Mohair Production and Marketing

Christopher John Lupton

Texas A&M University, San Angelo, Texas, U.S.A.

INTRODUCTION

Mohair is the white, lustrous fiber produced by the Angora goat (Capra hircus aegagrus). This unique breed of goat, thought to have originated in the Asian Himalayas, had migrated to the Ankara region of Turkey by the 13th century. The breed obtained its name from this region. The word mohair is derived from the Arabic word mukhayar, variously translated as best of selected fleece, select choice, silky-goat skin cloth, cloth of bright goat hair, and hair cloth. The spinning and textile processing of mohair was confined to Turkey until 1820, when a few bales of the raw material were exported to Europe. Mohair is a specialty animal fiber, others being cashmere, alpaca, camel, and llama hair, to name but a few. Mohair production is an important agricultural activity in South Africa, the United States, and Turkey, in regions where agricultural enterprise options are limited by harsh range conditions. In recent years, South Africa has consistently produced the most mohair, but this has not and may not always be the case. Specific climate and economic conditions, combined with current and anticipated demand for mohair, have over time caused growers to alternate between mohair production and other livestock enterprises. Production in the United States, primarily in Texas, has been declining since 1989.

THE MOHAIR INDUSTRY

Mohair constitutes ~ 0.01% of world textile fiber production (Table 1). World production of mohair is summarized in Table 2. In the broadest sense, the industry is made up of producers, their Angora goats (Fig. 1), and employees on the ranches and farms, as well as professional shearers, fiber handlers, and classers (for harvesting mohair), and warehouse personnel and mohair buyers (for marketing) who arrange for purchase and transfer of the fiber from the warehouse to facilities where it will be scoured and processed into yarn and fabric. Because the mohair industry (and the specialized fiber industry in general) is so fragmented, these textile processes typically involve movement of the mohair through many production areas and often among countries before a finished product is obtained. It would not be unusual for mohair produced in Texas to be blended with South African mohair, manufactured into fabric in one or more countries in Europe, then shipped to countries in Asia for garment manufacturing, and finally returned to the United States for sale.

SHEARING, FLEECE PREPARATION, AND MARKETING

In typical range operations, Angora goats are gathered twice a year (February and August in the Northern Hemisphere) for shearing. Animals are drafted into three major age categories kid, young goat (18 months old), and adult, providing about 20%, 20%, and 60% by weight of the total clip, respectively and shorn by professional shearers. Shearing facilities range from makeshift tents with plywood floors and temporary pens to custom-built shearing sheds complete with raised hardwood shearing floors and individual catch pens. In Texas, shearers use power-driven shears to first remove mohair from the belly and legs before tying all four legs. This essentially immobilizes the animal and facilitates removal of the rest of the fleece, ideally in one piece. The mohair is then moved from the shearing floor to another location, depending on the marketing philosophy of the producer.

Some owners attempt to add value to their clip at this point by removing urine- and fecal-stained portions, as well as any inferior mohair. The remaining mohair may be further differentiated by fiber diameter, staple length and structure (e.g., ringlet versus flat lock), type or amount of vegetable contamination, and estimated clean yield. This grading or classing may be accomplished by a skilled owner or an experienced classer. In this case, bags (or bales) of classed mohair are delivered to the warehouse for sale. The processes are labor-intensive and slow. Some U.S. producers concur that this extra work after shearing is not cost-effective, and they package their mohair straight from the shearing floor into burlap bags that are delivered to the warehouse as ''original bag'' (OB) mohair. Before processing, this mohair must be skirted and classed either at the warehouse or at the textile mill.

In South Africa, shearing is carried out using hand or power shears. Most South African growers take great

Table 1 World textile fiber production in 2000, million kg

Fiber

Amount

Rayon and acetatea

2,199

Noncellulosic fibersb

25,977

Cotton

19,173

Wool

1,374

Flax

671

Silk

86

Hemp (soft)

74

Mohairc

5.52

TOTAL

49,559.52

"Excluding filter tow. bExcluding polyolefin. cNot included in original table. (From Refs. 1 3.)

