RESULTS OF THE STUDY DEMONSTRATING THE DISTINCT QUALITY PROPERTIES OF MONGOLIAN CASHMERE FROM LOCAL BREEDS OF GOATS BRED ON FREE RANGELANDS

Mandakh Begzjav1, Enkhtuya Dorj2, Bolormaa Vanchin3, Enkh-Amgalan Tseelei4,

Altantsetseg Duger5, Sarangoo Ukhnaa6, Gankhuyag Nyam-ochir7

 

1Institute for Extension of Advanced Agricultural Technology

2National University of Science and Technology

3Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry

4Mongolian National Federation of Pasture User Groups

5 Mongolian Wool and Cashmere Association

6 Step Eco Lab Project of European Union Switch Asia programme

7 Mongolian National Federation of Pasture User Groups

*Corresponding author: [email protected]

Abstract

The research study was carried out in 2021 to determine the specific quality properties of cashmere of  Mongolian local breeds of goats. The research covered 122 herder households from 13 soums of 8 aimags. A total of 4560 samples were collected from 1522 goats representing the main factors determining cashmere quality: ecological habitat, various herd management practices, local breeds, age and sex of goats, and cashmere colour. Cashmere fibre diameter (FD), fibre curvature (FC), and coefficient of variation of fibre diameter (CVFD) were tested in 1,522 samples, and cashmere length was tested in 1,387 samples.

The overall mean fibre diameter (MFD) was 16.1 μm, mean length (FL) was 44.9 mm, and fibre curvature (FC) was 61.9°/mm. Cashmere from one-year-old goats was significantly finer than cashmere from older goats (about 1.0 μm, P<0.05). Cashmere from does was significantly finer than cashmere from the bucks. Over the range in mean fibre diameter, from 13.5 to 19.0 µm, fibre curvature declined from 87.8 to 44.2°/mm.

Of all cashmere samples, 40.6% belonged to superfine (≤15.5µm), 43.7%, and 12.1% had a fibre diameter between 15.51-16.80 and 16.81-17.50 μm respectively and were suitable for knitwear. Only 3.6% of samples tested were between 17.51 to 19.00 μm and may only be suitable for weaving.

The average CVFD values of cashmere of Mongolian breeds of cashmere goats was 22.5 ± 0.04%, with an individual range of 17.0-26.9%. This shows that it has lesser variation than Alashan white cashmere goats of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, whereCVFD ranged from 27.09% to 41.39%.

Compared to cashmere from China, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, with mean fibre curvature of 46, 46, and 58°/mm, respectively, the cashmere of local Mongolian breeds of goats would be considered curvier and longer, which makes stronger yarns. Short, higher crimped, softer cashmere may be preferred for woollen-spun yarns, but longer, lower crimped, softer cashmere may be preferred for woven yarn destined for knitwear. Fibre curvature of Mongolian cashmere goats declined an average of 6.1°/mm for a 1µm increase in MFD, which is similar to the 5.8°/mm observed in Chinese Liaoning goats, but less than the 13.6°/mm measured in controlled experiments with Australian goats.

Significant differences were found between the cashmere of local Mongolian breeds of goats kept in open, natural rangelands and herded in a nomadic way in distinct ecological conditions of harsh continental climate compared to those breeds of goats kept in intensive farming. This shows the potential to offer distinct quality cashmere from local Mongolian breeds while maintaining proper management and selective breeding.

Key words: fibre diameter, length, curvature, relationship

Introduction

By the end of 2021, of the 26.5 million goats in Mongolia, 25.5 million are cashmere producing, and the remaining goats are cashgora and their crossbreeds [10].

For centuries, Mongolian nomadic herders have selectively bred several local breeds of cashmere for their resistance to Mongolia’s harsh continental climatic conditions and the quality of their cashmere. Pastoralism is an extensive animal production system specialized to environments that show a high degree of variability such as deserts, drylands, steppes, forest and steppes, tundra and high-altitude mountain ranges. It is well suited to Mongolia’s sparsely populated high plains that serve as vast open pastures for livestock herds and is one of the main occupations in Mongolia [11].

