Grooming the German

Grooming the German
By Leslie Samson

One of the many advantages of gathering with other rabbit breeders is the opportunity to exchange information. We counted over 200 angoras currently in the care of the people who attended Nancy’s shearing party, October 8th, 2005. Addressing the experience available to us, I asked the question, “How often do you groom your German Angoras?”

Lively, forthright and well thought out responses resulted in an excellent discussion, which came to the following conclusion – providing certain conditions were maintained, grooming was not necessary in between shearing intervals.

We agreed that whatever minimal matting occurred between the legs was not worth the extra time and risk of wool block to attend. When a German did demonstrate excessive matting, it was usually because one or more of the maintenance conditions was not met.

The conditions we all agreed were required to keep a German Angora’s coat in good condition were:
1. Take the wool at 90 days. After 90 days, the wool will begin to shed. Webby wool and matts will form.
2. Keep the cage clean. Clean wool is less likely to matt.
3. Good nutrition will grow stronger fiber, which is less prone to breaking and falling back into the coat to cause tangles and matting.
4. Eliminate mites. The feeding action of these parasites causes breaks in the angora wool. Their presence increases sticky secretions from the rabbit’s skin and the production of clipper clogging dandruff flakes. Mite infestation is a leading cause of matting.
5. Cheeks and Cheeks at 45 days. Half way through the shearing period, trimming the furnishings on the face and cutting back the wool between the rear legs will save wool and time for the 90 day shearing. Some angoras are very heavily wooled beneath their tails. Clipping that area, especially in the summer time will dramatically reduce the incidence of urine burn and stained wool.

Monika’s article about the testing stations in the October ’05 Newsletter is a superb explanation of the system, which created German angora. The development of the Angora in German included many deliberate trait selections.

If you look at our pedigree form, you will see sections marked “GW and AW”. These correspond directly to the German form. “GW” refers to the Gross Weight of the wool shorn during testing.
AW” indicates the Adjusted Weight. The adjusted weight calculates the weight of 1st grade wool at 100% of its weight, 2nd grade wool at 75% of its weight and 3rd grade wool at only 25%.
For example if an angora’s graded 90-day coat weighed 325 grams in total, 325 would be the GW.
The GW grades might be divided as: 1st 300 grams, 2nd 20 grams, 3rd 5 grams.

The AW would then be calculated: 1st 300 grams, 2nd 15 grams, 3rd 1.25 grams.
When those figures are added together they make up the AW – 316 grams.
All of the figures would be multiplied by 4 to indicate the annual production of that animal. The final result would be: GW 1300 / AW 1264.

When the papers from imported rabbits are examined, the average difference between the GW and AW is roughly 46 grams or 1.61 ounces. Figures for bucks were slightly higher than for does.
Further study of the test results shows that on average more than three quarters of the difference is due short fiber and less than 25% to stained and felted wool.
This means that on a 90 day coat with an overall weight of 325 grams or 11.4 ounces, a mere 5 grams or way less than a half ounce would have been stained and felted wool.

In North America the value of one ounce of angora retails at about 5.00 for prime shorn wool. Is it a sensible use of time to handle an angora several times over a three-month period in order to save $2.50? That figure assumes that the wool saved by grooming would have been long, prime fiber and not short leg wool.
Also, during those grooming sessions, what is the value of the wool is removed from the coat by grooming tools? What is the value of the time and labor to do the grooming?

In Germany that rabbits that were kept at the testing stations were not groomed. Grooming would have removed a percentage of the coats and given testing figures not truly indicative of the wool producing ability of the rabbit. Grooming would have also included a huge variable of human interference in the test results as some groomers might remove more fiber than others.
It was important that the rabbits not be groomed in order to determine which rabbits produced not only the most wool but also the most usable wool. The result of decades of selection to refine and fix non-matting texture is an angora, which requires very little if any grooming to maintain its heavy coat.

The objective of IAGARB is to carry on in a like manner to the breeders in Germany. Good angoras should not require grooming. What little fiber is lost to matting on a 90-day coat should not exceed an ounce. If it does, then management must be examined. If no improvement can be made there, then the suitability of that particular rabbit to contribute to the gene pool must be questioned.

If we are going to maintain the quality of our angoras, then we need to not interfere with the natural condition of the wool coat and continue the practice of calculating the GW and AW.