The growing season for cashmere starts in the spring, by mid winter they are ready to be shorn. I do all the shearing myself, its pretty simple to do. The goat is restrained standing up in a headbail. I hold onto the tail with one hand to steady the goat then shear with the other. You can see how its done in this Utube video.
Genetic improvement of breeding stock is an important component of our work. Each fleece from every single goat is fleece tested every year for fibre diameter, percentage cashmere in the fleece (yield) and cashmere weight. So you can get a bit of a handle on what fleece test results look like, I've listed the results for a few recent bucks here.
The way the data works, the first number is the fineness in microns, the second number is the percentage cashmere in the fleece and the third number is the weight of cashmere in the fleece.
Bathampton Commander (ATJ C068). He is in one of the pictures.
Year 1. 13.96 um, 66.3%, 252g
Year 2. 15.72 um, 65.3%, 816g
Year 3. 17.58 um, 62.67% 796g
EBVs -0.95 um, +91 grams, +79 MI
Bathampton Conqueror (ATJ C013)
Year 1. 16.41 um, 56.5%, 392g
Year 2. 17.32 um, 65.3% 1124g
Year 3. 18.00 um, 69.23%, 1167g
EBVs -0.11um, +221 grams, +146 MI
Bathampton Connoiseur (ATJ C055)
Year 1. 13.21 um, 35.3% 106g
Year 2. 13.94 um, 37.2g, 253g
Year 3. 14.74 um, 47.32% 234g
EBVs -1.78 um, -18 grams, +30 MI
Bathampton Byway (ATJ B037)
Year 1. 14.71 um, 59.7%, 254g
Year 2. 15.53 um, 57.9% 463g
Year 3. 15.93 um, 45.0%, 367g
Year 4. 17.39 um, 45.94%, 335g
EBVs --0.86 um, -15 grams, +12 MI
Bathampton Bunyip (ATJ B048)
Year 1. 14.11 um, 72.1%, 321g
Year 2. 15.48 um, 60.9%, 420g
Year 3. 15.03 um, 52.1%, 349g
EBVs -0.88 um, -74 grams, -24 MI
Bathampton Bomber (ATJ B052)
Year 1. 14.19 um, 72.1%, 313g
Year 2. 16.01 um, 63.0%, 545g
Year 3. 16.02 um, 62.9%, 591g
EBVs -0.48 um, +114 grams, +93 MI
Bathampton Ali Baba (ATJ A051)
Year 1. 13.74 um, 63.0%, 258g
Year 2. 14.91 um, 62.1%, 453g
Year 3. 16.44 um, 43.1%, 375g
Year 4. 15.24 um, 53.1%, 406g
EBVs -0.66 um, +62 grams, +58 MI
(EBVs updated using the 3 May 2016 data run)
Kidding starts in September each year. Its a fun time of the year. Each kid is ear tagged and its sire and dam recorded. In this way I can keep their pedigrees pretty straight.
We enter our fleece tests results and animal pedigree data into the ACGA Merrrit program. From that information, the program calculates estimated breeding values (EBVs) for each animal in the Australian herd. We then try to select the best to become parents of the next generation.
We were fortunate in the most recent analysis to have our bucks Commander and Conqueror ranked in the top 0.1 percent of animals in the whole country for their EBVs.
Our older buck Wedge (ATJ W052) is arguably the best buck evaluated in the University of WA, Cashmere Sire Reference program, being the better of only two bucks out of the 18 tested that simultaneously improved cashmere down weight, reduced fibre diameter and increased bodyweight of progeny. Wedge is Commander's great-grand sire. We think Commander is a big improvement on Wedge as he had about 30% more down weight at a finer micron as a two year old and much better EBVs!
Commander and Conqueror also came first and second in their class in the National Fleece competition, took out the most valuable fleece from Qld, the greatest weight of cashmere under 18.5 um and under 16.0 um, the Hazelgrove trophy,produced two out of the three fleeces awarded the Forte trophy for the most valuable three fleeces, the Gossamer Down trophy for the highest commercial value and the Sir Alan Smith Quaiche.
Our flock has been doing well in comparison with other Australian herds for some years now. In the Cashmere benchmarking project conducted in 2002, our animals (#6 in the data) were generally heavier, had higher yielding finer cashmere with lower curvature (thats means its softer) and were among the highest down weights. We've almost doubled down weight per animal at a slightly finer fibre diameter since then thanks to the ACGA Merrrit program. A pdf of the benchmarking results is here.
We pour over the performance records of our does and any bucks that are available to make selections of goats to put together. Joining occurs in April each year. Then five months later, well actually generally a week earlier than five calendar months, we have the first kids.