Understanding the Differences Between Synchronized and Non-Synchronized Growth of Angora Wool
by Leslie Samson
Let’s first consider first why we want only synchronized coat growth on our rabbits. Once those reasons are clear, the rest really falls into place.
The coats of rabbits are comprised of four different fiber types. Angora wool is the expression of a mutation which allows the coat to grow longer than that of normal coated rabbits.
Each of these fiber types has a distinct structure and a purpose in the architecture of an insulating, water-shedding, protective coat.
When you shear a rabbit with a synchronized coat, all of its prime fiber will be a consistent undercoat length of approximately 3 inches. German angoras have been selected to produce a uniform, prime length of coat in 90 days.
This is a vital consideration for milling yarns. When all of the wool is the same first grade and prime length, the fiber in the yarn will be less apt to shed. This gives us a first quality product with a beautiful halo, luscious texture and shed resistance.
As well, consistent prime length does not “fly” as much as do short fibers, so processing losses are low. For example, let’s say that you want to make a 50/50 yarn. You send in 50 pounds of perfectly synchronized angora wool to be blended with 50 pounds of fine sheep wool. A reasonable expectation of loss would be about 15%.
You started with 100 pounds. You paid for 100 pounds – (even if the angora is from your own barn – it cost you.) You get back 85 pounds of yarn because of the processing loss. When you price your yarn, you have to factor in your losses because even though you have 85 pounds to sell, it took 100 pounds to get there.
When you shear a rabbit with a non-synchronized coat, there will be different layers of coat growth.
Clipping a coat like that will result in varying lengths of wool. There will be a long layer of 3 inches and maybe another layer of coat growth that is 2 inches and yet another close to the skin that is 3/4 of an inch long. When you shear that coat, all three layers will come off at the same time. The varying lengths will be impossible to separate.
Do the same mill exercise with non-synchronous angora. It would not be unreasonable to predict that angora wool like this will result in processing losses in excess of 30%. Depending on other factors, you could lose up to 50% during processing. You could send in 100 pounds and get back 50 that has to be priced as if it was 100 pounds.
Heavy processing losses equate to a yarn that is pricier than it should be. As well, the short fibers that didn’t fall out during spinning will shed during your customer’s use. This is the reason that any non-sychronized angora wool sent to the IAGARB Co-op will be rejected from our yarn processing. Non-synchronized wool makes for very expensive yet low quality yarn.
Inconsistent lengths degrade the product. That’s the WHY.
HOW to tell? That’s easy. Colored or albino, the procedure is the same. Clip off a lock of fiber. If there is layered coat growth, it will show up first and worst over the spine of the rabbit.
Hold the cut end tightly with one hand. Pull on the tips of the longest fibers – the guard hairs with your other hand. Are they all the same length? Next pull out all of the awn fibers and then finally pull out all the under wool fibers. If you pull out all of the fibers in your lock, and all of the undercoat is 2.5 to 3.5 inches long–you have a synchronized coat.
When tested, a lock of non-synchronized wool will reveal a complete second coat once all of the longest fibers are pulled away. Non-uniform length, in the prime growth areas, is absolutely not allowable in our registry. Evidence of non-synchronous growth in the 90-day coat of a rabbit presented for registration is a Disqualification.
Spots are sometimes an indicator that the wool coat did not hold for 90 days. The spots, especially obvious in colored angoras, are actually the pigmented tips of the awn fibers and guard hairs just below and emerging from the skin.
The new hairs tips are growing because the old ones fell out about 10 days earlier. This means that the rabbit did not produce a stable 90 day coat. If you examine the coat and see a short layer that is about 1 inch long, then that part of the coat shed out about 30 days earlier.
Non-uniform coats are very rare in albino angoras out of stock imported from Germany. A small percentage of stock related to the imported black Germans have produced non-synchronous coats. Non-synchronous coats are often seen in angoras that have been crossed to other angoras or other short haired rabbits in North America.
Through careful examination and deliberate selection, the best qualities of the new hybrids can be fixed while unacceptable, low quality coat types are eliminated. Because colored rabbits have albino siblings, we must be vigilant with our white wool as well.