D. Evans acquired his agricultural background through a variety
of experiences, including working for corporate agribusiness,
learning to raise Angus cattle in the late 1960s, and owning
and managing his own veterinary clinic in Okfuskee County,
Oklahoma since 1983.
Evans’ interest in raising goats was sparked 12 years
ago by a presentation given at his local Chamber of Commerce
about Langston University’s Institute for Goat Research.
The institute investigates nutrition requirements, low-input
forage systems and animal selection for dairy, meat and cashmere-producing
goats. The research appealed to Evans, who was particularly
intrigued by the market potential for cashmere.
Ever since the first group of 160 Spanish doelins—young
females—with genes for cashmere arrived on his farm,
Evans’ management style has involved careful scrutiny
of his animals. His operation has focused on selective breeding,
the use of preventive health care methods, and developing
on-farm goat research projects.
The land Evans farms has been in his wife Elayne’s
family for three generations; Elayne’s grandparents
raised vegetable crops and her parents, Angus cattle.
On-farm research and preventive health
Evans spent a year visiting ranches and talking with farmers
in southwest Texas before purchasing his initial herd of cashmere-producing
goats. Before long, Evans realized he would have to alter
his management style to account for the cooler Oklahoma climate.
In Texas, ranchers sheared in January or February. “That
first season [in Oklahoma],” Evans said, “it seemed
like every time we’d go and shear, we’d get an
Living on open pasture with minimal shelters, his goats would
stack on top of each other trying to stay warm. The results
were “disastrous,” Evans says, and all too common
in his area, since “most people don’t have housing
for their goats.”
Evans sought advice from Langston University extension. They
suggested that he stagger his shearing throughout the spring
months. Applying their advice, Evans came up with the idea
for his first goat research project. Rather than accepting
the common wisdom that goats grow their coats from September
21 to December 21, Evans decided to research the timing of
goat hair growth.
Evans sheared one side of each animal in February. In subsequent
months, Evans sheared four-inch wide strips off the other
side of the animal, keeping track of the amounts of cashmere
fiber collected each time. He was able to confirm his hypothesis
that some of his animals exhibited a longer period of hair
growth than others. With the data, Evans also developed a
“hair holding index” for each of his animals that
he consults during selective breeding to improve the consistency,
length and yield of cashmere fiber from his herd.
In 1998, Evans initiated another three-year study, this time
with support from a SARE producer grant, Langston University,
and Oklahoma State University Extension, that investigated
combing and shearing techniques in obtaining cashmere fiber.
They sheared half of each goat and combed the other half.
Over three years, Evans found that combing yielded 73 to 93
percent cashmere, by weight, while shearing yielded 15 to
21 percent cashmere. Evans concluded that the practice of
combing minimizes an animal’s risk of shear shock, because
it removes the fine cashmere fibers while leaving intact guard
hairs that protect goats against the weather. Compared to
shearing, combing also yielded a much cleaner fiber, closer
to the quality of market-ready cashmere, and eliminated “second
cuts,” short fibers of lesser value that are produced
by repeat shearing of the same spot.
“We’ve switched over completely to combing our
goats [to obtain cashmere fiber]” Evans says. Evans
uses a comb he designed especially for his research, a “fiber
rake,” that enables him to efficiently comb his herd
Economics and Profitability
Evans has tried to minimize his farm costs. With careful
monitoring of his pastures and herd size to prevent overgrazing,
Evans has been able to limit supplemental feeding of his goats
mostly to winter months.
Evans reserves 25 to 40 acres for grazing, with the remaining
200 acres used for hay and reserve pasture. While he has put
in some cross fencing to create separate grazing areas, Evans
has found that running guard dogs (Commodore-Great Pyrenees
mix) is a cost-effective approach for protecting his herd,
though predator birds, such as hawks and owls still present
a major threat to his newborn and baby goats.
Evans contracts out his hay cutting and baling. The price,
and the amount of hay he sells, varies from year to year,
with supply and demand in his area swinging widely.
