Mohair is produced from the angora goat, which originated in the Angora district of Turkey, and dates back to early biblical times. Mohair is a luxury fibre used widely in clothing and furnishings. New Zealand produces only about 1% of the world’s mohair – most comes from South Africa and the US.
Mohair usually grows in long, lustrous ringlets of around 15 centimetres or longer, and has a fibre diameter of 19–45 microns (millionths of a metre). The diameter varies with the animal’s age – fibre from kids is typically much finer than that from adults. Some mohair is wavy rather than in ringlets.
In New Zealand, good angora goats produce 5–6 kilograms of mohair per year in two shearings. Older animals produce more than young stock.
In 2007 there were about 20,000 angora goats in New Zealand. The angora goat is typically smaller than a feral goat. It frequently produces twins, and has a gentle nature. Both sexes are horned. Angora goat farming in 2007 produced more than double the profit of lamb production – the animals were cheaper than during the goat farming boom of the 1980s.
The Angora region in Turkey is the source of not just angora goats, but also the angora rabbit, which produces long, silky-soft fibre, shorn in summer. Angora is also the home of the angora cat, which often has one blue eye and one amber eye.
Cashmere is fine, down-like fibre, about 8–18.5 microns in diameter, which is found under the coarse coat of guard hair on several types of goat. Cashmere is a premium animal fibre, prized for its softness and warmth. White is the preferred colour.
About 3,000 tonnes of cashmere fibre is produced worldwide annually, mostly in Mongolia. In South Asia cashmere is called pashmina, which means ‘fine wool’ in Persian. The fibre is harvested by combing the fleece, a very laborious job. In New Zealand and Australia it is harvested by shearing and then separating the cashmere from the guard hair, which can be done by machine. The coarse guard hair is worthless because it cannot be spun or dyed.
Feral goats may yield 50 grams of cashmere per animal annually. Breeding and selecting the best animals has improved the national average to about 200 grams per goat, with the best flocks averaging 300–400 grams. The live weight, fleece weight and fibre diameter tend to increase with an animal’s age.
One problem with New Zealand cashmere farming is the small amount produced. Because of associated uncertainty in fibre price, farmers may not shear every year. However cashmere brings a very high price compared with wool.
Goat down with an average fibre diameter of 19–23 microns has been called Cashgora and was once marketed as a separate product. However prices have been very low, and little is now sold.