Goats are herded in open access natural grasslands, and herder households rotate between four seasonal rangelands, making sure that animals have access to fresh grass and water. Goat herd management practices vary between ecological regions, as each geographical location has its own specific micro-climate conditions, seasonal rangeland productivity, yearly rainfall, and access to minerals and nutrition. Goats are very active foragers, covering a wide area in search of scarce plant materials. A goat’s small mouth, narrow muzzle, and split upper lip enable them to pick small leaves, flowers, fruits, and other plant parts, thus choosing only the most nutritious available feed. As natural browsers, given the opportunity, goats will select over 60% of their daily diet from brush and woody perennials. In a rangeland situation, goats tend to graze from the top to the bottom of plants and do not like to graze near the soil surface. Therefore, goats will more uniformly graze a canopy than other ruminants.Goats prefer not to change their grasslands often; they feel comfortable if they have regular, seasonal grazing routes. Goats in Mongolia are raised in desert rangelands with small bushes and steppe grasses and are known to be more efficient rangeland users. Local goat breeds are used to the low-producing yet nutritious grasses of Mongolia’s dryland ecosystems [9].

Mongolia’s goat population is a living factory that produces valuable fine fibre, meat, and milk from pastureland grazing. Mongolian grassland is classified into approximately 100 types, andmorethan 2,000 varieties of plants provide nutrients onthese different pasturelands. The nutrient quality of over 550 plants is excellent for livestocknutrition [12].

There are four categories of cashmere in Mongolia: superfine (≤15.5 µm), first grade (15.51-16.80 µm), second grade (16.81-17.50 µm), and third grade (17.51-19.00 µm). The price of cashmere in some countries is closely associated with fibre quality. In Mongolia, cashmere has gradually begun to be judged by fibre quality. Additionally, nucleus herds with fine fibre diameter have been established in some flocks. Therefore, it is also necessary to discuss fibre grade.

This paper studies cashmere quality attributes and variation in Mongolian breeds of cashmere goats bred in different natural and ecological zones to determine the scope of improvement required for goat breeding.

Materials and methodologies

Collection of cashmere samples

Samples were collected from randomly selected goats of each sex (does and bucks) by age (1 and ≤4 years); in total, 4,560 samples were collected from 1,522 goats representing eight different breeds of Mongolian cashmere goats bred by122 herder households in13 locations (soums). Sampling was conducted in early spring (mid-March 2021), prior to the seasonal moult and regular annual cashmere harvesting period. (Table 1) Samples were carefully selected from different body parts of cashmere goats;30% were taken from the neck, 40% from the shoulder, and 30% from the hip. Samples were stored in sealed plastic bags labelled with identitytag number and breed,as well asthe age and sex of the goat, with details aboutitslocation and herder.

Fibre testing

The raw cashmere samples consisting of undercoat and guard hair were sent to certified fiber laboratory in Ulaanbaatar for analysis. In the laboratory, each sample was manually dehaired. The dehaired cashmere was washed in solvent, dried, reconditioned, minicored into 2 mm snippets, and then tested using an optical fibre diameter analyser (OFDA 4000 in the mode of an OFDA 100). Based on more than 8,000 individual fibre measurements, mean cashmere fibre diameter (MFD, µm), fibre curvature (FC,°/mm),and the coefficient of variation of fibre diameter (CVFD) were measuredusing a fibre diameter cut-off of 30 µm for cashmere. Cashmere length (CL, mm) was obtained as the mean of three staples. For each staple, a suitable portion of the dehaired samples was sorted by length onto a velvet board, and cashmere staple length was obtained as the average of the maximum, minimum, and midpoint measures.

Statistical analysis

Mean and statistical differences between quantitative variables were analysed using a linear model. Sex, age, and breed of the goats were fitted as independent variables while fibre characteristics were set as dependent variables.

