About St. Mary's Cashmere Goats
The Sisters of St. Mary began raising cashmere goats in 2004, shortly after moving to their new home on 100+ acres of mixed woods and farmland in Easton, New York. Their goats have included five Grand Champion does and two Grand Champion bucks, awarded at the annual New England Cashmere Goat Association Show in Tunbridge, Vermont.
The Sisters began with a foundation herd of black goats donated by the Monastery of the Holy Myrrhbearers in Otego, NY. Over the years the farm has hired or acquired sire stock from Roca Farm in New Hampshire, Black Locust Farm in Washington, Maine, Springtide Cashmere in Bremen, Maine, Stone Harvest Farm in Petersham, MA, and East Meets West Family Farm in Richford, VT, improving their line and adding new color to their baseline. Our herd is now an eclectic mix of white, silver and salt-and-pepper goats, with a mix of short and long guard hair.
St. Mary's on-the-Hill goats produce long-staple, premium cashmere, with an average of 14.5 to 16 micron diameter and 2+ fiber length. Because of the staple length, the Sisters' goats produce good commercial volumes of cashmere, averaging 8 to as high as 15 ounces in raw, dirty fiber each season. Blended yarn and roving (brown, taupe, white-with-color and white) from the current year go on sale at the NY Sheep and Wool Festival each autumn and are available at the farm afterwards. Limited pelts are also available in the fall.
North American Cashmere Goats
Cashmere goats are one of two principal types of fiber-bearing goats. Their more common counterpart is the mohair-producing Angora goat, which produces a long glossy hair fleece, desirable for its luster and strength. Ironically Mohair goats are one of the few breeds that do not ordinarily produce a secondary down (unless crossed with cashmere breeds -- the "cashgora" goat.)
Cashmere is a secondary down fiber which functions as a next-to-the skin insulator in goats acclimated to extremely cold climates. Most goats produce some form of secondary down which may or may not be long enough, fine enough or crimpy enough to meet international standards for the fine cashmere in textiles. Hence goats may produce a secondary down fiber and NOT be considered cashmere goats.
Standards which define cashmere are delineated by the textile industry and set in breed standards which meet internationally recognised benchmarks. Sister Mary Elizabeth sits on the Board of Directors for the Cashmere Goat Association which has been working to establish the North American Cashmere goat as a recognized breed in the the U.S.
To be continued... as time permits
Great Pyrenees Guardian Dogs
When the Sisters began their small farm around 2005, they explored different options for protecting their stock from the local coyote population and other predators. Shortly after we acquired our first Great Pyrenees working pair to serve as guardians for our sheep, goats and other critters raised over the years.
The Great Pyrenees breed originates from the Pyrenees Mountains of northern Spain, and were bred over centuries to travel with flocks and herds as guardian dogs.
Like other Guardian breeds, Great Pyrenees have a low predation-drive which enables them to intermingle with their charges, earning that social group's trust by not acting like they might chase and eat them. This contrasts with herding dogs like the Australian Shepherd whose predation instincts are redirected to a behavior which makes a flock or herd move away from them -- the controlled slink and stop movements you see in sheep trials and herding demonstrations.
Great Pyrenees bond to a herd group as their family and are intensely protective of their charges. They are independent thinkers and need less interaction with their human counterparts, unless the human family becomes their social center -- at which point that family becomes the herd which they protect. This inbred independence also makes them less amenable to obedience expectations which an owner may have. They are nocturnal, sense and see threats their owners may not, and bark a lot.