Trish Notes

Cashmere: The Time Is Right

As rural Australia comes out of drought, farmers are going to be looking at restocking their properties. The astute operators will consider adding cashmeres to their enterprise at this time for a number of very good reasons.

Price of Livestock

The prices being paid for both sheep and cattle at present are very high. This is great for the farmers who paid high feed prices during the drought to keep their animals alive, however not so good for those farmers who are now faced with prohibitive costs in restocking their properties.

Good fibre producing Cashmeres are reasonably priced and as they are very fertile, cashmere breeders are turning off numbers of does every year. Commercial does range in price from $60-$110 per head depending upon the age and quality of the animal. Good commercial bucks are available for around $500 per head. A mature buck should be able to service 80 - 100 does if in good condition. By buying quality bucks, it is possible to lift cashmere production of the herd fairly quickly.

For those wanting to get in at the top end you will find that some of the top breeders are willing to sell limited numbers of their best quality does each year for $1500 -$2000 each. Proven bucks of equal quality are also in limited supply and are valued from $3000.

The Weed Problem

The only plants which seem to thrive in times of drought are the weeds. Once the rain comes, the weeds really become prolific. The Cashmere goat is a biological weed buster . Cashmeres can even be used to control toxic plants like ragwort. These types of plants are more toxic at certain times and the goats seem to know this and leave them then. Goats do need time to adjust to eating new weeds,just as any livestock needs time to adjust to a new feed. Once adjusted and the weeds have become part of the Cashmeres diet, you have a cost effective and safe ( no chemical residues)solution to weed control ( Goat Note).

How goats control weeds

Goats help control weeds by:

  • Presenting the weed from flowering and dispersing seed.
  • Preferentially grazing the weed and so placing it at a disadvantage.
  • Ringbarkinmg or structurally weakening some shrub species.

Increasing Returns For Cashmere

The structure of the Cashmere Industry is changing at present. These changes aim to shorten the supply chain channels, thus reducing costs. The savings are being passed back to growers in the form of increased returns for fibre. Cashmere Connections, the Australian processor of Cashmere, is now buying cashmere from Producers. It is in the interests of Cashmere Connections to have the Australian Cashmere Industry expand, hence they will be working very hard to not only lift returns to producers, but also to put money into back into producers pockets on receival of their fibre.

Genetic Improvement = Commercially Viable Cashmeres

The Australian Cashmere Goat has evolved through successive generations of selective breeding for cashmere down production, by a number of dedicated breeders. In 1980 Cashmere foundation herds produced less than 100grams of cashmere down per head. Today there are commercial producers who average 250- 300grams of cashmere per head, with an increasing number of elite animals producing 600 grams with a mean fibre diameter less than 17um.

Not only is there more cashmere on today's Australian Cashmere Goat, but on the whole, the cashmere is finer, longer and more even across the animal. Good breeding has done away with the coarse cashgora necks. All of these things put together mean that today's Australian Cashmere, not only produces more cashmere, but that cashmere is more valuable than the cashmere produced by earlier generations of the animal.