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Life in Mongolia – Cashmere Goat Farming

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Mongolia is a rugged nation that lies landlocked between Russia and China. It is remote and vast, with wide open spaces and a population that largely lives a traditional and nomadic lifestyle. It has the lowest population density of any independent country worldwide.

The land of the legendary Genghis Khan, Mongolia is Asia’s sixth largest country, and the home of the Cashmere goat, the Gobi Desert, is very sparsely populated. It is a sunny nation which yet experiences bitterly cold weather during the winter months.

The Gobi Desert, home to  Cashmere goat populations, is comprised of rugged mountains, arid grasslands, and land akin to moonscapes. Forty percent of Mongolians earn their living as nomadic herders, working with and raising goats, cattle, camels, or sheep. While technology is encroaching on everyday life, and mining is booming in Mongolia (and threatens to change the country forever), most herders continue to live a very traditional lifestyle and care for goats and harvest cashmere fibres the old fashioned way: by hand.

Mongolian nomadic herders live in felt tents which are heated with iron stoves. The dirt floors are covered with rugs, and appliances such as basic television when present are powered by solar panels. Herders depend entirely on weather, though the Cashmere goat is expert at converting noxious weeds and spiky thorns into the valuable fibre we use to create the world’s most beautiful garments.

Cashmere goats outnumber people in Mongolia by four to one. They roam almost completely free, in most cases within a few kilometres of their herder’s base tent, or ger. The fibres collected for creating cashmere yarn are taken from the soft undercoat in spring; the goats also supplement their herders’ incomes by producing milk throughout the summer. Winter is the time when most female goats are pregnant, and they are housed in three-sided barns during these months of freezing temperatures. Kids are born around April each year.

Cashmere is harvested by combing and collected by hand. It is bought from the herders on the basis of its weight and then transported to factories where it is processed.

All of the cashmere fibres used to create our beautiful knitwear at  Lilly Cashmere is harvested in Mongolia. It is authentic and of the highest quality available in the world today. DNA, climactic conditions, and the body fat percentage of the goat all contribute to the quality of the cashmere – and these are all premium in Mongolia. Without manipulating gene pools, Mongolian herders let nature take its course – and the end product is better for it.

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