A cashmere goat (also known as Tibetan plateau goat) produces cashmere wool, a soft, fine, downy winter undercoat for commercial quantity and quality. The cashmere goat is also considered as a fiber goat, together with the Angora goat, Nigora goat and Pygora goat. The name of the cashmere goat comes from its origin, a Himalayan region of Kashmir.
The fleece of the cashmere goat is composed of two kinds of fiber – the guard hair and the cashmere itself. A full grown adult cashmere buck can yield as much as 2.5 lbs of fleece.
The undercoat of the cashmere goat breeds grows as the day length becomes shorter. The undercoat is associated with guard hair, an outer coat of coarse hair that is present all year round. The guard hair is produced by the primary follicles while the down is produced by the secondary follicles. This two-coated fleece is common among most goat breeds, including the dairy goat breeds.
In the year 1994, China was known to be the largest producer of cashmere down, with an estimated population of 123 million goats. In the past years, breeding programs have been implemented to continue and develop productive breeds and its herd. Local breeds and animals are known to be dominant.
60% of the world’s supply of cashmere is produced in China and the rest of the global production comes from New Zealand, Australia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Turkey. Cashmere goat production is considered to be a relatively new industry for American breeders and farmers.
The foundation stock for this farm animal was taken from western and northern Australia, from the local bush goat selection in the late 1970s. The most productive herds yield an average of 250 grams at a diameter of 15 μm, although it is worth noting that the production varies by herd. The University of Western Australia is currently running a sire referencing scheme for active development of the Australian cashmere goat breed. Standards also apply for a goat to be considered part of this goat breed.
The Pashmina or Changthangi goat is found in Baltistan (Kashmir regions), China (Tibet), Ladakh, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar. These goats with large, twisting horns are primarily raised for cashmere production needs. The body of these cashmere goats are usually colored brown, gray and black but its most common color is white.
The Kashmir Pashmina goat bloodline is known to produce the finest cashmere wool and it is one of the favorites of cashmere producers and industry or business owners who manufacture sweater, yarns, scarves and other textile and garments intended for countries with cold weather.
Due to the high demand of this cashmere goat’s wool, the cost and purchasing prices can be quite high because of its rarity – it only constitutes less than 0.1% of the cashmere production in the global commercial industry setting.
The Hexi cashmere goat has a long lineage in the semi desert and desert regions of the Gansu province in China. Just like the Changthangi cashmere goat, the Hexi cashmere goats are commonly white. These goats are commonly found in the mountain of Ningxia, Gansu and Qinghai provinces.
The Inner Mongolia cashmere goat is known to be a local, dual-purpose breed as it adapts well to semi-desert and desert pastures. According to science and other established research studies, the Inner Mongolia cashmere goats can be divided into five strains – Wuzhumuqin, Alasan, Hanshan, Erlangshan and Arbus. Alasan, Arbus and Erlangshan are known to produce high quality cashmere for knitting, fiber, sweater, carpet and other woven or tailored needs (a classic favorite of a traditional spinner). Meanwhile, the Wuzhumuqin and Hanshan breeds are known for their high production.
In the 1960s, breeding animals were selected from six counties in the eastern mountain area of a province in Liaoning. Since then, the herd was continually developed and improved to produce cashmere throughout China.
Today, the Liaoning cashmere goat is mainly found in the Liaodong Peninsula, specifically in the Buyun mountains. The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture formally named the Liaoning cashmere goat in 1984. The selection of these goats emphasizes the following factors: size, quantity and quality of cashmere, sturdiness, growth, skin, length of body, conformation and growth.