. I really, like, the only time I, I can’t say I never grain. The only time I would grain, is like, we would get something. You know, like, say we’re shearing, a love to have stuff in there.
Deborah Niemann 33:34
Chris McLaughlin 33:34
We put a little grain on the shearing stand, you know, and so we’ll put that in there. And we just feel like it’s a little reward. But to be honest, when it comes to males, I’d very knee-jerk with that I, you know, I’ve only one time experienced, animals having the urinary calculi. And that was a horrible experience. In fact, I almost passed out as the vet, clipped off the tip of his pizzle. And I I literally, I was holding him for her like, “Oh, yeah, I can handle this. I’m a father”. And I literally started falling sideways. I thought I was gonna pass out I could just look at you and Chris, you can lay down Oh, no, no, I’m fine. She’s looking to go. No, you’re really not, you know, but it was just was totally fine after that, but, but it’s just that I worry about that.
Chris McLaughlin 34:26
I worry about, you know, what’s really funny when she came in and checked on the goats. And that wasn’t by the way, particularly from grain itself, but it was from pure alfalfa. And here in California, pure alfalfa. This kind of a long story, but it, we just, it can cause stones and animals and things like that. So we were told at one time, so was that Oh, yeah, I do it all the time. And so I did it just because I had these kids that I thought would enjoy it. And I gave it to them and you know, there was only the one that got the urinary calculi. But she happened to notice that my other ones were kind of laying around. I mean, they’re on their side, on their side, they were external. But, you know, still, she wouldn’t felt their feet. They were hot. I mean, like, seriously, this was founder time, you know, I mean, stuff was gonna go down.
Chris McLaughlin 35:15
So the grains to me, I don’t feel like they’re appropriate, especially where I live. If I lived in Nebraska, I mean, where you know, you got mamas that are milking their babies is that I may look at this very differently. But I am in California, we do get a little snow, we do get freezes. But mostly, I feed a 80/20. So it’s a 80% orchard grass and 20% alfalfa, they get a little bit. And then I give them a pelleted feed, that’s an orchard. And of course, they get minerals and all that. And they do great. I never, you know, Oh, I know what I do. Sometimes to fatten them up, I give them calf-manna and with their pelleted feed, which fattens them up and oh my goodness brings on the milk, brings on the milk.
Chris McLaughlin 36:00
And I did that with my rabbits same thing. So, and that’s just my own unscientific, by the way, no science over here, but just that we’ve all talked about it and every one of us who’ve done the calf-manna, it really puts weight on, it produces, helps him I guess produce more milk. But I felt that that has always been completely enough for my guys, you know. So like I said, if I was at a different area of super cold or something, I don’t want to say don’t give them grain. But I worry about the boys. They’re the ones who get the urinary calculi for the most part. I think girls can’t get it. But I think it’s the boys we have to worry about. So I just, I get so freaked out by that. That, you know, I would almost rather overfeed them the other stuff than give them any kind of grain.
Chris McLaughlin 36:02
So when you say pelleted feed to me, it’s just hay pellets?
Chris McLaughlin 36:49
It is. It’s just orchard hay pellets. And I’ll mix up some calf-manna pellets in that. And then I’ll also put black oil sunflower seeds of that. And it has a high in Selenium. And where we are in our county, we’re very low in Selenium. Like really low. So like, when our babies are born? I didn’t do, I haven’t done this every time, that would be a lie. But mostly, they get a shot of BoSe, which is if no one knows what that is, it’s selenium. And I give them a shot every time, just just you know, just to get them going. Cuz you know, I just, we worry about it. Because that’s the issue we’ll have when we start to see an animal doing poorly as a newborn. We go “Oh, yeah,yeah, yeah”. They’re like a week old and you’ll start to see it. So anyway, so I do that. But other than that, no real grain, no cracked corn or, you know, anything like that. I have done rolled, you know, rolled oats before a little tiny bit in the beginning when I first had the goats, but I guess I didn’t feel like it was really necessary after I started doing everything else.
Deborah Niemann 37:59
Chris McLaughlin 38:00
I think, we know a lot of people do.
Deborah Niemann 38:01
Yeah, I think a lot of us try, when we’re new. We try a ton of different things. And then and you feel like, that doesn’t really make a difference.
Chris McLaughlin 38:10
Yeah. And that’s why it’s really hard too to say like, I wouldn’t want anyone to walk away from this to say like, “Oh, I heard this podcast never give your goats grain”. That’s not it. I mean, not at all. It’s just that my goats don’t need it. And because if they are overloaded, they can founder or they could get urinary calculi, I think, well, if they don’t need it, then why am I seeing how much they can, you know, they should have before that happens to them. But I know plenty of people who do it totally successfully. And it’s awesome for them. You know, but I’m kind of like, I’m kind of like if it’s not broken, I don’t fix it.
