North American Cashmere Goat Breed Standard  

General Characteristics

The North American Cashmere Goat (NACG) is a dual purpose animal, providing both fiber and meat products. Both FIBER and CONFORMATION traits are described and scored in this breed standard, with current relative assigned values of:

FIBER

Diameter

Fiber diameter can be described as Mean Fiber Diameter (MFD).  Fiber must be fine, with a histogram MFD of 19 microns or less.

 Uniformity

Fiber diameter should exhibit minimal variation in a given sample or “swatch,” and transitional fibers should not be present.  Uniformity is expressed as Coefficient of Variation (CV) and must be no greater than 24%.

Style

Style is defined as the crimp or curvature of the individual fibers, and is expressed as deg/mm (degrees of circular arc per mm).  Individual fibers should exhibit three dimensional, irregular crimp along their entire length.  Mean style measurements on the fiber scan should be no less than 45 deg/mm.

Length

Fiber length is measured in its relaxed (crimpy) state, and must be no less than 1.25 inches (32 mm).

Differentiation

Guard hair should be coarse enough to be easily differentiated from down fibers.

Total Down Weight (TDW)

The total amount of cashmere down that is obtained from the fleece of a single goat.  Represented as Total Down Weight (TDW), it is measured after cleaning and processing, and must be no less than 2 ounces (60 grams).

Cover

All four harvest sites on the individual goat (neck, shoulder, side, hip) should produce cashmere fiber, and the down coverage at each of these sites should be Complete and Consistent. Complete Cover means that each harvest site actually grows cashmere.  Consistent Cover means that the cashmere that is grown at each harvest site is of the same type and quality.

 CONFORMATION

Head

Head should be well-proportioned to neck and body size.  Horns may be of any style and shape that is functional and safe.

Teeth

Teeth should be flush with the dental pad.  When viewed from the side, upper and lower biting structures should be symmetrical.

Forequarters

Neck should be well-proportioned to frame.  Shoulders should be well-muscled and strong.  Legs should be straight, strong, well-muscled, and proportional to frame.  Shoulders, knees and pasterns should be correctly angled and strong.  Forequarter movement should be free and correct.

Barrel/Back

Barrel should be long, broad, and well-muscled.  Chest should be wide with ribs that are well-sprung, with adequate girth in proportion to frame.  Back should be strong and straight from shoulder to rump.

Hindquarters

Rump should be broad, long, and well-muscled, with only a slight slope between hook bones and pin bones.  Rear legs should be strong, well-muscled, and proportional to frame.  Hips, hocks and pasterns should be correctly angled and strong.  Hindquarter movement should be free and correct.

Feet

Hooves should be sturdy, broad, well-formed, and proportional to frame.  Inter digital division should be adequate, and both sides of each hoof should be symmetrical.

Reproductive System

Does:

Udder should be round with good suspension, and with two teats that are functional and symmetrical. Vulva should be normally developed for age.

 Bucks:

Two testicles should be present, smooth and symmetrical, and of adequate size for age.  Any split in the scrotum should extend no more than one third total scrotal length.  Two undeveloped teats should be present.  Sheath should be normally developed for age.

 

 

NORTH AMERICAN CASHMERE GOAT GRADING SYSTEM

Reviewed and revised

March 8, 2016

Grading System

The North American Cashmere Goat grading system described here (Figure 1) reflects the North American Cashmere Goat (NACG) as a dual-purpose animal, providing both fiber and meat products, with relative market values currently defined as:  FIBER 50% and CONFORMATION 50%.  This ratio has been a long-held and consistent position over many years for most North American breeders and producers.  That ratio can be modified over time, however, to meet the needs of a developing NACG industry.  For example, if the NACG industry requires more attention to fiber quality and production, and less attention to meat production, that ratio might in the future be changed to something like: FIBER 60% and CONFORMATION 40%.

 

The NACG grading system gives a decimal score from 0.0 to 3.0 for each of the scoring traits of both FIBER and CONFORMATION.  This system also assigns descriptive terms to the decimal scores.  The point here is that some breeders and judges might find the decimal scores most useful in the evaluation of goats and fleeces; others might prefer a descriptive term.  This grading system accommodates both preferences.