"Excluding filter tow. bExcluding polyolefin. cNot included in original table. (From Refs. 1 3.)

personal pride in having the entire clip skirted and classed at the ranch prior to delivery for sale. Both South Africa and the United States have official guidelines[3-5] for classing and marketing mohair. At the warehouse, the different lines may be grab-and-core-sampled and the samples objectively tested for the main value-determining characteristics: clean yield, vegetable matter content, average fiber diameter (and variability), degree of med-ullation, and possibly staple length and staple strength. This information may be made available to mohair buyers when they view representative opened bags or bales of mohair. Sales may be by private treaty, sealed bid, or open bid, the first method being quite common in the United States and open bid being more popular in South Africa. The buyer's representative then arranges for transportation to a scouring plant. Prices (converted to U.S. currency and weight units) paid for South African mohair in December 2003 are listed in Table 3. The lower adjusted

Table 2 Mohair production by country in 2GG2

Country

Production, million kg, greasy

Percentage of world production

South Africa

4.20

63.6

United States

0.75

11.4

Lesotho

0.45

6.8

Argentina

0.30

4.6

Turkey

0.30

4.6

Australia

0.20

3.0

New Zealand

0.10

1.5

Other

0.30

4.5

TOTAL

6.60

100.0

(From Ref. 3.)

Fig. 1 Angora goats on western Texas rangeland exhibiting the unique luster for which their mohair is famous. (Photograph courtesy of J.W. Walker.) (View this art in color at www. dekker.com.)

Texas prices reflect the high proportion of OB mohair that is marketed in the United States.

TEXTILE PROCESSING

Typically, many different producer lots are blended to constitute a processing lot. As it progresses from raw fiber to finished textile, mohair passes through a series of mechanical and aqueous treatments. A list of those processes follows.[6]

• Opening. This is a mechanical process designed to remove loose dirt and vegetable material prior to washing.

• Scouring. Raw mohair is cleaned in a scouring process that dissolves suint, emulsifies wax, and removes and suspends dirt particles. This is achieved by raking the fiber through a series of four to six large baths containing hot water and detergent, each one followed by a squeeze roller. After the final rinse bath, the mohair is again squeezed to remove excess water and then dried.

• Carbonizing. Mohair contaminated with excessive amounts of vegetable matter must be carbonized. This involves impregnation of the mohair with dilute sulfuric acid, followed by drying, baking, shaking, neutralizing, rewashing, and drying. Carbonizing is expensive and environmentally challenging. Only badly contaminated lots are treated in this way.

• Processing additives. Scoured mohair is frequently sprayed with oils and other chemicals to facilitate

Mohair: Production and Marketing

651

Table 3 Description, micron ranges, and prices of mohair sold on December 2, 2003

South African actual sale price,

Adjusted Texas price,a

Description

Micron range

U.S. $/lb greasy

$/lb greasy

Fine kid

<26.0

7.21

6.69

Good kid

26.0 27.9

5.12

4.67

Average kid

28.0 29.9

3.76

3.36

Young goat

30.0 31.9

2.93

2.56

Find adult

32.0 33.9

2.16

1.81

Adult

> 34.0

2.16

1.81

aTexas prices adjusted for typical U.S. marketing costs (commission, freight, clearance, sorting, stain loss, and clean yield) in an attempt by MCA to estimate expected prices for comparable U.S. mohair.

(From the Mohair Council of America (MCA) Newsletter, 12/2/2003.)

aTexas prices adjusted for typical U.S. marketing costs (commission, freight, clearance, sorting, stain loss, and clean yield) in an attempt by MCA to estimate expected prices for comparable U.S. mohair.

(From the Mohair Council of America (MCA) Newsletter, 12/2/2003.)

mechanical processing and minimize static electricity. Application of processing additives may occur before opening and possibly again before combing. The types and amounts of these compounds and procedures for adding them are closely guarded trade secrets, as are the specifics of the mechanical processes themselves.

