Roving Winds Farm

Harvesting Cashmere

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Harvesting Cashmere
Combing cashmere sounds easy, but there is definitely a technique involved in the timing of the comb as well as the actual harvesting of the fibre so as not to damaging it or its commercial value. Combing cashmere is something that can be very frustrating in ones first year attempting it, especially if one has not had the opportunity to learn from an experienced comber. At Roving Winds Farm we welcome the opportunity to teach others the nuisances of how to comb cashmere so that when you get your own herd started, you are well on your way to a successful first harvest. We typically comb from December, sometimes right into May with our peak harvest falling in February and March at which time we are in the barn almost every available moment, so there are lots of opportunities to join in the harvest. 
Each producer develops their own method of determining when the cashmere is ideally ready to be combed, however knowing a few things in advance will help you along this road. 
First be aware that not all cashmere goats shed in the same manner. This means some goats will let go of the fibre at their necks first and others will let go of the fibre on their rumps first. In our experience the former occurs less often than the latter, but knowing which way each animal sheds will save you some frustration. In our experience if you wait for most goats who shed rump first to show loose looking fibre on their neck then you have already lost a great deal of the best fibre from the harvest. Although breeders ideally select animals with consistent fibre quality across the body, in general the fibre on the neck is typically a little poorer quality than that on the rump, so we would rather take a chance on leaving some neck fiber behind than losing rump fibre.  As such we comb when the fibre at the midside and shoulder comes out relatively easily and fairly free of guard hair but before it starts coming out in chunks. At this time the neck fibre will usually also come out, but it takes a little more work and a different technique
Secondly, be aware that the pregnancy hormones in the late gestation doe will trigger the fibre to shed in most does, 4-6 weeks prior to kidding, even when bred to kid early. If bred to kid later in the spring, the normal shed progression will likely occur prior to the hormone effect, based on the increased daylight.
Thirdly, early shedding seems to be fairly heritable, so if you have used an early shedding buck or know the does shedding timing and pattern, expect the same of their offspring until proven otherwise. If you crossed an early and a late shedding animal, you may expect to average the timing, unless you know one of the parents is more dominant, then plan to that date. Knowing as much as you can about your goats patterns and their genetic dominance will help you shape your herd in a direction that works to your schedule. Obviously, the same is true of other traits you may want to change in your herd over time. 
Tel: (705) 326-6993