0-3                   Description

3.0                   Excellent (best)

2.0                   Medium (average)

1.0                   Poor

0.0                   Disqualified (DQ)

Note that high numbers (e.g. 2.8) are always better than low numbers (e.g. 1.8), and this is consistent across the board for all traits to be scored.  In this scoring system, therefore, excellent Style would score 3.0, and poor Style would score 1.0.

 

Part 1 – GENERAL INFORMATION (no score)

In this section, standard identifying information is recorded.  Also, certain traits are described but not scored because they generally represent breeder preference or management issues, or otherwise have little to do with the overall genetic value of the goat.

 

Cashmere Goat ID (name, ear tag number, tattoo number, microchip number, etc.).

 

Sex/Age/Birth Date/Birth Number (single, twin, triplet, etc.)

 

Fleece # (1st fleece, 2nd fleece, etc.).

Since the cashmere fleece tends to coarsen a bit each year, it is important to know the age of the goat at the time of fleece harvest.  Since the fleece harvest always occurs in late winter/early spring, and harvest might have been completed something like 6-8 months prior to evaluation of the live goat (e.g. in September), it is generally more useful to know the age of the fleece than the age of the goat.

 

Color Down/Color Guard Hair (e.g. Light Brown/Black)

Note that there currently is no consensus among NACG breeders regarding the relative practical value or desirability of the various colors of down or guard hair on cashmere goats  For this reason, colors of down and guard hair are listed and described here as  traits under GENERAL INFORMATION, and left as a breeder preference without a value score.

 

D:G Ratio (Down length:Guard hair length ratio)

D:G ratio describes the length of down fiber (D) compared to the length of guard hair fiber (G).  A goat whose down fiber extends beyond the guard hair, would have a D:G ratio that is  greater that 1:1 (e.g. 2:1).  A goat with medium guard hair length, whose down fiber is the same length as the guard hair, would have a D:G ration that is 1:1..  A goat with relatively long guard hair length, whose down fiber is shorter than the guard hair, would have a D:G ratio that is less than 1:1 (e.g. 0.5:1).

Examples:

Goat A has relatively short guard hair length, and the down is twice as long as the guard hair.  The D:G ration is 2:1.

Goat B has medium guard hair length, and the down is the same length as the guard hair.  The D: G ratio is 1:1.

Goat C has relatively long guard hair length, and the down is half the length of the guard hair.  The D: G ration is 0.5:1.

D:G Ratio can provide useful information related to the harvest of the down fleece, and also to the quality of the down:

D:G ratio is related to %Yield, but it is not the same thing, and that is why it is described separately.  D:G Ratio is based on relative length of fiber types, not weight.  %Yield is based on weight, and is generally estimated from a fleece that has already been harvested.  (see below for more description of  %Yield).

In summary, some NACG breeders prefer relatively long guard hair and some prefer relatively short guard hair.  Currently there is no consensus among NACG breeders, so D:G Ratio is included here under GENERAL INFORMATION and not as a trait for scoring in the breed standard.

 

%Yield (Down weight/ Total fleece weight in %) 

%Yield describes the weight of down fiber compared to the weight of the total raw fleece, and is generally estimated from a fleece that has already been harvested.  A fleece with low %Yield (e.g. 25%) would have a large amount of “waste” in the fleece in addition to the valuable down product.  This” waste” can be a combination of guard hair and foreign material such as hay chaff, dust and dirt, etc.  A fleece with high %Yield (e.g. 50%) would have a smaller amount of guard hair and other waste relative to the down product.

%Yield can be related to D:G Ratio, but it is not the same thing, and that is why it is described separately.  While D:G Ratio is based on length, %Yield is based on weight.  While D:G Ratio is easily determined on the live goat, %Yield is determined from a harvested fleece.  While D:G Ratio tells us only about relative fiber lengths,  %Yield is affected by all types of “waste” in the harvested fleece, including hay chaff, dust and dirt, etc., as well as guard hair as “waste.”

If a fleece is shorn, %Yield and D:G Ratio can be closely correlated.  All other factors being equal (like vegetable matter and dirt as waste), a goat with a high D:G Ratio (relatively long down/short guard hair) will also produce a shorn fleece with relatively high %Yield,, since relatively little guard hair is in the total fleece   If a fleece is combed, however, there is generally little correlation between %Yield and D:G Ratio, because the guard hair (much of the “waste” weight) mostly stays on the goat.

