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Fiber: Sheep vs. Rabbit

 
pollinator
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Location: Green County, Kentucky
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I've seen some lovely stuff made from silk spun with merino wool -- people have experimented with probably every kind of fiber you can imagine.  Much of it turns out really well, you just have to try different things.  I've got a good book on learning to make and use drop-spindles:  Spinning in the Old Way, by Priscilla A Gibson-Roberts.  I've also got A Handspindle Treasury by the editors of Spinoff magazine.  I've done a little spinning on a wheel, more on a drop-spindle (but not enough to become really proficient), and like that the drop-spindle is so easy to make and carry around. 

Kathleen
 
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Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
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I think this could get to be real fun. I will collect all the silk this season and save until I have my own merino. I like the idea too that the drop spindle can be carried around. In the old days it was the usual thing to bring some kind of handwork when visiting but not the way now... pity. I'll see if I can get some books too. Thanks Kathleen.
 
                                    
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From a Do-it-yourself standpoint; the cashmere would be easier.  All the prep to get silk from cocoon to threads ready to spin; imo; wouldn't be worth the hassle...not when cashmere goats are at hand.       

I've some some wool (somewhere in the stash ) dyed blue & purple; with white streaks of bleached Tussah silk running thru it.  One of these days, I'll get it spun into something.   

If it EVER stops storming here in mid-missouri; I have 1 last fleece to wash and get put away before I can get back to spinning.  Then the next batch in line is an intense black Romney...hard on the eyes, but nice when it's finally done. 

 
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Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
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Susan Monroe wrote:The meat from older sheep is called mutton, and is less desirable then lamb due to its stronger flavor.All my old girlfriends claim mutton is ok if ya cook it long enough!!!


I think you're out of luck for multi-purpose rabbits.  The most desirable rabbit for fiber is the Angora.  And you don't have to kill them to get it.

I suspect that comparing rabbit fiber to sheep fiber is like comparing apples to coconuts.  You would have to consider their requirements, benefits, costs, and negative aspects, as well as the likely price you would get for their fiber.

Rabbits are quiet, small, and need some particular housing. If stressed, they will kill their young.  Angoras need to be handled when young so they can be handled when older, to harvest the fiber, and this can't be blown off just because a person doesn't have the time.

Sheep can do really stupid things, and you would need to find out what kinds of sheep produce the most valuable wool, if that's your main concern.  Lower-priced wool may not be worth the effort and cost of shearing, cleaning, carding and packaging.

Don't overlook goats.  The goats that produce cashmere may be very lucrative.  Goats are smart and have minds of their own, they may eat poisonous plants, and they need very good fencing (electric mesh) to keep them confined.

And when you decide which animal you want, you'll have to educate yourself to recognize a good animal of the type. 

Any way you go, I would start with just a couple of them, and see how it goes.  Some people can't deal with sheep, saying they're brainless and stupid.  Discovering that you are one of them is not good if it happens after you buy twenty of them.

And if you have animals, it's probably a given that you will never take another vacation.

Sue

 
andrew curr
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Emil Spoerri wrote:after labor is factored, sheep are much more productive Big call!!!
cashmere and angora is rather i don't know... for those who can afford it
not exactly fiber but... some meat rabbits have excellent and valuable pelts!

also... llamas...alpacas

 
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Angora goats are the most prolific fiber producers of all fiber animals.  They average yield is 15 lbs of mohair annually.  The kid in 2018  - 2020 sells for $10 up an oz.  If it is long it doubles so have seen it for $20 per oz for a 13 " hank of ra
w combed locks for doll hair.     Between sheep goats and angora rabbits and camelids  (alpacas and llamas ) the angora goats are the most hardy and easiest to raise.   With sheep it depends on the breed.    Angora rabbits are wonderful but you have to be on top of it as it is the most labour intensive of all fiber animals but also the finest of the fibers.  Angora from rabbits has incredible thermal properties (hollow fiber ) which distinguishes it from insulating fibers and makes it 8x warmer than wool .  So incredible that it can alleviate pain .  
 
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Dianne Fitzmaurice wrote:Angora goats are the most prolific fiber producers of all fiber animals.  They average yield is 15 lbs of mohair annually.  The kid in 2018  - 2020 sells for $10 up an oz.  If it is long it doubles so have seen it for $20 per oz for a 13 " hank of ra
w combed locks for doll hair.     Between sheep goats and angora rabbits and camelids  (alpacas and llamas ) the angora goats are the most hardy and easiest to raise.   With sheep it depends on the breed.    Angora rabbits are wonderful but you have to be on top of it as it is the most labour intensive of all fiber animals but also the finest of the fibers.  Angora from rabbits has incredible thermal properties (hollow fiber ) which distinguishes it from insulating fibers and makes it 8x warmer than wool .  So incredible that it can alleviate pain .  



