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Increasing Cashmere Production with Improved Nutrition

Research at Werribee has shown that variation in nutritional management can increase or decrease cashmere production by up to 67%. Nutrition also influenced cashmere fibre diameter. Under certain circumstances supplementary feeding could increase gross financial returns 30%.

Cashmere goats which produced 155g of cashmere at 12 months of age were subjected to a range of nutritional treatments between December and June (15 to 22 months of age).

The treatments were
T=M Goats fed to maintain liveweight at 28 kg.
T=0.8MGoats fed to follow the usual growth pattern of goats grazing annual pasture at Werribee, namely a 5 kg liveweight loss from December to April. These goats were then well fed from April to June.
T>M Goats fed to gain liveweight. There were 3 groups within this treatment to assess the value of providing extra food.

Some goats fed M were also provided with extra protein. These rations were also tested with sheep. Body condition scores were measured on all goats.

Goats fed to 0.8M lost 26g/d from December until April and then when well fed grew 93g/d. This indicated that goats can grow quickly in late autumn and winter and indicates that limited food intake or quality are the cause of poor liveweight gain of some goats in the field. Goats fed to gain liveweight grew up to 42 kg liveweight by June.

Goats fed >M grew 51% more cashmere than goats fed 0.8M (See Table 1). These goats also grew more hair than goats fed 0.8M. (One treatment in >M grew 67% more cashmere than goats fed 0.8M). While cashmere yields of whole fleece samples were generally similar (mean 45%) goats fed to grow the fastest had significantly lower cashmere yields (34%) and grew significantly more hair (323g) than the other treatments.

Goats fed >M had cashmere which was 1.02 um coarser than goats fed 0.8M and 0.76 um coarser than goats fed M.


    The Influence of energy intake on cashmere and hair growth and cashmere fibre diameter of wether goats.

    Total fleece growth g339409
    Cashmere growth g146a192
    Hair growth g193a217a284b
    Cashmere fibre diameter um16.716.917.7b

Within observations treatments with different superscripts are significantly different at P<0.05. In many cases treatment differences had greater significance.

Additional protein did not increase cashmere production but when these diets were fed to sheep they increased wool production by 40%.

During the experiment midside fleece samples were taken every 4 weeks and separated by hand to determine cashmere yield (Fig.1).

    FIGURE 1:


    Effect of energy Intake on midside patch cashmere yield of wether goats sampled every 28 days and fed to lose liveweight until April and then grow (O.8M, *), maintain liveweight (all M treatments,) or fed to gain liveweight (1 .25M, ;1 .5M, ;ADLIB,).

The influence of energy intake on total cashmere and hair growth and on midside patch growth suggests that energy supply affects the partitioning of nutrients between cashmere and hair growth. Energy deprived goats grow less cashmere but in doing so divert nutrients preferentially to cashmere growth while goats fed to gain liveweight grew more cashmere but had reduced midside cashmere yields. Feeding very well during mid summer significantly affected the partition of nutrients away from cashmere growth towards hair growth. Obviously once a cashmere goat reaches its maximum potential for cashmere growth nutrients for fibre growth can only be utilized for additional hair growth.

Perhaps feeding to provide rapid liveweight gain during summer provided physiological and hormonal conditions normally only occurring during rapid liveweight gain in spring, the season when cashmere growth rate is low or zero and when goats normally grow only hair. Goats fed to grow moderately had aspects of their fleece growth which responded in a manner similar to that of goats fed at M rather than that of goats fed to grow quickly. Moderate liveweight growth rates in summer appear to provide benefits in cashmere growth without the decline in cashmere yield associated with rapid liveweight gains.


The results indicate that to maximise cashmere growth goats should have small liveweight gains (1 to 2 kg) and maintain body condition over summer.

Energy nutrition does influence cashmere fibre growth and fibre diameter. In many regions of Australia supplementary energy will be required during summer to prevent cashmere goats from losing liveweight on dry summer pastures. However the experiment also indicates that if goats are fed to grow too quickly over summer cashmere yields may be depressed. Cashmere fibre diameter is also likely to increase and this may make feeding uneconomic.


There are five important issues which will affect your decision about supplementary feeding cashmere goats.

  1. Quality of cashmere you produce. It will be uneconomic to feed cashmere goats if their cashmere fibre diameter is likely to increase outside its present diameter class. As the relative prices of different fibre diameter classes change it is important to reassess any economic responses to feeding.
  2. Productivity of goats. It is unlikely that feeding goats which produce less than 90g of cashmere will be economic. The costs of the feed, your time and the expense of feeding will not be covered by the extra cashmere.
  3. Level of response to improved nutrition. This experiment recorded increases of 31 to 67% in cashmere growth of goats 2 year old at shearing. Previous research with goats less than 12 months of age has not observed any benefits in cashmere growth to improved nutrition. It is possible that some goats may not respond to supplementary feeding to the same extent as the goats in this experiment. Level of feeding will affect responses.
  4. Seasonal conditions. In other experiments at Werribee, different seasonal conditions have reduced cashmere production by 10% or increased cashmere production by 40%. In years and regions with wet summers supplementary feeding will not be required as goats will probably maintain or gain liveweight. In years with green summer pastures cashmere production may not be maximised but if supplementary feeding was undertaken the level of response may only be 10 to 15%.
  5. In very dry years and regions the length of the feeding period will be greater and more supplementary feeding will be required.
  6. 5.Cost of supplements. The cheapest energy supplement in southern and Western Australia are cereal grains. Farm produced and weather damaged grain could be cheaper. Whole grain is cheaper than processed grain and commercial pellets. Each farmer has to obtain quotes for grain delivered to their property.

Example 1

From a large cashmere flock all the goats which produced cashmere with fibre diameter over 16.5 um were run in one mob. They were of mixed colours and produced 130g cashmere at 16.7 um. Feeding of cereal grain (200g/goat/day) was required from December 1 to April 1 (120 days). The grain cost $1 50/tonne delivered. These goats produced 190g of cashmere at 17.7 um after feeding.

Value of cashmere if do not feed130g @ $95.70= $12.44
Value of cashmere if supplementary feed190g @ $95.70 = $18.18
Cost of feed120 days x 0.2 kg x 15 cents/kg= $3.60
Value of cashmere after cost of feed= $14.58
Gross surplus per goat Following supplementary feeding (excluding feeding cost, vehicle, silas etc.)= $2.14 (17%)

Example 2

If production went from 150g to 230g and only 113 days of feeding was required gross returns would be $425 per goat (30%). However if 300g of cereal was required per day returns would only be I 7%.

Example 3

If production went from 80 to 120g but 120 days of feeding was required, gross returns would be 23 cents/goat.


Cashmere producers must carefully assess whether supplementary feeding programs will meet their management program and objectives. Supplementary feeding programs should be carefully planned. Producers may need to seek advice from their local Department of Agriculture advisor or their Farm Consultant. It is possible to increase financial returns with a well planned feeding program.


Research referred to in this paper was funded by the Victorian Department of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, and Kinross Cashmere Company.


McGregor, B.A. (1988) Effects of different nutritional regimens on the productivity of Australian Cashmere goats and the partitioning of nutrients between cashmere and hair growth. Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture 28:459

McGregor, B.A. (1989) Nutrition management to maximise cashmere production. Proceedings 3rd International Cashmere Conference, Adelaide, Australian Cashmere Growers Association.

© 1989 A.C.G.A.