There are two primary fibre goat breed in Australia – Angora goats and Cashmere goats.
Angora goats produce mohair; a very long (120-150mm), lustrous and resilient luxury fibre which is blended with other natural or synthetic fibres to give texture and lustre to the finished fabric. Angoras are shorn every six months.
The Angora goat was named after the region in Turkey from which it originated and was introduced into Australia from France in the early 1830s. Numbers of Angoras have expanded since the 1970s, with the Australian rangeland goat being used as a base breeding source.
Australian breeders have invested heavily in purchasing the best Angora genetics available, primarily from South Africa and Texas, and crossing it with the Australian Angora. This has enabled breeders to select for a new type of Angora that is suited to the Australian environment.
Through the late 1980s and 1990s the Australian mohair industry declined significantly but the industry is now recovering following a period of improved fibre and meat prices.
South Africa is by far the largest mohair-producing nation, accounting for over sixty percent of the world’s mohair clip. The United States of America is also a significant producer of mohair. Australia is currently only a small player on the world scene, contributing less than 5% of the world total.
Cashmere is produced by Cashmere goats and is recognised as one of the world’s premium fibres, being luxuriously soft, warm and light. It varies in colour from brown to light grey to white, and its diameter ranges between 11 and 20 micron.
Goats carrying the downy cashmere undercoat arrived with the First Fleet, however over the years they lost their identity, with many becoming wild. Cashmere goats in Australia have been bred from these wild or rangeland goats to producer the Australian Cashmere goat.
Fleeces from these goats contain coarse guard hair, which has no commercial value, and a fine downy undercoat called cashmere. While the rangeland goats may only yield 50gms of cashmere per year, purebred Cashmere goats will yield up to 300gms per year.
The cashmere industry is small and very price sensitive with current levels of domestic production at around 10-12 tonne (including hair) per year. Global demand for cashmere exceeds supply which presents opportunities for the industry to develop.