So, Dianne, your vote is goat fiber over all the other possibilities of animal fibers? This is making me double think my own plan of attack. In a year or maybe 3, we will be moving to western West Virginia to over 30 acres of mostly wooded land straddling a hill, with high tension power lines crossing midway. We (my daughter who is already there, and I) are thinking to start with meat goats, allowing them first access to clear the brush level. I thought I had my mind made up to use rabbits for fiber. My daughter also wants to have a couple of alpaca (and peafowl) for herd protection, which then gives me the alpaca fiber to throw into the mix. I've had minimal experience with alpacas and goats, but have kept rabbits in years long gone and am far more familiar with their needs in general. I have read quite a bit about the care and frequent handling of the angora rabbits, and the methods of harvesting their fibers. I like the idea of just pulling it when it's ready to fall off anyway!! And in my limited experience with alpaca (a friend's mother raised a herd of perhaps 30 and I attended both work parties for general care and shearing) I've learned that they are a different kind of general care, but that they are a larger quantity of harvest. At one of those shearing shindigs there was a single sheep brought in by a neighbor, and several llama who were much taller. But the one that really caught my eye was something of a "brindle" alpaca who had not been sheared in perhaps 3 or 4 years. I spoke with the owner and secured the fleece for myself, only to have the friend's mother tell me that since she paid for the shearing, the fleece was hers. But I digress.

I must assume from your post that you probably have had several if not all of the animal fiber possibilities for your own to have come to this opinion. I want a fiber that is strong, warm, and will stay warm despite being wet, but from an animal that does not require constant attention, since we plan on having many sorts of animals (think full on self-sustaining sort of farm, should only need to buy toilet paper!) and I will be aiming for something of a food forest. I'll learn to process my own fibers from raw to spun to article of useful fabric. That is the plan at least. I would love to hear more from any and all who have had experience with the various fiber animals, and definately from those who have raised a few different animals, the pros and cons of each as your experience has taught you. I want everyone to try to sway me toward or away from x,y, or z!! Give me the good and the horrible! Please!
Pics are from one of the work parties at the alpaca ranch out in the desert around Yucca Valley, California.
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I can tell you that my Nigora goats 'blow' their coats, too. So, like the rabbits, you can simply wait until their coat starts looking a bit shady, and start brushing it out. You'll get a good workout - and gorgeous angora wool. Their coats are generally one of 3 types (here's a link, to help with that https://www.newlifeonahomestead.com/fiber-goats-homestead-hustle/ ), largely depending on their bloodlines. I've had mine for about 9months, and they've all blown coat once, already, and are starting, again!
 
pollinator
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Steve Nicolini wrote:I wonder what rabbit breed would be good for fiber AND meat... New Zealand Whites maybe? 


My experience is that New Zealand Whites are good for meat and pelts - not fiber!

Only Angora rabbits (there are five breeds) and a few smaller breeds like the Jersey Wooly and the American Fuzzy Lop are 'fiber' producers.  
Here is a post I made about raising and shearing fiber rabbits.

Of the five breeds, I prefer the German Angora (which I raised for several years) because they need a haircut every 90 days, the wool does not need much (human) maintnenace between harvests, and they have a commercial (meat) body type.  You can go bigger with the Giant, smaller with the Satin, or travel the world with the English or French.  Each breed has different qualities including sheen or shinyness of coat, quantity of fiber, body size and type, whether they shed (you pluck gently) or need a hair cut, how much maintenance the wool needs between harvests, among other traits and needs similar to other rabbits.  

I also have raised sheep for the past decade.  They need much less daily care (per unit of meat and fiber) then rabbits but need more in the way of pasture/hay and harvest day activities.  For example, I can butcher a rabbit and have it in the crock pot or freezer in under an hour but it is usually 2 half day events (and several people) to butcher an older sheep or two market lambs.

The main reason I stopped raising fiber rabbits is becuase they need a haircut four times a year and my shearing schedule does not line up well with our cold winters and a summer heat leaving them nearly 'naked' in the winter and wearing a winter coat in summer.  I bring this up for your consideration of your climate and your  willingness to alter the weather they experinece.  
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a three month old German Angora - ready for shearing
a three month old German Angora - ready for shearing
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Same rabbit at six months old - ready for shearing
Same rabbit at six months old - ready for shearing
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