Roving Winds Farm

Assessing Cashmere Fibre

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Assessing Cashmere Fiber
Assessing a fibres quality and a goats worth as a breeding animal or even their status as a cashmere goat, is either a subjective evaluation or an objective evaluation.  Both types of evaluation have their pros and cons. When ever possible, we at Roving Winds Farm employ both methods of evaluation in assessing the fibre traits of our animals. 
Subjective Evaluation

Subjective evaluations of cashmere fibre are obtained by eyeballing the qualities of a cashmere fleece and rating each aspect of the fleece on a scale from excellent to poor. The combination of traits and their scoring determines how high the quality of the cashmere fleece is and of course whether or not the fibre is actually cashmere. These evaluations are often done by the breeder themselves or an experienced breeder, as part of a fibre show or by a certified classer and are an excellent source of information.  However, they are only as accurate as the eye of the assessor, their experience in having evaluated large numbers of fleeces with a wide range of quality characteristics and may be subject to their personal biases.  They are in short, one persons’ opinion on any given day and that opinion may be very different the next day; so one needs to keep in mind not only their overall herd qualities but what they are trying to achieve in their herd and of course not forget about the other half of the evaluation, the animal itself and what else it brings to the breeding equation. 

For an explanation of the traits to look for when subjectively evaluating or buying raw fleece, please click here.

In general, most breeders would agree on what is a stunning show quality cashmere fleece and a fleece that is not cashmere at all.  However, there is a whole range of quality cashmere in between these two extremes and this is where the judges subjective ideas on what traits are the most important to a breeding program come into play and where people disagree widely.  We find that the trait rated most highly by one person over another is typically the trait they have or had the most difficulty obtaining consistently in their herd and may not be a trait that you as a breeder are not as focused on for your market and end use.  

The other issue to be careful of when relying only on subjective evaluations is that people tend to look at the placings more than the evaluation.  This is human nature, but if you were not able to be at the fibre show first hand and to see the other fleeces, the tendancy is to assume that a fleece that placed last or didn't place in a class at all was not a good fleece.  Although this can be the case, usually it is more a case of the fleeces in the class all being quality cashmere fleeces and the judge having to apply their personal preference to make a decision as to what fleece is placed where.  Over the years we have purchased bucks who placed above or below our bucks in fleece competitions.  As part of our decision to purchase, we receive copies of all their fleece show evaluations.  What we learned was that in many cases the other buck was evaluated exactly the same as our bucks fleece.  In some cases, I was not sure why our goat placed over the other when we actually prefer the other bucks fleece to our own.  But then that difference why we bought him;  because his traits that were different from our bucks are what we need to add to or reinforce in our herd to get it where we want it to go.  In short, they possess the trait that we covet most.  

Subjective ealuations are an excellent way for breeders to get a second opinion on their goats fleeces and in many cases have their own evaluation confirmed or to learn something new.  When we first started out we had one doe who had a very fine, very stylish fleece and I was always discouraged when she didn't place well at shows.  I assumed that I was doing some kind of damage to the fleece in harvest as I knew she had an amazing fleece when I evaluated it on her before combing.  The second year at combing ai was pretty sure I must be breaking the fibre during combing sicne the length was shorter than I had seen on her body and the sytle was not as good on oen end.  That same year, the judge made a comment confirming that. That confirmation was invaluable to me and taught me that finer fleeces need to be harvested using a different technique that we generally employed.  

Subjective Evaluations can be obtained as part of showing your fleeces. Please see the following sites for informatioin on mail in cashmere fleece shows:
Objective Evaluation

Objective evaluations of cashmere are obtained by sending a sample of the cashmere fiber to a certified wool testing lab for evaluation using a machine that counts and measures the fibre, performs a statistical analysis of the overall fleece and reflects these traits in a graph known as a histogram. The objective test is where the fibre criteria for average micron, the Standard Deviation (SD), the Coefficient of Variation (CV) are determined and in some cases a crimp/style rating in the form of degree of curve per millimeter of length is reported.  Histograms are exceptionally useful for getting a feel for what the overall fleece is offering and how consistent the distribution of microns in the fleece.  The narrower the histogram generally the more consistent the fleece. This method is excellent at letting you get a real picture of your herd, where it excels and where any shortfalls might be so that when you go looking for new additions to the herd you can shop with confidence.  This method of evaluation is relatively easy to access no matter where you live and extremely cost effective, especially if you are pooling samples with other breeders to combine shipping and processing fees. 

Please click here for more in depth information on Laboratory testing.
A draw back to objective testing is that one can not simply compare the resulting data without knowing if the samples were collected in the same manner, and from the same location(s) on the animals body. For a single breeder using the information for the advancement of their own herd the method is not as important as long as they employ the same sampling method from year to year. If you are looking to purchase animals you need to ask more questions, to be sure you are truly comparing apples to apples and you get what it is you are looking for to add to your herd.   
Here at Roving Winds Farm we use a 3 site sample method so we are sure that all of the fibre produced on the animals body that goes into our products is falling well within the acceptable range for cashmere fibre.  We use this information in combination with our subjective classifications from combing and showing along with the conformation rating we have given each animal to determine who are the highest quality animals we have produced and who will be retained for breeding purposes at the farm.  We have found objective testing to be one of the easiest, most economical means of gettikng a true overall picture of the cashmere qualities of breeding animals as well a wonderful tool for educating and refining our own classification skills, when comparing these results with our subjective on farm evaluations.    
Please see the following links for information on objective laboratory testing.
Goat Cashmere~Producing the finest fibre from New Zealand goat.  See Chapter 6: How is Cashmere Measured?
-there are lots of technical bulletins on cashmere, understanding a histogram, and general good infromation on fibre and testing on this site as well.  
7887 U.S. Highway 87 North,
San Angelo, Texas 76901-9714
Tel: 325 653 4576
Fax: 325 658 4364

Tel: (705) 326-6993