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Getting Started With Cashmeres

Prepare Yourself

Learn about Cashmeres and their management through:

Books and Newsletters.

Goat Notes is the best reference available today (nothing even comes close to it!!). Goat Notes is a comprehehensive guide to all aspects of commercial Cashmere farming. Large sections of this manual, eg those which cover health issues, fencing, handling & scoring of animals are applicable to all goat enterprises.

Raising Goats for Cashmere and Mohair by Armstrong, McDonald and Knights is another useful publication. This book is available from the Queensland Department of Primary Industry.

You can contact the D.P.I. Book Distribution Centre

By phone: 09 3239 3804
Online: www.dpi.qld.gov.au/shop/
Write to: D.P.I. Publications,
G.P.O. Box 46,
Brisbane. 4001

Newsletters

The Australian Cashmere Growers Association (ACGA) puts out regular newsletters: an e-newsletter, Hot Bucks and a printed newsletter, Cashmere Update, to keep members informed of what is happening in their industry. These newsletters are sent to all members, but are also available on request to non members, as are any, or all of the information pamphlets put out by the ACGA.

The ACGA also produces a magazine annually; Cashmere Australia. This magazine usually contains articles which can be kept as reference material. For example some articles contained in the Winter 2003 Cashmere Australia are:

  • Goat Nutrition- Minerals and Trace Minerals by Helen Simmonds
  • Breeding for Helminth Resistance in Fibre Goats by Dr S. Walkden-Brown, Dr B. Cook & Dr L Le Jambre
  • Goat Selection at Roseberg Cashmere by Simon Meek
  • The Importance and Objectives of Dehairing by Avtar Singh

As with the newsletters, Cashmere Australia is sent to all members. Copies of the current magazine and back copies are available from the ACGA's CEO upon request by non members, at a nominal cost.

Australian Goat Report

The Australian Goat Report is a fortnightly newsletter full of all of the latest developments occurring in the goat industry. The annual subscription is $64 (for 22 issues)

The editor, Denise Cunningham, can be contacted:

Fax/ phone: 02 6343 3225

Web:http://www.goatreport.com.au/

Postal address:"Narrakup",
Grenfell,

NSW. 2810

Attend Field Days and Seminars

ACGA groups frequently run field days and seminars on specific areas of cashmere farming eg. Fleece classing, nutrition, condition scoring. These occasions are an excellent way of meeting other cashmere producers, while learning about cashmeres.

Ask the ACGA group chairperson in your area to keep you informed of future field days.

Talk to / Visit people already in the industry.

Many Cashmere producers are happy to help you learn from their experiences, be they achievements or mistakes. Once again your group chairperson, or Carolyn Gould can assist you to make contact with a helpful grower in your area.

Join the ACGA

As a member of the ACGA, you will automatically receive the latest news of changes and developments occurring within the industry. You will also be eligible for a discount on goods sold by the ACGA, eg Goat Notes.

Become involved in your local ACGA group. The other members will be very helpful, especially in those early stages when you have so much to learn about your new enterprise. Experienced Cashmere breeders will tell you that Cashmeres are very easy to manage, much easier than many other types of livestock, once you know how. These people will help you to learn how, helping you to avoid many mistakes along the way.

By the way if you happen to have experience in another livestock industry, eg sheep or cattle, don't think for one moment that you can't learn from experienced goat industry people. It is amazing to see farmers who top markets with their prime lambs or cattle, struggling to turn off a decent meat goat!

Prepare Your property

Upgrade all inadequate fences, yards and facilities before introducing your Cashmeres onto the property. This will prevent the development of bad habits in your goats (getting out!!) and save you a lot of stress.

Fencing

The boundary fence must be secure. Boundary prefabricated fencing (ringlock or hingejoint) is best.

Do not trust the following to contain goats:
  • cattle pits
  • stone walls
  • plain wire and barb fences

Plain wire fences can be upgraded by either tying prefabricated fencing onto the existing fence or by adding offset electric wires. Fences which hold crossbred lambs should be adequate to hold Cashmeres.

N.B. Pay special attention to the bottom of the fence because this is where animals will try to escape first; under the fence.

Times when goats will try to escape.

