The astute cashmere grower should take note of all marketing factors to ensure his down fibre is prepared correctly to realise the best return. Like Australian wool growers, the credibility of Australian cashmere growers rests largely on their ability to grow, correctly prepare, and offer down fibre that is preferred by the processors.
The Fleece of a Cashmere Goat
The fleece is very light and "flyaway" and does not "fall" in any particular manner when it is shorn. The shearer may need to wear a mask to cope with the airborne fibre. The fleece is gathered together when it is collected.
There appears to be an effect of the season and feed availability on fibre diameter, as occurs with wool. Research has shown that all animals exhibit a change in fibre diameter when the season or feed availability show a marked change.
The major consequence of the presence of two distinct fibres in the fleece is that they must be separated during processing. Dehairing gives two products, the cashmere and the waste hair with sinkage losses of grease, dirt and vegetable matter. This may account for approximately 10% of the original weight. When a cashmere grower or buyer refers to yield, they refer to the proportion of greasy cashmere in the fleece as a percentage of total fleece weight.
At this stage of development in the industry there are a few growers who have homogenous flocks of goats - either in colour, quality or breeding. It is assumed that animals are run in mobs according to age, sex and origin or may be identified to separate on this basis. They should be drafted and shorn in groups according to the information required on various components of the flock.
There are a number of reasons for keeping age groups separate. Weaner goats produce the finest cashmere, while they have their milk teeth, and in many cases this will be less than 15 microns. By shearing age groups separately, the breeder may follow the increase in production with age and size, identify the age at which the animals produce their greatest amount of down, and follow any changes that occur in the quality of the fibre (eg. in fibre diameter) during the animals productive lifetime.
This is a major consideration in marketing. Contamination of white cashmere by dark fibres must be avoided. Within a group that has been separated according to the criteria already mentioned, the different colour groups must be drafted out and shorn in the order white, white with coloured guard hair, grey, and brown. As the fleece is so light, the shed needs to be swept thoroughly before more white animals are shorn. A vacuum cleaner is ideal.
The Australian Cashmere Marketing Corporation sets standard lines, types and colour classifications for the sale of Australian cashmere. These will change from time to time reflecting changes in the market place. Clip preparation must be based on the current classing standards.
Beware of Contamination: To avoid coloured fibre contamination of white lines it is necessary to draft unshorn goats into colour groups. If the animals are drafted visually into white goats, light coloured goats and dark coloured goats, the animals with white down with coloured guard hair can then be removed from the pure white animals. If possible this separation of colours should be done well before shearing or immediately upon yarding. A black early shedding goat may severely contaminate a white herd every time the goats flock together.
Clean, well separated containers, wool packs and plastic bags (as recommended by the Australian Cashmere Marketing Corporation), should be used to store the different colour lines during shearing. Do not put white fibre in packs previously used for coloured fibre or brown fibre in packs previously used for white or light coloured fibre. Cashmere should not be stored in old synthetic polyethylene or wool packs or bags with holes or loose thread, as this could cause contamination.
Other sources of fibre contamination include coloured or white wool locks on the shed floor, synthetic baling twine, rope, vegetable matter such as burr or hay, urine stain on wethers, bucks or does, lice egg casings in the down, or the use of unscourable brands.
Most contamination of cashmere fleece can be avoided if simple management steps are taken.
The shearing shed should be swept clean before goats are shorn after sheep, and the vice versa is equally true. Baling twine is becoming an increasing contamination problem in Australia's wool clip and represents a similar danger to cashmere. Twine should be removed from bales when hay is fed out, and disposed of, and it should not be used as a cheap fencing aid in yards or the shed. The polyethylene twine can last for years in the soil and can become entwined around a goat's hoof, laming the animal or being carried into the shed.
Urine stain on fleece will not scour out. Light urine stain should be placed in the grey line if from white or grey goats. Heavy sticky urine stain should be discarded. Only approved scourable brands should be used on goats. Fleeces with burr content or other vegetable fault should have this removed and placed in a vegetable fault line. Detailed classing guidelines are available from the Australian Cashmere Marketing Corporation.
All goats need to be treated regularly, usually annually, for the control of lice. Lice egg casings are a problem as they have a different dye affinity to cashmere and are not removed during scouring.
Fleece lines may either be baled individually, or, if the quantity is less than a bale, effectively separated inside a bale. When different colours are packed in the one bale, care should be taken to ensure the white fibre is not contaminated with the coloured. Where a line is less than a bale, the packaging should be as simple as possible with a minimum number of bags within each line. When pressing bales containing separate lines in a number of plastic bags, it is important to press the bale slowly to allow air to escape from the plastic bags. If pressed too quickly these bags will burst and could cause contamination.
© 2000 ACGA.