THE CASHMERE/MEAT GOAT
P. O. Box 426
Menard, Texas 76859
A single-purpose animal is one that has been developed to give high yields in a specific product. Goats have the genetic potential to produce meat, milk and fiber and single-purpose breeds have been developed regarding each of these products. Various breeds of dairy goats producing from 700 to 900 kg of milk per year have been developed. The Angora is considered the world's most efficient producer of animal fiber and the Kashmir (Cashmere in the U.S.) Produces one of the finest and softest natural fibers known to man. The Boer weighing up to 80 to 90kg for males and 50 to 60 kg for females is considered to have received the most development for meat production.
Generally speaking, these single-purpose breeds require a favorable climatic, adequate nutrition and intense management to do what they have been designed to do. Unfortunately, most of the goats in Texas are not raised under favorable climatic conditions and natural forage and browse available to them are often below nutritional requirements and intense management is not practical. Owners must base their operations on goats that are adapted to such conditions and they must strive to obtain as much produce as possible from them.
Since goats have the genetic potential to produce meat, milk and fiber, the development of a multi-purpose goat which will produce more than one product is proposed. It is felt that total production and income per animal will be greater with such an animal than with single-purpose goats. This does not mean that attempts to improve production of a single product should not be made. To the contrary, efforts should be made to improve production of all of the products and animal can produce.
Several goat breeds in the Far East have secondary hair follicles which produce a fine fiber. This fiber has been defined in such terms as wooly underhair of goats, fine downy wool at the roots of the hair on goats, wool and down. We know it as cashmere, which is probably an Anglicized version of the Kashmir province in India, where it was likely discovered by the western world. It is call pash or Pashmina in the Far East.
Cashmere is one of the most luxurious and finest fibers known to man. The diameter of cashmere must not exceed 19 microns and must have desirable characters such as crimp, softness and low luster. The growth is photoperiod. It starts growth in July, when days start to become shorter and it is shed in late winter when the days start becoming longer. The existence of secondary hair follicles is hereditary and can be selected for which makes the development of cashmere bearing goats possible. The primary hair follicles produce a coarse fiber called guard hairs which have little if any value.
It was discovered in the 1970's that some of the feral goats in Australia and New Zealand were cashmere bearing and these countries set out to develop a cashmere industry. In the early 1970's, researchers in Texas also determined that many Spanish goats produce cashmere, but it was not until the mid-1980's that herds of cashmere, bearing Spanish goats began to develop across the State. While some individuals have imported animals at great cost, it was envisioned that the foundation of a sound cashmere industry at affordable cost within the reach of ordinary landowners will be based on cashmere bearing Spanish goats. The development of a cashmere/meat goat was underway. The Boer and fainting goats breeds can also contribute to the achievement of this goal in that it was discovered that many of them are also cashmere bearing.
After observing a fraudulent auction of so-called cashmere goats, these pioneer producers formed the Texas Cashmere Association in 1980 to establish credibility and to foster and advance its objectives. One objective is to develop a dual purpose goat that has the ability to provide a good carcass return at an early age and an adult that will provide a return from cashmere. In other words, a cashmere/meat goat breed in which meat is the primary product and fiber is secondary. The cashmere is a bonus if harvested. The Association has established some high meat and fiber standards and conducts an animal show and sale to stimulate upgrading towards meeting these standards. The show judge is requested to put 50% emphasis on meat characters and 50% on cashmere characters. Some outstanding herds have evolved. Another objective of the show and sale is to promote that the cashmere/meat goat which could lead to diversification and a new U.S. industry.
In the Far East the cashmere and guard hairs are separated by hand during the shedding season. This method of harvesting is not conducive to commercial development in the U.S. because of the lack of labor and high cost. Therefore, the goats are sheared during late winter or early spring and the fibers are separated by a machine. This process is called "dehairing" which in its self is costly. Since this procedure is beyond the reach of individual producers, a marketing cooperative known as Cashmere American has been formed to assist the producers in the preparation and sale of their cashmere.
The cashmere meat goats have attributes that make them good meat producers. Reproductive and growth rates are two factors that contribute significantly to meat production. From fertility and fecundity points of view, the Spanish goats in Texas are meat producing machines. Kid crops of 150 percent or more are the rule rather than the exception. And these attributes have not been lost in the development of cashmere. To the contrary, they have been improved with upgrading and selection. Growth rates are also improved with selected breeding. The Boer will also play a role in growth rate upgrading.
Several meat goat producers have noted that cashmere bearing animals are more winter hardy than non-bearing ones. They are more robust and thrive better which is logical because they are wearing sweaters. They are not interested in harvesting the cashmere and let it shed in the spring.
Meat goat shows are very popular. Some meat goat judges state that cashmere bearing animals feel better than non-bearing ones and consequently place higher. A test was made during a Junior Livestock Show at Menard and the first place animals in all classes had cashmere. This could be due to the secondary hair follicles or to the soft feel of the hair. After all, women say that cashmere garments feel good.
A Look at the Future
The future for goat meat looks bright and the demand and consumption should increase in the future. Since this is the subject of another presentation, it will not be elaborated upon here.
The future for cashmere is not bright. I have learned from experience that it is very difficult to get people to accept changes and do new things even if it would improve their livelihood. For example, there are millions of small farm members in Central America and Caribbean who have meatless diets because they do not have the resources to raise large animals but they can raise a few rabbits. It was demonstrated that five females and one male under moderate management could produce around 150 pounds of meat per year. Yet our intensive program advocating backyard rabbit rearing was successful in only those countries with a history of eating rabbit meat such as Jamaica. Farmers in most of the countries were not willing to try something new even if it could result in better nutrition for their families.
This appears to also be the case regarding the production of cashmere. While a few outstanding Cashmere Meat goat herds have been developed, the total production is not adequate to sustain a viable commercial industry and it appears that it will not get any better merely because large g oat owners will not try something new. The cost of shearing, classification and dehairing which amounts to half or more of the value of the fleece is also a major constraint.
It is felt that current production will probably remain the same to meet the needs of the hobbyist, spinners and cottage industries. Herds will be available for breeding stock for these purposes and for those wanting to breed for better winter heartiness and show goats
Contact the following for more information:
Texas Cashmere Association Cashmere America Cooperative, Inc.
1077 Cardinal Dr. 210 South West College Street
Bartonville, TX 76826 P. O. Box 588
Sonora, TX 77690
Cashmere Producers of America
P. O. Box 674
Laramie, Wyoming 82070
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