A mixture of experience and innovation attracted fibre producers from as far afield as Te Anau and Nelson to a mohair field day at Chris and Pam Sundstrum's Mohair Pacific property at Rangiora last month.
Mohair processers Ian Kelly from Design Spun in Napier, Lindsay Cairns from Masterweave in Masterton and Australian fibre classer, John Hoornweg, shared some of their experience in what continues to be a challenging market.
Originally from Ireland, Mr Kelly has been processing mohair for 30 years. He processes up to two tonnes a month into hand-knitting yarns and weaving yarns.
The closure of some New Zealand wool scourers in recent years has made it difficult for him to get the product scoured, as Design Spun deals in small niche volumes. At one stage Design Spun employed 90 people but now only
employs 20. He said it was difficult to compete against China which can produce yarn cheaply, but the good news was there are no mohair yarns from China.
Before purchasing a weaving facility 25 years ago, Lindsay Cairns was originally a bull farmer and at one stage also had 3500 cashgora goats. Lindsay has developed an innovative machine utilising a centuries-old technique using the dried teasels from the thistle plant, ensuring a superb, light downy finish to the brushed mohair products.
Mr Cairns says mohair is known and branded as a quality product and people are prepared to pay for it.
Australian John Hoornweg from Victoria, who has been classing mohair since 1980, gave a classing demonstration to the fibre producers. He stressed the importance of knowing what the end product was to know what lines to class.
These must be consistent and repeatable to give buyers confidence.
Mohair must have handle and lustre and fibre producers are responsible for style, character and micron and have to
manage variables such as weather and season.
The aim is to produce a quality product the price of which will be dictated by factors such as foreign exchange, demand and fashion trends. He is trying to get New Zealand producers better prices by classing into three length lines, but producers should also realise Australia classes into four lengths and South Africa five lengths, giving end processors choice.
Between 80 and 90 per cent of New Zealand's mohair fibre is shipped to South Africa. South Africa has consistency
of fibre, but Mr Hoornweg says some New Zealand fibre is as good.
Mr Hoornweg also gave a practical demonstration of what producers can do in their sheds to cut down the time he spends preparing fleeces.
Bearing in mind it will be the 150th Canterbury A&P Show this year, Pam Sundstrum gave a demonstration of how to prepare a fleece for showing. She hopes there will be plenty of entries to support this milestone.