Evans sells 50 to 100 goats for meat yearly, at auction as
well as to individual buyers, and usually receives about $1
per pound, live weight. Average adult Cashmere males weigh
about 140 pounds, and females 85 pounds. Meat sales cluster
around holidays such as the 4th of July, Thanksgiving and
Producing clean cashmere fiber brings extra costs, yet higher
potential net returns per animal than meat, Evans says. He
obtains about 1/4 to 1/2 pound of cashmere fiber from each
of his goats yearly. In the past, Evans sold his “raw”
cashmere fiber for $30 to $40 per pound to facilities in Texas
and Montana that “de-hair”— or separate
guard hairs, vegetation and other material from the fine cashmere
fibers to derive a “pure,” ready-to-spin product.
Finished cashmere fiber now sells for more than $320 per pound
Recently, Evans has retained his raw fiber to figure out
how to engineer a “dehairing” unit to produce
finished cashmere independently of the processing plants —
and obtain better prices by selling directly to retailers.
He expects to find markets for finished cashmere easily and
hopes to tap local spinning guilds.
Evans’ SARE grant also supported his use of rotational
pasturing to reduce internal parasite problems and reduce
or avoid costly anti-parasitic drugs and nutrition supplements.
Evans has found that rotational pasturing is an effective
part of a preventative health care regimen for his animals.
“Keeping animals well nourished is the most important
thing you can do to maximize an animal’s potential immunity,”
he says. Evans has tried to populate his pastures with clovers
to provide high-nutrient forage material for his goats. While
the goats seem to prefer to graze on vetch and patches of
Lespedeza, each winter they eat the hay from the variety of
red, yellow hop and arrow leaf clovers. Evans also places
vitamin and mineral blocks out on his pastures to boost nutrition
Evans keeps his stocking rates as low as possible, watching
to prevent his pastures from being overgrazed. He prefers
his herd to browse on brush and leaves, as the infected larvae
animals pick up off the pasture won’t crawl higher than
four to six inches.
Evans has noticed that his pastures seem to have improved
with careful management over time. “I see a difference
in the amount and kind of plants that grow,” he says.
In many places, the goats have eliminated or reduced the
weed populations so much they eliminated the need for chemical
weed control. “We sometimes supplement our pastures
with fertilizer, but the goats dropping their pellets as they
graze have gradually reduced the need for that,” Evans
Community and Quality of Life Benefits
Keeping the family farm has meant a lot to Evans and his
family. He and his wife, Elayne, still keep a few Angus cattle
on the farm for Elayne’s father because he enjoys them
In pursuing his on-farm goat research, Evans has formed beneficial
relationships with other researchers and farmers involved
at OSU, Langston University and elsewhere. Since completing
the research, Evans has presented his results on combing all
over his region and has answered countless phone inquiries.
With his veterinary work, tending his goats and participating
as a member of the Board of Regents for five colleges as well
as being on various committees, including a national advisory
group to land grant universities and Southern SARE’s
administrative council, Evans is busy. “What I do with
my farming fits into my lifestyle,” he says.
“Saying ‘I can’t’ just is not an
option as you approach and face the challenges of life. You’ve
got to figure out ways to make things happen,” Evans
This kind of thinking is what drives Evans’ efforts
to make his farm more successful. Starting out by developing
his herd through selective breeding, and learning over time
how to ensure the good health of his animals, Evans now focuses
on how to reduce costs and add value within his operation.
Having some flexibility to alter his operation has helped
protect pastures and gotten him through the droughts. “You
have to pay close attention to your numbers of animals. You
may have to decrease your herd size, fence off more area for
pasture, cut less hay, or provide supplemental feed, all of
which will affect your costs,” he says.
Evans plans to farm into his eventual retirement. In the
meantime, he looks forward to finding time to engineer the
de-hairing unit that will enable him to produce retail-ready
“I don’t think you ever reach a maximum level
with your production,” Evans says. “While we have
bred our goats to have improved hair growth and have good
health, I think we can always look for ways to improve our