Fiber Production From Different Animals

The five main keratinous fibers used in the production of textiles are wool, mohair, angora, cashmere, and alpaca. Basic details of their production and of some of the rarer fibers are listed in Table 1.

Globally, the dominant animal fiber produced is wool. Grown by many different breeds of sheep, often as a byproduct of meat or milk, wool varies in type with a mean fiber diameter ranging from 12 to 50 mm. It can be divided into three broad categories: merino wool (< 24.5 mm), crossbred wool (24.6 to 32.5 mm), and carpet wool (> 32.6 mm). About 50% of all wool traded is merino wool, grown predominantly in extensive grazing systems.

Mohair and cashmere are produced by goats in extensive pastoral systems, although where meat production is important, stubbles and cereal by-products may also be provided. Angora goats (producing mohair) are usually kept in hotter, drier conditions than cashmere goats. The two types interbreed freely, but their coat types are quite distinct and the crossbred fleece (cashgora) has little commercial value. Mohair forms a single, uniform, generally white fleece of wavy, lustrous fibers. The

Table 1 Fiber-producing animals

Global

Major regions

Range in

Range in

production

of production in

Coat

mean fiber

yield per

Commercial

Usual method

Species

Fiber

k tons/year

descending order

type

diameter1 [xm

animal" kg/year

colors

of harvest

Sheep

Wool

1,500

Australia,

Single/rarely

12-50

1-10

White + others

Shear annually

(genus Ovis)

New Zealand,

double

China

Goat

Mohair

10

S. Africa,

Single

23^6

4-10

White

Shear twice

(Capra hircus

U.S.A.,

annually

aegarus)

S. America

Goat

Cashmere

5

China,

Double

12-19

0.05-0.50

White, fawn gray,

Comb or shear

(Capra hircus laniger)

Mongolia,

brown

annually

Afghanistan

Alpaca

Alpaca

4.5

S. America

Single

20^10

3.0-5.0

White, brown,

Shear annually

(Llama pacos)

black, gray

Llama

Llama

2.5

S. America

Double

30^10

2.0-5.0

White, brown,

Shear annually

(Llama glama)

black, gray

Guanaco

Guanaco

>0.01

S. America

Double

13-16

0.50-0.95b

Golden brown

Shear occasionally

(Llama hunchus)

Vicuña

Vicuña

0.005

S. America

Double

12-15

0.08-0.25b

Golden brown

Shear occasionally

(Vicugna vicugna)

Rabbit

Angora

3

China,

Three fiber

11-15

0.4-1.4

White

Pluck or shear x 4

(Oryctolagus cuniculus)

S. America,

types

annually

Eastern Europe

Bactrian camel

Camelhair

4.5

Northern China,

Double

18-24

3.5-6.0

Reddish brown,

Gather or comb

(Camelus bactrianus)

Mongolia

rarely white

annually

Yak

Yak

1.0

Himalayan region

Double

15-20

0.1-0.2

Brown, fawn,

Comb annually

(Bos phoephagus)

gray, white

grunniens)

Musk ox

Qiviut

>0.003

N. America

Double

11-20

0.9-2.5

Light to dark

Gather or comb

(Ovibos moschatus)

brown

annually

aWhole coat in single-coated animals, undercoat in double-coated animals bYield per harvest (From Refs 3 and 4 )

aWhole coat in single-coated animals, undercoat in double-coated animals bYield per harvest (From Refs 3 and 4 )

presence of kemp fibers grown by primary follicles is a serious fault. Cashmere is the downy undercoat of double-coated goats and is separated from the coarse outer guard hairs before processing. Several breeds have been developed specifically for cashmere production, but cashmere may be harvested from other breeds that have a well-defined undercoat under 19 mm. Fine cashmere grown in India is known as pashmina, but this term has also been applied, confusingly, to mixtures of cashmere and silk.

Angora fiber is grown by the Angora rabbit. The coat comprises three types of fiber, all medullated: guide hairs, guard hairs, and down, in the ratio 1:4:60.[5] Rigid kemp fibers give the yarn its characteristically fluffy appearance. Length and cleanliness are the most important traits, commercially. Production systems are intensive. High levels of food intake, particularly protein, are required.

The alpaca is one of four types of camelid found predominantly in South America. There are two distinct breeds of alpaca: the Huacaya, which has short, crimped staples, and the less-common Suri, which produces ringlets of wavy, silky fiber (the preferred type). Smaller amounts of fiber, used in the manufacture of coarse blankets and socks, are produced by the llama. Traditional pastoral systems of production are still found in the high-altitude grasslands of the Andes. The guanaco and vicuna are both wild. The vicuna was hunted to the verge of extinction for its very fine undercoat, but efforts today are centered on sustainable harvesting (chaku), with capture and shearing followed by safe release.

Camel hair comes mainly from the two-humped Bactrian camel, a multipurpose animal providing meat, milk, hides, and transport in desert areas. It has a double coat, the undercoat being sold for fine textile production and the coarser fiber being used to make felt for local use. Yaks have a similar multipurpose role in high-altitude regions across Central Asia and into China.

Two very rare and very fine fibers are qiviut, the undercoat of the musk ox found in arctic conditions in northern America and the USSR, and shahtoosh, the undercoat of the wild Tibetan antelope found in herds at high altitude on the Chang Tang plateau of northern Tibet. Both of these animals have been hunted close to extinction, but they are making a managed return backed by international law.

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