Have you ever been around goats, as in up close and personal? They're adorable and curious creatures.
Off the highway down a dusty farm lane, through woodland in the gently rolling hills of Chianti are the world's most luxurious goats, wrapped up in cashmere 24/7/365. Our slow-travel tour of Tuscany included a visit to Chianti Cashmere, a beautiful farm and agriturismo, and dozens of friendly cashmere goats.
They’ll bump right up next to you, sniff around you no doubt checking for something to eat. No food? Time to move on. They’re comical to watch and give you a warm and fuzzy feeling like you're playing with puppies.
The mother of one juvenile goat named Jellybean didn’t have enough milk so she was bottle fed in order to survive. Even though she was now weaned, the appearance of the bottle brought impatient bleating and a rush for my husband to feed her. She was ravenous.
She split the end of the nipple taking huge gulps and finished the bottle in thirty seconds flat. Her face and his shirt were all splashed with milk, but what an affectionate sweetheart she was. We could have spent hours here.
Fancy Girls Wear Cashmere
Cashmere goats can live for more than fifteen years. This herd is free of disease through routine evaluation and care. The females go into heat every 21 days but are kept separated from the males. Breeding occurs in January so that all births occur in May. This is a husbandry tactic that maximizes sustainability by controlling and overseeing when the females are giving birth.
Females can have one or two kids. Every goat is microchipped. This allows precise record keeping of veterinary care, and a record of the amount and quality of wool from each individual animal.
Once combed the wool is weighed and sent to a lab for a quality check. This information is then logged by animal number ensuring that only the very best wool is produced and marketed.
These were all female goats in this pasture, and they ran around their chuckwagon Nora who carried a bucket of corn.
Nora rotates over 300 goats through different pastures on the property. This sustainable practice prevents overgrazing and provides good stewardship of the land.
There are thirteen dogs on the farm specifically bred to guard the flock from predators, in this case wolves. Nora explained that biologists are tracking a local pack of wolves whose normal prey are deer and wild boar, but now they’re eager to prey on her goats and the dogs are the only defense. Using only dogs and electric fencing allows all Nora’s products to be labeled “Wildlife Friendly” as prescribed by the International Organization for Non-lethal Predator Control.
Don't Mess With the Big Boys
Now it was time to meet the boys. We found them a short walk down the hill feeding on bales of hay. They seemed a bit more guarded, interested in one another and eating, but not so much in us.
They stared at us past their very impressive horns, and then moved on to do the things that male goats do like gently butting or shoving the less dominant ones out of the way at the large hay feeder. Nora explained that for proper husbandry some of the males are castrated and others would eventually be, although castration does not effect the quality of their wool.
Sustainable Goods & Programs
Next to the pasture is Nora’s shop where you can see how the wool is spun into yarn and purchase lovely items all made from luxuriously soft cashmere.
The farm also has a number of programs that encourage sustainability, like the online “Adopt a Kid” program. Participants pay around 100 euros a year for the care and feeding of their adopted goat, and receive a certificate as well as periodic updates. In May, “Goat Camp” is held where you can get down and dirty with some real hands-on experience. Participants work the farm, help with combing, and care for the new-borns.
If You Go
Are you an animal lover? Love authentic farm tours and want to hang out with these cuties?
Contact Km Zero Tours through their website or email Arianna@KmZeroTours.com. Arianna and Alessio live and work in Chianti, organizing slow-travel, local, producer-oriented tours throughout Tuscany that are specially curated to what interests you. We followed up our tour at Chianti Cashmere with an amazing lunch under the Tuscan sun, and had the best time with them!