Industry Background
Animal Health
Fibre Production
Fibre Marketing
Meat Production and Marketing
Pasture and Weed Control
Economic Analysis
Tanning Skins


Harvesting Cashmere

  • Noel Waters Armidale Lucinda Corrigan, Bowna NSW

  • Barry J McDonald, Qld DPI Animal Research Institute

The harvesting of cashmere is vital to both the grower and the manufacturer. It is the culmination of the year"s production and its timing in the cashmere growth cycle is very important. It can be harvested by two methods, combing and shearing.


a) "Go-Down" Shearing Technique. (See Goat Note F5) Developed by the NSW Department of Agriculture, the goat is held in a standing position in a head restraining bail and beginning at the top of the rump on the off side, is systematically shorn down each side. As the goat prefers to stand, it resists less. When the eyes are covered by the head bail, the animal is usually quite subdued during shearing. Probably the biggest advantage is that the technique can be easily learned by newcomers to the industry as the operator does not have to learn the holding positions necessary for traditional shearing. Shearing of the belly is difficult, but possible. Be very careful when shearing the hamstring and flank area as they are easily cut. The best advice here is to shear up the hind leg rather than shearing down, some operators lift the tail as they come up the hind legs, which also make the stroke safer.

Traditional shearing gear can be used including the strait down tube. Otherwise, a simple way to convert standard equipment for this technique is by the purchase of a flexible down tube, which allows movement of the operator, rather than the animal. The second requirement is that the speed of the handpiece is slowed down to prevent overheating. A pneumatic handpiece driven by an air compressor is ideal for shearing goats. It remains cool and the cutter does not clog with cashmere. (See Agfact on Go Down shearing). Electric handpieces can also be used, especially for shearing small numbers.

b) Traditional Shearing. Alternatively, the goat may be shorn in the same manner as the sheep. Traditional shearing equipment may be used. This is best modified to slow down the cutter speed to avoid overheating. Goats can be shorn faster than sheep with less effort required to "push" the handpiece because the fleece is much less dense and there is little wrinkle. The whole of the goat is easily shorn, including the belly area, thus maximising production and returns. Disadvantages are that this technique must be learned (preferably on sheep first) and the method is more taxing on the operator.

General. Traditional wide combs, preferably convex, can be used for shearing cashmere goats both traditionally and "go-down" and an unskilled operator quickly adapts to their use. In both cases the operator is advised to wear a cloth mask which covers the mouth and nose during shearing, especially if a considerable number of animals are to be shorn in a day. This will prevent the shearer inhaling down and hair and makes the whole operation more comfortable.

"Go Down Technique" Can be used as an alternative to traditional shearing techniques.


These studies were carried out at Qld Department of Primary Industries, Animal Research Institute, Yeerongpiliy, Qld by B J McDonald and C K Teasdale.

The effect of shearing on fleece growth was studied in Australian cashmere goats in six experiments.

Generally, shearing in either February, March or April and again in June or July gave responses which ranged from no increase by shearing in March and July to a 39% increase in cashmere production by shearing in February and June. Table 1 shows the production achieved by the various shearing regimes:


    Expt.No. Sex Shearing Time Cashmere (g) Difference (%)
    1 & 2 W July 109.3 +32
    Apr-July 144.0
    3 W July 101.1 +37
    Apr.July 138.3
    4 W July Apr-July 193.1 221.3 +15
    Apr-July 221.3
    5 W July 126.4 -11
    Mar-July 112.9
    D Mar-July 125.5 +7
    Mar-July 125.5
    6 W June 111.0 +39
    Feb-June 153.8 +39

Pregnancy and Shearing.

The effect of time of shearing pregnant goats was studied in does of known gestational age. Shearing was conducted on May 23, June 20, July 18 or August 15. Does were allocated the shearing groups so that the gestational age of each group was the same on May 23 (41.6 days pregnant). Table 2 shows the outcome of the experiment:


    Month Shorn Kid Birth Weight/Doe (kg) Total (g) Yield (%) Cashmere (g)
    May 5.14 350.0 23.9 85.3
    June 5.30 334.3 28.0 94.8
    July 5.05 360.4 27.1 106.7
    August 5.06 303.3 23.6 74.4

The average birth weight of kids shows that the total foetal load for each treatment group was the same at any given point in the experiment so that all does were subjected to the same stress. Maximum cashmere production was achieved by shearing in July while shearing in May or August resulted in a 20% or 30% reduction in production respectively. This pattern suggests that pregnancy in does in good body condition does not affect the cycle of cashmere growth because the result is what would be expected in non-pregnant goats.


Shearing twice within the cashmere growth cycle has the potential to increase cashmere production but not all combinations of shearing times will provide a response.

Moreover, it should be realised that shearing twice during a growth cycle gives reduced fibre length at both shearings. Recognising that Australian cashmere is considered ideal for processing into worsted yarn, which requires longer fibre, careful consideration should be given to shearing twice in the one year. It involves extra work, and it could also involve lower returns per kg. Fibre length less than 35mm is heavily discounted.

Pregnancy does not appear to affect the cashmere growth cycle. This does not mean that pregnancy does not affect overall production, which in fact may be reduced. It does mean that the time of shearing is not affected when compared to non-pregnant goats. Decisions on shearing times also need to include consideration of environmental hazards such as cold, wind and rain. Local knowledge and an understanding of the response to various shearing strategies allows producers to make the best decisions for their particular properties.

General recommendations for shearing may be summarised as follows:

  1. Shear during the cashmere growth phase in January-July.
  2. Shear pregnant does in good body condition in July.
  3. Shear non-breeding goats in April and July if, at first shearing cashmere is dense and at least 50mm long, and a minimum of 100 days is available for growth of more cashmere, eg. if second shearing is planned for July 18, first shearing should be no later than April 9.


This research was partly supported by a grant from the Reserve Bank of Australia, Rural Credits Development Fund.

© 2000 A.C.G.A.