  1. During mating season, does will try to get to the bucks and bucks will try to get to the doe flock. If you keep the bucks and does as far as possible from each other (separate properties is ideal!!) this will help solve this problem.
  2. iWhen feed is in short supply. Being intelligent animals cashmeres aren't prepared to stay in an area and slowly starve. Instead, they will try to move to an area where they have access to feed. Supplementary feeding of your cashmeres will solve this problem. If the animals are used to being hand fed, they will wait in their barren paddock for "meals on wheels" to be delivered to them.

Yards

Yards are used for a number of husbandry operations eg. drenching, vaccinating, drafting etc. or just as an approach to the shearing shed. The size of the yards required will depend upon the number of animals run. It is a good idea if the entrance to the yards is situated in a position where the animals are forced in easily. eg. at the end of a laneway.

Esential facilities within yards include drafting gates and a handling race. Most sheep yards can be adapted for handling goats. The outside fence should be at lest 1.2 metres high to prevent animals jumping out. Weldmesh (reinforced with timber or steel), timber or piping are all suitable materials for yards. Long handling races are NOT suitable for goats as the animals tend to pack up at either end of the race. A race about 2.5 metres long is probably ideal. Longer races could be adapted by using gates to divide them into smaller partitions.

If you are building new yards, you will find that most sheep yard designs are suitable for working with goats. There are some excellent prefabricated goat yards and handlers on the market at present. For those who wish to save time and stress, perhaps these are the answer for you.

Area required per goat
Holding yards1 goat per square metre
Forcing yards3 goats per square metre
Transporting goats5 goats per square metre

Harvesting the Cashmere

Australian Cashmeres are traditionally shorn in June or July before shedding of their valuable cashmere occurs.

Facilities / Equipment Needed to Harvest Cashmere

Existing shearing sheds are suitable for shearing cashmeres, providing steps are taken to avoid wool contamination in the cashmere clip. If no shearing shed is exists and you wish to build a new one, the shed will not need to be as large as one required for shearing sheep. The area for penning animals should be large enough to hold enough animals for a full day's shearing. Weldmesh, timber and steel pipe are suitable materials for building pens. Restricting animals' vision by use of solid sheeting discourages free movement from one area to another and encourages pen hopping.

The shearing / classing area needed for cashmeres is much smaller than that required for shearing sheep. There are two methods used for shearing cashmeres. One is a variation of the Tally-Hi sheep style and the other is the Go-Down technique, where the goat is shorn standing, restrained in a headbale. Many cashmere producers shear their animals themselves, using the Go-Down method. Both methods require about the same amount of floor space, however the Go-Down method will require a headbale bolted to the floor. Conventional shearing gear, pneumatic or electric driven handpieces are all suitable for shearing cashmeres.Conventional shearing gear is best slowed to half speed, if this is possible, and oil applied to the comb and cutter between every animal. If this is not done, the handpiece will become very hot and burn the animal being shorn, causing the animal to fight the shearer. (This is a mistake a lot of sheep shearers have made in the past!)

Experienced shearers, who are used to shearing goats, know that they have to make subtle changes to their normal shearing style when working with goats. They are quick, efficient and usually encounter little fuss from the animals. These people are usually happy to share their "tricks of the trade" with other shearers who are interested in learning them.

The shearing / classing area needs to be well lit, clean (free from contamination) and well ventilated. It is important that there is no air movement that will blow the shorn cashmere around. There needs to be enough space in the classing area for a cashmere classing table, plus bales and / or bags which will hold the cashmere fleeces.

Not everybody has a shearing shed or the finances to build one, but they can improvise.

Portable yard panels set up on pallets as flooring in an enclosed or partly enclosed shed make adequate holding / catching pens. A sheet of masonite makes an adequate shearing board. A portable shearing plant (with generator or air compressor if necessary) can be set up to suit the location.

If improvising, it is important to take steps to:-

  • Keep the fibre clean
  • Keep the wind out, as cashmere being very light, blows everywhere.

Years ago we adapted an old dairy on a property where we ran some of our cashmeres, and it made a very adequate shearing shed with minimal capital expenditure.

A good set of electronic scales is an excellent investment. By weighing each fleece you are able to estimate how much cashmere each animal is producing. This in turn enables you to identify your superior fleece bearing animals more objectively. (Don't be fooled! Those fluffy looking Cashmeres are not always the ones growing the most cashmere!)

Many meat goat producers disappointed with the returns from their enterprise are now asking.....

"Which animals are worth shearing?"