 

Table 1. Geographic location of cashmere goat breeds in this study

Results

Overall cashmere fibre attributes

Table 1 shows the overall means and standard errors for the cashmere traits of all breeds ofcashmeregoats in accordance with their age and sex. Mean fibre diameter (MFD) was16.1μm, length (FL) was44.9 mm, and fibre curvature (FC) was 61.9°/mm. Cashmere from one-year-old goats was significantly finer than cashmere from older goats (about 1.0μm, P<0.05). The study indicated that the effect of sex was significant for the cashmere diameter, fibre curvature, and length of Mongolian cashmere goats.Cashmere diameter for bucks and does was 16.2 ± 0.12 and 15.6 ± 0.11μm; fibre curvature was 63.2±0.95 and 60.6±1.08°/mm; and the length of fibre was 45.7 ± 0.95 and 44.1 ± 1.09mm, respectively. Increases in fibre length and curvature in goats of four or more years of age also occurred according to age and sex. Bucks had longer fibre length and more curvature than does.

 

Table 2. Overall means of fibre characteristics for Mongolian breeds of cashmere goats

Fibre diameter

As shown in Table 2, within the Mongolian breeds of cashmere goats, mean fibre diameter in goats aged 1 to 4 ormore years ranged from 15.4 to 16.9 µm for does and from 14.9 to 17.9 µm for bucks, coarsening by1.5 to 3 microns with age, depending on the breed.

Cashmere FD averaged 15.5 -16.5 μm between breeds. Erchim black cashmere goats with MFD of 16.5 μm had the coarsest fibre, and Altai red had the finest cashmere with 15.5 μm. The overall mean fibre diameter for Altai red, Zalaa-Edren white, Zavkhan Buural, and Bumbugur red strain ranged from 15.5 to 16.5;whereas, Bayandelger red, Ulgii red, local Mongolian, and Erchim black ranged from 16.0 to 16.5 μm.

In accordance with the national standard for raw goat fibre[8], of all cashmere samples 40.6% belonged to superfine (≤15.5 μm), 43.7 and 12.1% had a fibre diameter between 15.51–16.80 and 16.81–17.50 μm, respectively, and were suitable for knitwear. Only 3.6% of samples tested were between 17.51 to 19.00 μm, may only be suitable for weaving. (Table 3)

Table2. Mean fibre diameter (MFD), fibre curvature (FC) and fibre length (FL) in different Mongolian cashmere goat breed categories

Table 3. Distribution of fibrediameters of samples according to cashmere grade

The “handle” of a textile product is generally referred to as “softness”, and can be evaluated using easily obtained measurements of fibre diameter distribution. As shown in Table 4, the coefficient of variation for fibrediameter was 22.5 ± 0.04%with an individual range of 17.0–26.9%. Cashmere samples with a coefficient of variability up to ≤24% of the diameter of cashmere fibres accounted for 88.9% of all samples.

Table 4. Overall means, standard deviations (SD), and ranges of the coefficient of variation for fibre diameter (CVFD)

Fibre curvature

All samples had a curvature greater than 44.2°/mm, with 45.6% between 44.2 and 60°/mm;55% were between 61 and 75°/mm; and 2.4% were between 76 and 88°/mm. On average cashmere from bucks had significantly 2.6°/mm more curvature than does. Age did not have any effect on fibre curvature (Table 1.). Mean fibre curvature of Mongolian cashmere samples ranged from 60.6 for local breed to 67.3°/mm for Altai red cashmere goats. (Table 2)

Fibrelength

Average cashmere length was 44.9 mm (Table 1) with a range of 39.4–53.3 mm between breeds (Table 2). Altai red goats with cashmere length of 55.3 mm had the longest, and Bumbugur red strain had the short­est lengthwith 39.4 mm. Cashmere from four ormoreyear-old goats was sig­nificantly longer than cashmere from one-year-old goats (about 1.6 mm, P<0.05), and males also had longer cashmere than females (about 6.0 mm, P<0.05).

Among all the samples,49.3% had cashmere length between 40 and 50 mm, 31% was shorter than 40 mm, and 19.7% was longer than 50 mm. As cashmere longer than 34-36 mm isused for worsted spinning [13], the results indicate that the majority of cashmere of goats would qualify for the worsted and semi-worsted industry.

