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Tanning Skins


Selection of Cashmere Does

  • Richard Levlnge, Naracoorte, S.A
  • Bess Vickers, Carcoar, N.S.W.
  • Kym Hannaford, Adelong, N.S.W.
  • Thompson Bros.,  Bathurst,N.S.W.
  • Sheba Browne, Merton, Vic.
  • Robin Kissel & Leal Squire-Wilson, Sunbury, Vic.
  • Sue Patrick, Binnaway, N.S.W.
  • Helen Simmonds, Rowan Park, N.S.W.

Selection of Bred-on Does

The ideal bred-on doe should have good overall down coverage not only on the main fleece bearing area but also on the neck, throat, britch and belly, down to the hocks and inside thighs. Any animals with off type fleece should not be kept or purchased. Visual assessment will play a major role in the selection of does and should include the rating of a doe as a down and meat producer.

The selection of bred-on does should include some objective measurement even if it is only the fleece results for the mob from which the animals are selected. This selection is made during the fleece season (February to August) although in many cases breeders will be selling surplus does at the end of the year after weaning.

When purchasing bred-on does from another grower it is important not to buy animals culled for faults, but excess stock to their own requirements. These may be coloured does culled due to an emphasis on white fleece. They should also be purchased from flocks where systematic culling of does that do not rear a kid is carried out (culling in this instance means disposed of other than for breeding purposes).

In selecting carry on stock from one's own herd, systematic visual assessment is desirable, the fleece over the whole body should be examined, noting variation in diameter (for example, coarse neck down). Handle is the most important quality of cashmere and, as the breeding program progresses, it is also worth noting as part of the selection criteria. The skilled breeder is constantly seeking the exceptional animal, and these should be tested to confirm visual assessment (e.g. a doe with longer down than usual but visually fine should be objectively tested).

Colour will always be a selection objective. The emphasis placed on colour will depend on the stage in the breeding program and whether the breeder is still building up numbers. Ideally, after visual selection, the remaining does should be of good frame and bone structure, and all producing down of commercial length yielding above 30%, with no off type fleeces.

Stock should be selected from a similar environment to that which they are destined. This shortens the acclimatisation period and gives better results on relocated animals. It is not uncommon for both bucks and does to produce an indifferent fleece, due to stress, if moved late in the fleece growing season. Goats from non-tick areas have a high death rate initially in tick areas.

Potential goat breeders in recent times have a big advantage in that large numbers of bred-on does are available at commercial prices, which are comparable to the cost of delivered ferals after allowing for deaths during and after transit. Purchasing bred-on does also gives an immediate cash return as 100% of the goats will be shearable compared with at best 25% of ferals.

The following criteria are important when assessing does in order to obtain the best breeding stock.

Age. Does should preferably be 2-tooth to 6-tooth. Young does have a lower kidding percentage initially, while full mouth (8-tooth) does are acceptable only if their mouths are sound.

Soundness. The appearance should be alert and healthy. The incisor teeth not worn, loose or missing. Does should have a healthy udder with two functional teats.

ConformatIon. Absence of deformities. The incisors should meet the dental pad squarely, the backline should be straight and the shoulders strong, the body ideally deep and well boned. Legs are very important and they should be sound, with well formed pasterns and neat hooves.

Colour. Breeders' experiences have led to a preference for colour in order to breed white goats. The following is a suggestion for colour preference:

  1. White.
  2. Black.
  3. Grey.
  4. Light Fawn.
  5. Dark Fawn.
  6. Tan.

Care should be taken when selecting coloured goats. These may appear to have more down visually, than white goats, because of the contrast between down and guard hair colour. However, objective measurement has not in the past born out these visual differences.

Size. Frame and size are very important. Many people believe that this is the most important criterion when selecting feral does. The emphasis should be on size for age.

Fleece. Visual selection of goats for down production should be done towards the end of the fleece growing period in the months May to July. Research indicates that goats with longer down have higher down weights, but it should be remembered that there is also a positive correlation between down weights and diameter. Any feral does showing a mohair-type fibre; that is, excessively long, lustrous and hair like, should be avoided as off-types for traditional cashmere production.

Guard hair length may not be major selection criterion when inspecting does, unless the breeder has a personal preference or the goats are to be run in burry country. Long guard hair will protect the down against vegetable matter contamination, and from sun or weather exposure. Although long guard hair goats naturally have lower percentage down yields than shorter guard haired animals, they do not necessarily produce less down. When down on short guard haired animals grows beyond the hair the cashmere may curl at the tip giving the incorrect impression that the goat has some angora ancestry. The curly tip on short guard haired cashmere goats is caused by the absence of support from the guard hair. This can also be seen in cashmere along the backline of very long guard haired goats where the hair has parted to expose the down.

The greater the number to select from, the more comprehensive the culling and selection will be. This will increase the genetic variation for future selection under controlled conditions. This may mean, in the first method of selection, buying a greater number of goats than required. Those culled can be sold for slaughter.

The vendor may have already culled his herd, thus negating the need for culling. However, these animals may be approaching, or be at, the end of their reproductive lives.

First time buyers may be advised to get a second opinion from another cashmere grower.

© 2000 A.C.G.A.