• Worsted processing. Most mohair is processed on the worsted system, which involves the following processes: opening and cleaning, carding, pin-drafting, combing, pin-drafting, autoleveling, roving, ring spinning, and twisting.[7]

• Woolen processing. Mohair is also processed using the woolen system, which involves fewer stages of processing and produces a softer, bulkier yarn.

• Fabric formation. Once in yarn form, mohair can be woven, knitted, or made into rugs and carpets.

• Dyeing. Mohair can be dyed at almost any stage of processing (immediately after scouring or in the sliver, yarn, or fabric forms) to produce many attractive and varied effects.

www.dekker.com.)"/>
Fig. 2 A multicolored lady's jacket knitted with brushed mohair yarns. (View this art in color at www.dekker.com.)

• Finishing. To stabilize and enhance their appearance, mohair fabrics are subjected to finishing processes. These may include desizing, washing, decating, drying, semidecating, brushing, and pressing.

END USES OF MOHAIR

Compared to wool, other specialty fibers, and other natural and synthetic fibers, the main distinguishing characteristics of mohair are its luster, whiteness, ability to be dyed to brilliant colors (Fig. 2), smooth handle, durability, and resistance to soiling and felting shrinkage. Traditionally, mohair was used in hand knitting yarns 65%), men's suiting fabrics 15%), women's woven accessories and rugs 12%), and woven furnishings and velours 8%). Consumption trends are changing, however, and in the United States particularly, a greater promotional emphasis is being placed on adult mohair for carpets and rugs. Often, mohair is blended with wool or synthetic fibers to either improve product performance, assist in processing, or reduce product cost. End use is greatly influenced by fashion. Hunter[6] documented 189 specific end uses for mohair.

CONCLUSION

Despite its numerous superior and unique properties, mohair production is declining. This is a result of mohair producers not being able to make a consistent, adequate income from this enterprise. This in turn is a result of competition from new fibers and textile products, shifting consumer preferences, and mohair being regarded as a fashion fiber and thus being subject to unpredictable demand. One positive aspect of decreasing supply is the general increase in consistency and quality of mohair being produced. Producer and textile processor organizations have made many attempts to increase and stabilize mohair consumption by developing and promoting products that are not subject to fashion-related uncertainties. Their efforts have met with mixed success. Use of mohair in socks, sweaters, rugs, and carpets appears to be on the increase in the United States. Also in the United States, the federal government provided a support program for mohair in the 2002 Farm Bill to assist producers. This program was designed to provide a higher and more consistent income from mohair production, just as similar programs do for wool and cotton growers. The support program is expected to stabilize U.S. production of mohair, at least for the duration of the current Farm Bill. South African production of mohair is expected to increase slowly and then stabilize, so long as current prices remain firm.

ARTICLES OF FURTHER INTEREST

Angora Goats: Production and Management, p. 13 Mohair: Biology and Characteristics, p. 645

REFERENCES

1. USDA, Economic Research Service, Market and Trade Economics Division. Cotton and Wool: Situation and Outlook Yearbook; November 2002; 56 pp. http://jan. mannlib.cornell.edu/reports/erssor/field/cws=bby (accessed February, 2004).

2. Natural Fibers Information Center: http://www.utexas.edu/ depts/bbr/natfiber (accessed February, 2004).

3. South African Classing Standards. Source: Mohair South Africa. http://www.mohair.co.za (accessed March, 2004).

4. Hunter, L.; Hunter, E.L. Mohair. In Silk, Mohair, Cashmere and Other Luxury Fibres; Franck, R.R., Ed.; Woodhead Publishing Ltd.: Cambridge, UK, 2001; 68 132.

5. Guidelines for Marketing U.S. Mohair; Mohair Council of America: San Angelo, 1990.

6. Hunter, L. Mohair: A Review of Its Properties, Processing and Applications; CSIR Division of Textile Technology: Port Elizabeth, South Africa and International Mohair Association: Ilkley, U.K., 1993; 278 pp.

7. Lupton, C.J. Wool Chapter, SID Sheep Production Hand book, 7th Ed.; American Sheep Industry Association, Inc.: Centennial, 2003; 1042.

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