 

Example:

Assuming that the amount of vegetable matter, dust, and other foreign material is constant, a typical Yield on a shorn fleece with medium guard hair length (D:G Ratio of 1:1) is about 25%.  A typical Yield on a combed fleece (regardless of guard hair length) is about 50-60%.

%Yield is defined simply as the % of down by weight in the total raw fleece.  It is included under GENERAL INFORMATION, but is not given a score because it is primarily affected by the method of harvest.  %Yield is used later, however, as part of the calculation formula for Total Down Weight (TDW).  For evaluating the total amount (in weight) of cashmere (down) that is produced on a goat, go to Total Down Weight (TDW), under FIBER traits.

Wattles

The presence or absence of wattles is essentially a cosmetic issue that might be important to some breeders, but not to others.  For example, the presence of wattles might have some practical significance if the goat is to be shorn (vs combed), and even then, wattles can be noted only to be avoided during shearing. This information is therefore listed under GENERAL INFORMATION and described, but it is not a trait in the NACG breed standard that is scored.

Condition

Condition is included with GENERAL INFORMATION and is not scored as a genetic trait.  Condition usually has more to do with the way the goat has been managed than it does with genetics and breeding choices.  So it is described, but not scored.  Any practical effect on fleece (e.g. “hunger fine”) should be reflected in FIBER scores, and any additional practical effects on carcass quality should found in CONFORMATION scores.

Disposition

It is unreasonable to try to define the ideal disposition for a North American Cashmere Goat.  Disposition should ideally match the conditions under which the animal is to be raised.  Quiet dispositions might be best for small herds or for animals that are frequently handled.  Animals raised under open range or near-feral conditions, however, might need a disposition that is better suited to “fight or flight.”  And some of the emotional and behavioral problems that are seen today even in some working dog breeds should teach us that disposition should not be a trait that is selected and scored primarily for the show ring.

Frame

In this grading system, Frame is simply defined as the overall size of the animal, and does not indicate the “shape” or conformation of the animal.  If Frame is to be measured on a weight scale as live body weight, adjustments might need to be made for the Condition of the animal when looking at Frame.  The point here is to estimate the true “genetic frame” of the goat, which correlates best with the “lean body weight” as it would be with the goat in ideal Condition.

Example:

A goat might weigh 180 lbs. on the scale, and that weight is recorded as “live body weight.”  If the goat is obese, however (noted under Condition), what should also be recorded is an estimate of “ideal body weight” – what the goat would weigh if it were in proper good condition.  The estimated “ideal body weight” more accurately reflects the true “genetic frame.”

So “ideal body weight” is the actual scale weight (live body weight), adjusted up or down (to ideal body weight), by subtracting the estimated extra body weight on the animal due to obesity, or adding the estimated lost body weight due to management issues.

Note that there currently is no consensus among NACG breeders regarding the relative practical value or desirability of  goats with either small or large Frames. Some breeders simply prefer larger goats, and some prefer smaller goats. For this reason, Frame is listed and described here as a trait under GENERAL INFORMATION, and left as a breeder preference without a value score.

 

Part 2 – FIBER SCORE

Most of the FIBER traits can now be scored by using objective data obtained from computer scanning techniques.  They can also be scored by eye, using a 0-3 score or descriptive score.

 

Mean Fiber Diameter (MFD)

A smaller fiber measurement (in microns) is associated with a finer fiber and a softer fleece, and a better (higher) score on the 0-3 scale.   An “objective” measure of MFD can be determined from a sample by computer scanning, and the micron measurements are then plotted on a histogram (“FD Histogram”).  A simple conversion table then translates the objective micron measurements into a 0-3 score.  MFD can also be estimated by eye, and scored in either the 0-3 or Description columns.

 

There is some varied opinion around the world regarding an acceptable range for MFD in cashmere fiber.  In the NACG grading system, however, 19.0 microns is the upper limit that defines North American Cashmere, and anything coarser than that is better described as “cashgora,” but would not qualify as North American Cashmere.