Relationship between cashmere fibre quality attributes

A significantly strong negative relationship was found between mean fibre diameter and fibre curvature(−0.459, P < 0.0001). The actual distribution of fibre curvature and FD of the samples is shown in Figure2. An increase inthe mean fibre diameter of cashmere was associated with a decline in cashmere fibre curvature.  Over the range in mean fibre diameter, from 13.5 to 20.7 µm, fibre curvature declined from 87.8 to 44.2°/mm. In other words, as cashmere becomes coarser, it has less fibre crimping.

Average cashmere fibre length was 44.9 mm (Table 1) with significant age and sex effects. As cashmere longer than 34-36 mm is used for worsted spinning [1], the results indicate that all samples of cashmere of Mongolian goat breeds would qualify for the worsted and semi-worsted industry. The actual distribution of cashmere length and FD of samples in Figure3 shows that there is no strong relationship between these two characteristics. Thus, a substantial proportion of the samples with a fibre diameter below 16.5 µm hada fibre length above the average of 45 mm.

Discussions

Breed effect was statistically significant for all traits of cashmere in Mongolian breeds of goats [3]. A large breed effect wasalso detected in other cashmere goats [6,7].

Our finding that older goats had coarser cashmere than yearling goats coincides with McGregor at all [6], who also reported that younger goats of different re­gions of Osh and Narynprovinces of Kyrgyzstan and of the Pamir mountain districts of Tajikistan had significantly lower MFD than older goats. The impact of age could be associated with larger body size, and reduced skin fol­licle density.Competition for nutrients enablesthe follicles to increase in size, resulting in increasedfibre diameter inolder goats.

Cashmere fibreis generally non-medullated and has a mean maximum diameter of 19 µm and the coefficient of variation around the mean should not exceed 24%[2]. The average CVFD values for Mongolian breeds of cashmere goats was 22.5 ± 0.04% with an individual range of 17.0–26.9 %, showing less variation compared to Alashan white cashmere goats of Inner Mongolia, China,whereCVFD ranged from 27.09% to 41.39% [11]. Cashmere samples with a coefficient of variability up to ≤24% of the diameter of cashmere fibres accounted for 80.0-88.9% of all samples. This means that the uniformity of Mongolian goat cashmere fibre is quite good.

Higher cashmere fibre curvature is also related to increased efficiency of the mechanical dehairing of cashmere [5].Differences in cashmere fibre curvature may reflect differences in cashmere breeding. Of more concern are goats with fibre curvatures of <45°/mm.

Compared with cashmere of China, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan with mean fibre curvature of 46, 46 and 58°/mm [6,7], cashmere of local Mongolian breeds of goats would be considered highly curved and long, which makes stronger yarns.  Short, higher crimped, softer cashmere may be preferred for woollen-spun yarns, but longer, lower crimped, softer cashmere may be preferred for woven yarn destined for knitwear. Fibre curvature of Mongolian cashmere goats declined an average of 6.1°/mm for a 1µm increase in MFD, which is similar to the 5.8°/mm observed in Chinese Liaoning goats, but less than the 13.6°/mm measured in controlled experiments with Australian goats [4].

A significantly strong negative relationship was found between mean fiber diameter and fiber curvature for Mongolian breeds of cashmere goats.

This negative relationship in cashmere goats fromKyrgyzstan and Australia was 51 and 39%, respectively [6]. Finer cashmere had higher fibre curvature than coarser cashmere in all these goats. As lower fibre curvature (crimp) can be easily observed, the association between fibre diameter and curvature can be used subjectively for the classing of cashmere in the field. This criterion is of significant commercial importance as cashmere buyers make purchase decisions based on fibre curvature to assess FD and acceptability and the efficiency of mechanical dehairing [5].

Conclusions

There is substantial scope for increasing the commercial value of cashmere produced by Mongolian goat breeds, particularly by increasing length for fine cashmere, reducing mean fiber diameter for the longest cashmere, and ensuring that cashmere has an acceptable fiber curvature and a different color. Significant differences were found between Mongolian goats and breeds compared to those intensively farmed or herded in other countries, indicating the potential to further improveMongolian cashmere quality and the need for adopting proper management and selection methods through the selection of goats with finer cashmere, taking care of maintaining the excellent cashmere softness andcurvature.

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