Reg spent more than 40 years in agricultural education in the UK before moving to Australia with his wife and family. Ironically goats and alpacas were not animals he dealt with in the courses he taught but after breeding Suffolk sheep for a time and finding them too large to handle comfortably, he was convinced by his daughter to get some angora goats. While still in the UK he bought six Australasian angora goats but was not impressed by their quality (or lack of.) Goats from Texas and South America have since proven to be of a finer quality and more to Reg’s liking as a breeder.
Once in Australia, Reg found a 10 acre property, Winder Angoras and Alpacas which now houses himself, his family, pets and angora goats and alpacas.
He started with 8 goats and now has about 50, 18 of which are breeding females. The females produce kids once a year, in September or October.
Reg is interested in breeding his animals for the fineness of their fleece, which grows at around 2.5cms/one inch per month. He has shown his goats and has won several ribbons and prizes. Normally the goats are shorn twice a year (in February and August) but if he is showing a goat it disrupts the shearing schedule and he ends up with one long and one short fleece for the year. Commercial spinning equipment can’t deal with this difference in fleece length but Reg has found a ready market among hand spinners. Reg tests all of his fleeces before shearing and is not prepared to sacrifice quality for quantity.
The angora mohair on the goats grows in ringlets. The smaller and finer the ringlets the better the fleece and yarn that comes from it. Reg prefers mohair to merino wool as it is breathable (warm or cool where necessary), hard wearing but also light. Almost the whole fleece can be spun from a goat so there is very little waste. Reg and his wife take on board comments and requests from spinners and are keen to provide them with the best materials from their goats.
As guards for his flock Reg started with a pair of alpacas who are well known for their ability to ward off foxes and other predators. It wasn’t long before he was also breeding them. He has two kinds of alpaca, suri and huacaya. The suri fleece is closer to angora mohair: it is shiny and slippery but not as fine as the huacaya. Different spinners have their own preferences so there is no final say on which is
better. The first few shearings of alpacas are usually the finest and after 2 or 3 years Reg thinks the fleeces (which are over 30 microns by this stage) are too scratchy to be spun into yarn to be worn next to the skin.
Reg is obviously dedicated to his animals but is also a keen breeder and trader sees his animals as a means to an end. He also firmly believes that looking after his animals in the best way he can, will give him great rewards when selling their fleece or selling the animals to other breeders or growers. While he and his wife are retired and only farm the goats and alpacas as a hobby it is obvious that Reg’s wealth of experience and love of what he does means the animals on his property enjoy a great life while they are with him.