 

Uniformity

Cashmere down fiber should be fine, as defined by Mean Fiber Diameter (MFD), and should also have a “uniform” pattern of fiber diameter, defined in this grading system as Uniformity.  An objective measurement of Uniformity is expressed as the Coefficient of Variation (CV) of the fiber diameter measurements, and seen also in the shape of the plotted histogram.  A “tight” histogram indicates that most of the fiber diameter measurements are close to the mean, so the sample would have a small CV and the Uniformity score would be high.  A “broad” histogram indicates that whatever the mean fiber diameter (MFD) might be, individual fiber diameters are not uniform and differ widely from each other, so the CV would be a high number, and the Uniformity score would therefore be low.

 

Note that the sometimes loosely used term “consistency,” as it relates to fiber diameter measurements in a specific small fleece sample (“swatch”), is defined in the NACG  grading system as “Uniformity,” and is evaluated as the Uniformity component of the FIBER score.

 

The FD histogram will also pick up the presence of the dreaded “transitional fibers.”  These fibers are disastrous if found in any cashmere product (“cashmere cancer”), with diameters measuring somewhere between down and guard hair, usually in the 25 micron range.  The plotted curve of the FD histogram will typically show a “second spike” or will appear to be “skewed to the right” if transitional fibers are present.  Transitional fibers can also be seen by the eye (again, some magnification helps).  The problem with transitional fibers is that they essentially ruin the rest of the good cashmere in the product as they cannot be removed in the dehairing process.  Remember that cashmere is soft because it is 19.0 microns or less, and the fine individual fibers will “bend” when they contact skin.  Fibers over 20 microns, however, will not bend as easily, and are more likely to “prickle” the skin on contact.  That is why transitional fibers (since they are usually coarser than 20 microns) are sometimes called “prickle fibers.”  The presence of any transitional fibers in a fleece would categorically disqualify that fleece as North American Cashmere.

Style

Style is another term for the “crimp” that is seen in cashmere fiber.  Fine fiber (small MFD measurement) is usually associated with crimpy fiber (good Style) but not always.  Most experts agree that good style is important to the quality and “feel” of a cashmere product.  In some testing labs, style can now be measured objectively by computer scanning techniques.  Results are reported as “deg/mm.” A very crimpy fiber would have a lot of curvature and therefore more degrees of a circular arc (deg) along a measured millimeter (mm) of fiber length.  A simple conversion table can then translate this objective data score (deg/mm) into a Description score or 0-3 score (still using 3.0 as the best score).

Length

Length refers to the relaxed length of the cashmere down fibers.  Generally this is simply measured by eye and a ruler.

There is some varied opinion around the world regarding an acceptable range for length of cashmere fiber, and in some parts of the world, it is not even measured or included in a standard.   In this NACG grading system, however, 28 mm (1.25 inches) is the lower limit of the scale that defines North American Cashmere.  Anything shorter than that would not qualify as North American Cashmere, as it would tend to “pill” when made into yarn, would be difficult to spin, and would also reduce the tensile strength of the yarn.

Differentiation

Differentiation refers to the difference in diameter between guard hairs and down fibers in a given sample.  Ideally, guard hair would be very coarse, and down would be very fine.  If a fleece is well “differentiated” in this way, the down separates from the guard hair much more easily in the dehairing process, and more clean down is produced with less time in the dehairing machine.  This translates into better quality (and longer) cashmere with less fiber damage.  But if down hair and guard hair are too similar in diameter,  the dehairing machine cannot clearly tell the difference between them; the result is that either too much guard hair will go into the final product (“porcupine yarn”), or too much down will be damaged or lost as waste.

 

Differentiation can be evaluated with reasonable accuracy by eye.  Therefore it is generally not reported on a conventional histogram which only reports diameter measurements on the down fibers.  The FD histogram can sometimes be expanded by request, however, to include both down and guard hair fibers, and Differentiation will then be more clearly, accurately, and objectively measured in micron units.

 

Total Down Weight (TDW)

TDW refers to the Total Down Weight, or net amount (by weight) of down fibers that are obtained from any given fleece after the guard hairs (and other waste and impurities such as hay chaff, dust and dirt, etc.) have been removed by processing.  TDW is also sometimes referred to as “production.”  Total Down Weight (TDW) is easy to calculate because %Yield (% of down in a total raw fleece) is relatively easy to estimate by eye, and the total weight of the raw harvested fleece is simply measured on a weight scale.  So TDW (the actual weight of the final cashmere down product) is determined by weighing the total raw fleece (including guard hair and other waste and impurities), then multiplying that weight by the estimated %Yield.

