Have the the fiber animals or not yet, if you are going to get into creating your own natural fibers from wool, you need to know where to start and what to do right?
First things first, you need to decide if you want sheep, angora goats, fiber rabbits, alpacas or a combination of those. You should have an idea of what you want to create with your wool..like do you prefer to spin, felt it, or everything fiber (like me ).
The best resource for these animals is the breeders themselves. They can teach you allot about the animals they have , what they need as far as nutrition, space requirements, temperments etc. I have attended local shows and talked with multiple species breeders, including 4H kids. These folks are excited to share their knowledge about the animals they have and what they can produce. You may find that sheep and goats are just too much work, and may be interested in rabbit fiber.
It really depends on you. How much room and time do you have to spend with the animal, how much they are going to costs to keep and care for, and the use of the fiber you collect. I teach classes to youth about fiber animals and fiber arts, and often get comments from the first time animal parents like: we want to get a breeding pair of sheep or goats or my neighbor has a sheep..I can use the wool!
Well, while you can go on craiglist and get a sheep or goat, it really is not advisable. There are hundreds of breeds of sheep, all of them have a different feel and purpose, including meat and milk breeds, that really do not make them an ideal source for your fiber. Again, the best thing to do, is go to a local show and FEEL the animals, talk to the owners…you will start to get an idea of what you want.
I highly recommend whethers. Whether is a castrated male (sheep or goat). He will not have the hormone (and stink) of an intact male. He will be more concentrated on making you the fiber you want and not giving all his nutrition to a baby (does) or focusing on breeding. He will usually be more docile (easier to handle) ..you will not have to worry about fiber quality going down during breeding and baby season…but , if you want to breed more, its quite a challenge that I do not recommend the beginners get in to right away.
Once you have figured out what you are going to get, and you have done your research for housing, nutrition and care….now the fun part begins…buying your fiber animals!
The next post will be about fiber processing….what to do with the fiber you have collected!