Exogenous melatonin could induce cashmere growth. However, induced growth of cashmere fleece by melatonin implants cannot be combined with the typical growth, resulting in earlier shedding followed by another cycle of cashmere growth. To address this issue, we examine the effects on the cashmere yield, fibre characteristics, and the growth and reproductive performance of cashmere goats of planned administration of melatonin.
Eighteen half-sib, female goats were assigned to two treatments (n = 9) including a control and a treatment where melatonin (2 mg/kg BW) was implanted at the end of April and end of June. Cashmere growth and shedding were observed for approximately 1 year following implantation. Fibre samples were collected monthly to determine cumulative cashmere length. Initiation and cessation dates for cashmere growth as well as the rate of cashmere growth were calculated. Cashmere yield, weight gain of dam, kidding date, litter size, and birth weight were also recorded.
Melatonin implantation increased cashmere yield by 34.5 % (control 553.7 g vs. melatonin 745.0 g; P < 0.01), cashmere length by 21.3 % (control 95.2 mm vs. melatonin 115.4 mm; P < 0.01), and decreased fibre diameter by 4.4 % (control 14.6 μm vs. melatonin 14.0 μm; P < 0.03). In melatonin-treated goats, the average initiation date was earlier than in control goats (May 18, 2013 vs. July 2, 2013; P < 0.01) but there was a similar cessation date (March 22, 2014 vs. March 27, 2014). Consequently, the duration of cashmere growth was longer in melatonin-treated goats than in control goats (307 vs.270 days; P < 0.01). The final BW, average daily gain, kidding date, litter size, and birth weight were not influenced by melatonin implantation.
These data indicate that melatonin implantation (2 mg/kg BW) on two occasions (late April and June) increased cashmere yield by combining the induced growth of cashmere fleece with the typical growth and decreased the fibre diameter without changing dam growth rate or reproductive performance.