Deborah Niemann 38:46
Yeah, exactly. So now I want to talk about what comes out the other end.
Chris McLaughlin 38:54
Deborah Niemann 38:56
I know. And I know, this is really a fun thing for you. Because one of the books you wrote was on composting.
Chris McLaughlin 39:03
Yes. That was my first book many many years ago.
Deborah Niemann 39:06
Chris McLaughlin 39:07
Yeah. Like, yeah, like 11 years ago or so.
Deborah Niemann 39:11
I’ve known you that long.
Chris McLaughlin 39:12
Yes. Long time.
Deborah Niemann 39:14
Chris McLaughlin 39:15
I know. We still look young. I don’t know, it’s crazy.
Deborah Niemann 39:18
I know. I don’t feel like you’ve aged at all.
Chris McLaughlin 39:21
Oh, yeah. Well, ha, yeah. Tell my gray hair that.
Deborah Niemann 39:25
Oh my goodness. I don’t think it could be 11 years.
Chris McLaughlin 39:28
I know, like a long time. Yeah.
Deborah Niemann 39:30
As I remember you sent me a copy of that book and I read it and I reviewed it and I talked about it in all my gardening talks. Is it still out there?
Chris McLaughlin 39:37
I think it is still out there. I think they’re still producing that one. Yeah. But I don’t, you know, back then too it was a Complete Idiot’s Guide. They did not do now that company got swallowed up by Pearson, another company and so, it appeared. No. Pearson got swallowed up, I’m sorry by DK. Which is out of the UK and they started doing color, all color you know so they, all their images and and the Complete Idiot’s Guide originally all those years ago they were not color. And so, people really gravitate more to the ones that have these really great photos and stuff in there. So it probably doesn’t do as well as I wish it would you know, because it’s all black and white, just like way back when but I, you know, that’s okay. But yes, we love poop. We love really everything that comes from the ruminants or the, what would you call the? I think the alpacas are not ruminant.
Deborah Niemann 39:39
Oh, pseudo ruminant.
Chris McLaughlin 39:40
Pseudo ruminant. Yes. And so, all that poop is so great for your garden, and you toss it in your compost pile, and it breaks things down so quickly. And when it’s not super hot, the way like maybe horse manure is, or chicken manure, those things really need to be composted, or they could burn your plants, that sort of thing. But when you talk about these ruminants, and or even the rabbit, which is not a ruminant at all, on the other hand, rabbit poop also is a very what we call it, it’s probably so unscientific, but it’s called the cold manure or just meaning that it’s not going to burn your plants, you could sprinkle it all around, and it’s not going to do that.
Chris McLaughlin 41:27
So, but I still like to put it in a compost pile because it actually helps break everything down. So it’s awesome. So we like to use our poop, we go just rake out the pastures. And of course, we’re getting some of the, the hay that they’re not using anymore, the straw off from their bedding, their manure. It’s all coming together, we add it to our compost pile, then we’ve got more compost to put in our flower beds. So you know, that’s all kind of, all good stuff that comes from these animals. So it’s not like dog or cat or something. Yeah, we’re gonna be doing that with that. So right. Yeah.
Deborah Niemann 42:04
And then you have a flower farm. And I think this is really cool. So tell us a little bit about how the flower farm and the angoras work together?
Chris McLaughlin 42:15
Well, yeah, right? Well, for one, we make sure that goats can’t get out. Because, oh, my goodness, they will love every, every, everything, it doesn’t matter, you know, they love it. But because my goats, you know, like I said, other than when they were in rut, they will test those fences, because they’re determined to get to the ladies. But at any other time, or if you just have does or wethers, they’re just, they’re just not super, you know, pushy about getting out. So they don’t have to be super amazingly strong, just, you know, just make them reach the ground and make it so they can’t lift it up, you’re all good.
Chris McLaughlin 42:53
And of course, we like the two inch by four inch, no-climb, because, again, our goats have horns. And if you use regular field fencing, and they get their little head out there, sometimes their horns get caught.
Deborah Niemann 43:08
Chris McLaughlin 43:09
And then, you could have a panicked goat that could, they start flipping around, they could break their own neck, but also, now they’re trapped for a predator. So, they’re very easy prey. So we don’t ever like that. So we like the no-climb fencing. So we do that. And, these guys are really good about, not getting out and stuff, but we like their manure for the garden. And then also on the flower farm, we also happen to grow dye plants, that we use to dye fiber with, which is our mohair fiber. And so, their manure where is helping grow the dye plants, which in turn, the dye plants are going to be dyed on to the mohair.
Chris McLaughlin 43:50
So it’s all kind of working in a great circle, you know, it really is kind of a nice, you know, thing and also a lot of the herbs that we grow, which we do use for bouquets, chamomile, and things like that, that can be given to the goats, that’s all great stuff. A lot of herbs are, wonderful for our animals as well as us. So they all could kind of work together, they all kind of provide something for the other. So that, so we enjoy having the animals, with the flowers, because not with them physically. But, we just think that it really, they really complement each other in a lot of ways.