 

Example:  A complete raw shorn fleece weighs 480 grams.  Estimated %Yield is 25% (this is a typical %Yield on a shorn fleece with medium length guard hair, or a D:G Ratio of 1:1, with minimal dirt, chaff and other impurities).  So this goat’s TDW is 480 grams x 25% = 120 grams (about 4 ounces).

 

It is important to understand the difference between % Yield and TDW.  %Yield is simply the % of useful product in the raw harvested fleece.  So the total weight of the raw harvested fleece (including guard hair and other waste) x %Yield = TDW.  Note that the method of harvest (shear vs comb) is generally the primary factor in determining %Yield.  Note also that good TDW scores can therefore come from raw fleeces with either high %Yield or low %Yield, depending on the weight of the complete raw fleece after harvest.   And good TDW scores can come from goats with either high D:G Ratio or low D:G Ratio.

 

Cover

Cover refers to the distribution of down fiber over the four harvest sites (neck, shoulder, side, and hip) on the goat.  Cover should be both complete and consistent.  Complete Cover means that each harvest site actually grows useful cashmere.  Consistent Cover means that the cashmere that is grown at each site is of the same type and quality.

 

Examples:

 

 

Since Cover is a trait that is important to the evaluation of the goat’s ability to produce a consistent quality of cashmere fiber, it is included in this NACG grading system as part of the FIBER score.  At the same time, it is the only FIBER trait that is best evaluated on the live goat, and not from a single bag of harvested fleece.

Part 3 – CONFORMATION SCORE

CONFORMATION traits are certainly important to meat production, but their importance is not limited to the meat market. They include traits of conformation such as hooves, teeth, and reproductive organs that might not directly increase carcass weight or meat quality, but would certainly promote hardiness, thriftiness, and reproductive ability of the North American Cashmere Goat.

Head

North American Cashmere Goats almost always have beautiful heads and horns, and most of them score high (i.e. 3.0).  There are certain horn configurations however, that are truly dangerous and should be disqualified (i.e. score = 0).

One of the most dangerous horn patterns is a pair of horns that rise together steeply, then flute out to the right and left.  The vertical space between the two horns forms a steep, narrow wedge that can tightly hold a captured leg. Another dangerous pattern is a pair of horns that flare out horizontally and widely to each side, with short upturning tips at the end of each horn. When fighting or even sparring, goats can drive these upturned tips into an opponent’s abdominal wall, and can easily rupture internal organs, particularly the rumen.

Goats with dangerous horn patterns often “know their own strength,” and are often aggressive with other goats in the herd.  These types of horn configurations can also be dangerous for the handlers.  So here is an example of a trait that promotes the survival of the individual goat, but is dangerous enough to the rest of the herd (and even to the handlers) to disqualify the goat from breeding.

Teeth

Good teeth are important to the health of any browsing animal, who regularly forages on very rough material.  Different goat breeds have different standards for teeth, but in this NACG grading system, the lower teeth ideally meet perfectly flush with the upper pad, and the side view shows symmetry between the upper and lower biting structures.  These teeth would score high (i.e. score = 3.0 or Excellent).

Forequarters

This conformation trait is scored 0-3 or by Description in the same way that meat goats are scored.  Since there is currently no objective method for evaluating these traits, they are scored only in the 0-3 or Description columns, and not in the Data column.

The ideal is a neck that is strong and well-proportioned to frame.  Shoulders should be well-muscled and strong.  Legs should be strong, well-muscled, and well-proportioned to frame.  Shoulders, knees, and pasterns should be correctly angled and strong.  Forequarter movement should be free and correct.

Barrel/Back

This conformation trait is scored 0-3 or by Description in the same way that meat goats are scored. Since there is currently no objective method for evaluating these traits, they are scored only in the 0-3 and Description columns, and not in the Data column.

The ideal is a barrel that is long, broad, and well-muscled.  Chest should be wide, with ribs that are well-sprung, and with adequate girth in proportion to frame.  Back should be strong and straight from shoulder to rump.

Hindquarters

This conformation trait is scored 0-3 or by Description in the same way that meat goats are scored. Since there is currently no objective method for evaluating these traits, they are scored only in the 0-3 and Description columns, and not in the Data column.