For farmers running primarily a goat meat or weed control enterprise based on cashmere/ bush/ boer breeding stock, it is likely that a high proportion of your stock will be worth shearing. To determine which animals are worth shearing, run them into a race to mesure the length of their cashmere. (Late June is the time to do this) Hold a small metal ruler against the animal's skin and stretch the cashmere out along the length of the ruler. It the cashmere is more than 45mm in length, then the animal is probably worth shearing. Only shear those animals worth shearing, and only those areas of the animal where there is cashmere growing (a bag full of hair is worth nothing!). In this way you don't waste time and money.

Shelter For Animals Off Shears

Cashmeres require shelter from inclement weather off shears. Natural shelter is best, and if you have areas of vegetation or the landscape (small caves and crevices or large boulders etc.) which allow animals to escape the elements, this should be adequate. If no adequate natural shelter is available then sheds can be used to provide shelter at night or in bad weather.

N.B. A shed can be used to provide shelter without letting the animals into the shed. For example a large machinery shed can be fitted with double gates along the front of the shed, then the goats can't climb all over the machinery, chew the electrical wiring etc. they will however be able to shelter outside the shed on whichever side happens to be out of the weather at the time.

Warnings if using a shed for shelter

  • If there is not enough shed space to accommodate all animals, then they may crowd in, pack up and some may be lost to suffocation in really bad weather.
  • Large concentrations of animals in a small area, for any length of time, encourages the spread of bacteria and disease.

Getting Started - Purchasing Your Stock

  1. Set your breeding / production goals.
  2. Decide what type of cashmere you wish to breed. Eg: white, coloured or mixed colours, long guard hair or high yielding cashmere, fine, medium or coarse cashmere, high down weight, all or any, of the combinations above.
  3. Decide if you will operate a stud or commercial cashmere herd.
  4. The articles written by a number of experienced and successful Cashmere breeders about their breeding programs may help in your decision making. You can find these articles in Vol xx No 1. Summer 1999 of Cashmere Australia. This magazine is available for $3.00 through the ACGA. Contact Carolyn Gould if you require a copy.
  5. Start small. Eg. If you wish to eventually run 500 cashmeres, start with about 100. Numbers can be increased when you feel that you have the experience and confidence to cope.
  6. Select animals which best suit your breeding goals from the stock available to you. N.B. Breeders will not sell their very best stock unless they are casting them for age or colour.
  7. It is recommended that you buy bucks that have at least two full fleece tests. (Fleece tests on a midside sample can be misleading and not recommended.) The ideal time to inspect bucks, with a view to buying, is June when they are in full fleece. One mature Cashmere buck should be able to service 80 - 100 does. (Enthusiastic ones are willing to do a lot more!!)
  8. Select
    • healthy looking animals
    • for sound conformation
    • check feet (foot rot)
    • check for lice
  9. Findout
    • When the animals were last drenched, the brand of drench and the dosage.
    • When the animals were last vaccinated and with what (6-in-1, 4-in-1 ?)

    N.B. Goats need to be vaccinated every 6 months

    Many people drench, delouse and run newly acquired stock through a footbath, as a precautionary measure, before releasing them onto their property. This is good husbandry practice and helps to keep your property clean and animals healthy.

The Importance of Good Management

Like any animal, a goat will only do well if provided with adequate nutrition. You could buy the best cashmere stock in Australia, but if you neglect those animals they will not be profitable for you.

For example, a cashmere doe capable of growing 400grams of cashmere may only produce 200grams if her nutritional intake has been inadequate. Under extreme nutritional stress she may not even grow enough cashmere to be worth shearing. This is why it is a waste of time trying to fine down your clip by starving the animals. Your animals may produce cashmere which is a little bit finer, but you won't get much cashmere from them. It just does not make sound commercial sense to go that way. If you want to produce fine cashmere, then your animals need to be genitically fine.

Happy, healthy Cashmeres......
playful at all ages.

The same is true when it comes to rearing kids. Any breed of goat under extreme nutritional stress may not be capable of rearing a kid, and if she does it will be a scungy, little, worthless thing.

Back to our Cashmere doe again. With proper nutrition, our doe will fulfill her true potential. She will cut 400 grams of cashmere down and then go on to rear two good sized kids without difficulty.

With good management, the Cashmere doe is a very profitable animal

Look after your Cashmeres if you want a profitable fibre / goat meat enterprise.

With CASHMERES and good management you can have it all!