Deborah Niemann 44:28
Yeah, it’s funny because at first glance, you think that doesn’t sound like a very good combination.
Chris McLaughlin 44:37
I know, I’ve actually had people say to me, like, “I think you’re just asking for disaster”. And I’m like, wow, you know, but it’s worked for us and, and it’s funny, I think that anything can happen. I mean, when you have a flower farm. Oh my gosh, like a really crazy wind comes. It could level your entire flowers. It could just level them out, like overnight.
Chris McLaughlin 45:00
A bad hailstorm at the wrong time. Same thing. So, you know, that kind of thing could happen too, I mean by goats. I mean, I’m going to be honest, I’ve never caught them in a garden without me that’s never happened. And I think it just really is because, you know, we just make sure that the fences are good, but also they’re just not really that pushy. You know, they just, they don’t get out. So, I have had them get out. But my, I don’t. How would you say like, because we have so many deer. We have billions of deer.
Chris McLaughlin 45:37
We have to fence off the flower gardens as well. Anywhere we garden we have to fence it off. So that goats are inside fencing. And then my flowers are inside fencing. So what happens is like one time, my buck, the latch wasn’t latched, he got out. He’s just walking around. And, but he’d never got into flowers. He just walked around, walked around our acreage, just hanging out, you know, eating the natural trees, and he was fine. So they have to get through one barrier and then into the next barrier. You know, so obviously having to not share a fence line is the smartest way to go. They know that way. It’s kind of two barriers. Yeah.
Deborah Niemann 46:17
That’s a great idea.
Chris McLaughlin 46:18
Yeah, just like, you know, with the does on the box, don’t share a fence line.
Deborah Niemann 46:23
Chris McLaughlin 46:24
Deborah Niemann 46:26
Yeah. Wow. I can’t believe how fast the time has flown. It’s been so much fun talking to you about all of this. And everybody got a little bonus here. We went beyond goats and talked about gardening and composting and stuff. Where can people find it? What books have you had come out lately that you want to let people know about?
Chris McLaughlin 46:48
Well, the last one that came out just last year is Raising Animals for Fiber. And it is producing wool from sheep, goats, alpacas and rabbits in your backyard. So it’s predominantly about a small, a small operation, we’re not talking about something giant here, but more like backyard animal raising or small acreage. And then the one before that, which I love as well, is Growing Heirloom Flowers. And that came out the year before. And I love that one. And that one isn’t necessarily about, cutting flowers that you would use commercially. They’re just more, just for your own use. And, for the love of them. Some of those flowers hold up best just, being cut straight from the garden going into your house. They might not be for, long term holding, but they’re all the old-fashioned flowers that have been tried and true through time, have all great sense and all that kind of stuff. So it’s kind of a fun book too.
Deborah Niemann 47:51
Yeah. And what’s the name of your book about Natural Dyes?
Chris McLaughlin 47:55
Oh, that one’s called A Garden to Dye For.
Deborah Niemann 47:57
Chris McLaughlin 47:58
And that was about, yeah, that one came out before the heirloom one. And I love that one. And it’s very basic. I mean, you don’t really, it’s an experimenters book. It’s basic. And yet, once you do this stuff in there, you can do like a ton of things. I mean, you’re just you know, it’s really easy to do and really rewarding and fun, to be honest. It’s amazing. Alchemy is like, just amazing. Anyway, you feel so scientific. And you could change color just by, you know, you’ve got the steak going. And then you add washing soda to it. Just put a tablespoon and all of a set that goes boop, it turns green, is that you know what I mean, it is just sort of like changes and so it’s really a fun thing to play with, even if it you know, even if you’re still one time. It’s fun to mess with.
Deborah Niemann 48:49
Yeah. Well, thank you so much for joining us today and talking about angoras.
Chris McLaughlin 48:56
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Deborah Niemann 48:59
I’m really resisting the urge to get so. There’s so cute.
Chris McLaughlin 49:05
They are beautiful. Oh my goodness. They’re just so cute. It’s so many people say to me, it’s so great. They look at me and they just like, “I love your sheep. Oh my gosh. Your sheep are so cute”. And then it’s so much fun then, because I get to launch it to, “They’re goats!” They’re like, “What do you mean? They’re goats?”. Yeah, they’re really cool. They’re really neat looking.
Deborah Niemann 49:27
Yeah. So I know I’ve said already, but thank you again. And it was so much fun chatting.
Chris McLaughlin 49:35
Well, thank you so much.
Deborah Niemann 49:37
And that’s it for today. Thanks so much for joining us. And be sure to tune in next week when I interviewed Dr. Tom Terrell, about lespedeza which is a legume that helps to control parasites.
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