The ideal is a rump that is broad, long, and well-muscled, with a slight slope between hook bones and pin bones.  Hind legs should be strong, well-muscled, and proportional to frame.  Hips, hocks, and pasterns should be correctly angled and strong.  Hindquarter movement should be free and correct.

Hooves

The ideal hoof has the correct size, strength, and shape to carry the weight of the animal without predisposing to injury, arthritis, hoof rot, or similar problems.  It should be sturdy, broad, well-formed, and proportional to frame.  Interdigital separation should be adequate to prevent hoof rot in moist conditions.  Both sides of each hoof should be symmetrical and straight (not “collapsed”)   Here again, it is the “genetic foot” that should be judged, not management practices or trimming proficiency of the owner.  Sometimes it helps to trim a foot correctly in order to better evaluate the “true” shape and size of the “genetic foot,” and to score it after a trim.

Reproductive System

Scoring here should be based strictly on function, and criteria can be straightforward and simple.  Both males and females score high (3.0) as long as reproductive organs are healthy and “normal,” and no significant functional deformities are present.   While this might sound easy, experts sometimes disagree about what is “normal” and what is “significant” regarding deformities.

NACG guidelines:

Does:

Udder should be well-proportioned with good suspension, with two (only two) functional teats and vulva normally developed for age. Note that other breeds (e.g. Boer Goats) apply a different standard, and some Boer breeders actually prefer extra teats (and accept the associated problems).

Bucks:

Two testicles are present that are correctly sized for age. Scrotal measurements are of uncertain value.  Two (only two) undeveloped teats are present.  A split scrotum is a finding of uncertain significance, and until more evidence-based data is available, no points are deducted for small splits that involve 1/3 of the scrotum or less.  Sheath should be normally developed for age.

Addendum 1 – Grading for shows:

The North American Cashmere Goat Grading System described here is best suited for the purposes of breed development, herd improvement, herd management, breeding decisions, and the sale and purchase of breeding stock.  This same grading system, however, can also be adapted for use in the show ring  By using this grading system, each goat in the show could be evaluated and scored on all seven traits of FIBER and all seven  traits of CONFORMATION, and the completed scorecard kept on file for reference when choosing animals for breeding.

If the show requires competition, however, with ribbons and awards (beyond the completed scorecards), this can still be done.  After all goats in a class are scored by the judge (scorecards), the “best” goats can then be chosen by the judge.  Although there are currently no formal guidelines for determining the “best” goats (since no relative weights have yet been applied to the various trait scores), the trait scores on both FIBER and CONFORMATION can still serve very appropriately as “reasons” for choosing the ”best” goats.  No matter what happens to ribbons and awards, however, note that all goats who participate in shows that use this NACG grading system (not just the winners) can still leave the show ring with a complete evaluation and score on all 7 traits of FIBER and all 7 traits of CONFORMATION.  That is one way that” live goat” shows can very effectively contribute to the overall development and improvement of the NACG breed.

Some additional points on shows deserve clarification:

For “fleece” shows, in which only the previously harvested fleece is judged from a bag, most of the FIBER traits can still be evaluated and scored.   If the entire fleece is included in the bag for judging, Total Down Weight (TDW) can be scored accurately by weighing the total raw fleece, then multiplying that weight by the estimated %Yield.  But Cover must still be scored on the live goat. So if a FIBER trait (like Cover) cannot be scored from a single bag in a fleece show, this score can simply be left blank or noted as “not applicable’ (NA).

For “live goat” shows, evaluation of most of the FIBER traits are still generally done on the previous winter’s fleece, combed or shorn, and brought to the show in a bag.  The reason for this methodology is that North American Cashmere Goats produce most of their useful cashmere during the winter months, and are not really in full cashmere production until sometime between November and January.  Since these goats might not be producing their best cashmere when a “live goat” show is held (e.g. during September or October), it makes most sense to evaluate the true cashmere potential of an individual goat by evaluating the latest complete winter fleece (saved in the bag).

Addendum 2 – Conversion Tables:

Conversion tables, correlating objective Data scores to 0-3 scores and their corresponding Description terms, need further work and development, and hopefully can be done through a consensus process over time.  Consider that whatever process is used, these conversion scores should always be dynamic and responsive to developing trends in the North American Cashmere Goat industry.

Associations: