Last update: September 2, 2011 10:57:17 AM E-mail Print

 

Guidelines for the production of finer mohair

D Wentzel

 

THERE has been a marked decline in the demand for stronger types of mohair during the past year, while production of these types has increased considerably over the past four years. According to the Mohair Board, approximately 35 per cent of the national clip consisted of these types in the past, whereas now they make up 52 per cent of the clip. This unhealthy situation is the result of a combination of various factors, the most important of which being:

The above are the main factors responsible for causing the present unhealthy situation and they also indicate the most important areas which must be addressed in order to produce the correct balance between finer and stronger types. This aspect is generally accepted as being of the utmost importance in order to keep the South African mohair industry on a sound basis.

Achieving this aim will require special efforts at producer level and it is the object of this article to discuss certain important aspects.

 

Economic considerations

The profitability of mohair production will usually override all other considerations. Just as the narrow price gap between strong and finer types fostered the production of strong hair (in 1985 strong hair fetched 75 per cent of the price of kid hair), the current big price gap between these types serves as an incentive to the producer to produce finer hair rather than more hair (strong hair at present only fetches 25 per cent of the price of kid hair). This view is further reinforced by the prices being obtained at present for various fineness types. For instance, the price of kid hair is significantly higher than that of young goat hair so that kids producing strong hair will have to produce considerably more to give the same income. This is even more so with production and price differences between young goats and adults. Accordingly it is thus clear that producers must at all costs ensure that animals that have the potential to produce finer hair do not produce stronger types instead.

 

Breeding

Breeders have made exceptional progress in breeding an Angora goat with a very high potential for mohair production. Because mohair production is determined by fibre length, fibre diameter and total skin surface, it is reasonable to accept that if nutrition is adequate and limitations are not placed on these characteristics, a correlated response with regard to an increase in these characteristics can be expected. In view of the premium placed on fineness by the trade, a shift in emphasis from production to fineness would be the obvious approach in a breeding programme, especially because of the apparently negative relationship between fineness and production. It must, however, be stressed that a breeding policy has long-term aims and that drastic changes in such a policy may have more disadvantages than advantages. Decisions in this connection must thus be treated with caution.

An alternative approach to breeding is to take genotypical Environmental interactions into account, in other words that a specific genotype will produce most efficiently in a specific environment. This means for instance that efficient producers under extensive conditions are not necessarily the ideal type of animal for mohair production on planted pastures. (For example the hair becomes too strong, as is being experienced at present).

At this stage the genetic progress with Angora goats is being greatly hampered by a shortage of information on genetic parameters. Geneticists agree, however, that future breeding programmes will require the keeping of efficient records and objective measurement of characteristics in order to assess the breeding value of outstanding animals more accurately. Without this information achieving the objectives of selection will be severely retarded.

While the foregoing applies mainly to breeders who supply breeding material to producers, the commercial mohair producer can also benefit greatly from culling undesirable animals from their flocks. If those animals that obviously produce the strongest hair are eliminated, it will have an immediate effect on the average fineness of the clip. Besides this, if finer rams are purchased, this will make an important contribution towards lowering the average fibre diameter of the flock in the long term. The last-named aspect is of the utmost importance, especially to producers who run their animals on planted pastures.

 

Nutrition (environment)

While breeding determines whether the genetic potential for a specific characteristic is obtained over the long-term, nutrition (or environment) determines whether or not the characteristic finds expression in the short term. The fact that the strong hair component of the national clip rose from 35 per cent to 52 per cent within a period of 3 to 4 years shows that improved environment (nutrition) was largely responsible for this, in other words the improved environment allowed the full genetic potential of the modern Angora goat for high production to come to the fore, and this was also reflected in the increase in fibre diameter. This view is supported by the results of many experiments where an increase in the level of nutrition resulted in an increase in hair production and fibre diameter throughout.

Supplementary feeding of Angora goats is justified by the positive reaction of production functions such as growth, reproduction, lactation and mohair production. Although malnutrition will have a detrimental effect on these factors, overfeeding can be equally harmful because it is a costly input and it may lead to the production of stronger (cheaper) hair which is less in demand.

The mohair producer will thus have to continually keep an eye on the performance of his animals and make the necessary adjustments in order to maintain the balance mentioned. For this purpose it is necessary to give attention to some guidelines which can help to limit the production of strong mohair.

 

Kids

During the period from birth to first shearing (4 to 6 months), a relatively high level of nutrition will not cause any serious problems among kids as regards fibre diameter. As a matter of fact it is essential for kids to grow out well during this period. Especially after weaning, and even on planted pastures, it is advisable to provide an energy-rich supplementary feed in order to neutralise the detrimental effects of the shock of weaning.

From 6 months of age (live mass of approximately 20 to 22 kg) it is necessary to limit supplements to a level where the animals grow normally to reach a mass of 25 to 27 kg at the age of 12 months.

On planted pastures it will often not be necessary to provide supplements. By doing this it will ensure that kid hair shorn at 12 months of age will still be under 30 microns, with the financial benefits mentioned earlier. Optimal growth rate, however, must receive first priority as a norm for adequate nutrition.

 

Young goats

Although the minimum live mass for 18 month old (2-tooth) ewes has been set at 27 kg, it is preferable that they should be somewhat heavier at the start of the breeding season (approximately 32 kg). It is, however, not necessary to feed them so that they weigh 40 kg or more at this age. These young ewes will mostly produce fine adult hair (and not young goat hair) at their third shearing, with the accompanying financial loss mentioned earlier. On planted pastures the young ewes (from 12 to 18 months of age) should reach the desired weight without supplementation.

It would also be wise to sell any young wethers being kept on pastures at this age (18 months).

 

Ewes

Because of the beneficial influence of flushing on reproduction, it will still be advisable to provide this for a month, from two weeks before mating. During the pregnancy period, supplementation should only be provided during unfavourable conditions (cold, rain, droughts, after shearing, etc) with a view to limiting the incidence of abortions (especially important in the case of 2-tooth and old ewes).

On planted pastures, supplementation of ewes must be limited to the exceptionally unfavourable conditions that have been mentioned (cold spells, rainy weather, after shearing, etc). If necessary, supplements can, however, be given to old ewes as their contribution to strong hair production is small (because of their low hair production). In this regard, keeping old ewes on planted pastures holds considerable advantages over using it for adult ewes because the reproduction rate of old ewes is usually exceptionally high and they thus indirectly produce more kid hair in relation to their low production of relatively strong hair than is the case with strong constitutioned adult ewes.

Supplements can, however, be provided when necessary during the lactation period because it has a slight effect on fibre diameter during this period and will greatly benefit milk production and the growth of kids. All ewes with more than one kid should receive supplements, even on planted pastures.

 

Wethers

Wethers should receive supplementary feeding only in exceptional circumstances and should only be regarded as converters of natural grazing into mohair. Furthermore, wethers should preferably be marketed for meat production at a relatively early age (about 3 years old).

In conclusion it must be mentioned that these are only guidelines for correcting an unhealthy situation which deserves every mohair producer's urgent attention. The quickest results from Angora goats will be obtained from OPTIMUM nutrition, that is to say not MALNUTRITION or OVERNUTRITION.

 

Published

Angora goat and mohair journal 30 (1)