Trish Notes

Meeting The Cashmere Challenge..

...lifting productivity to increase profitability

Developing the Australian Cashmere

The Australian cashmere Industry is still a relatively young and developing industry. It was in the early 1970's that CSIRO research scientists discovered cashmere on some Australian Bush Goats. Industry pioneers selected cashmere-bearing bush goats as their foundation stock and bred selectively to increase cashmere down production.

Fortunately the industry has attracted several dedicated and intelligent breeders who relished the challenge of developing a new breed of cashmere. Through their efforts in selectively breeding for finer cashmere, coupled with increased cashmere production, we now see many Australian Cashmeres which return better than fine wool Merinos. This is quite an achievement, as the Australian wool industry has had over two hundred years of breeding behind it; the cashmere industry has only 30 years. This 30 years of selective breeding has seen the average cashmere yield increase from 50-70 grams of cashmere per head to 250-300grams per head, with exceptional animals producing 600-700+ grams of cashmere.

Continuing the Development

The world price for cashmere seems to have settled in recent years around AUS$80 a kilogram. In these times, where manufacturers are finding their overheads soaring and their profit margins dwindling it would seem that this is a price that the cashmere manufacturers find comfortable. If the price of cashmere rises too far above this average price then the manufacturers stop buying.

So it is logical that Cashmere Producers, like all other producers of raw products nowdays, not look to increases in the price of Cashmere to lift their profitability, but rather look to increasing the productivity of their animals. The intelligent cashmere breeders are doing just that. The cashmere breeders who have done little or nothing to improve the productivity of their animals complained about their returns when the price of cashmere dropped from unrealistically high levels (AUS$160-$180 kg). Whereas the cashmere producers who have been increasing the productivity of their animals found that even when the pendulum swung the other way and prices were ridiculously low, their high producing animals were returning as much and in some cases more than most animals returned for their fibre when prices were very high.

To date most of the breed development has been done by individual Cashmere Breeders. This is all about to change with the implementation of a Cashmere Sire Referencing Scheme and an ACGA supported Progeny Recording data bank.

Cashmere Sire Referencing Scheme

The Sire Referencing Scheme aims to identify superior genetics for fibre production (quality and quantity) within the Australian Cashmere flock. From 2005 the University of WA will conduct the project at Allandale, its research farm 70 kilometres east of Perth. The project will evaluate their progeny, to determine the genetic worth of each individual buck independently of environmental effects and will present the results as estimated breeding values for all of the important production traits. It is hoped that Cashmere producers will make use of this information in order to make informed decisions on which bucks or semen to source in order to maximise the rate of genetic gain for fibre production for their herd.

*A prerequisite of any buck entering this scheme is that the owner make the buck's genetics (semen or live animals) available to the the Australian industry.