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Increasing competitiveness of high quality European animal textile fibres by improving fibre quality

Contract nr: FAIR-CT96-1597
Project nr: 1597
Project type: ST
Starting date: 01/01/1997
Duration: 36 months
Total cost: 600,000 EUR
EC Contribution: 600,000 EUR
Scientific Officer: Michel VAN DEN BOSSCHE
Research topic: Speciality products
Acronym: European speciality animal fibre

Speciality fibre production systems have a number of important advantages over existing livestock systems:

  • fine wool, mohair, cashmere and angora are non-food, high-quality products, processed in large quantities in Europe, but are currently only produced on any scale in non-European countries;
  • quality fibre production from sheep and goats offers an opportunity to extensify production systems to a much greater extent than traditional dairy- and meat-based systems;
  • extensive ruminant systems for fibre may be used to manage vegetation in isolated areas to prevent the damage caused by brush fires and to improve wildlife habitats.

The objective of the project is to increase the quality of European-produced speciality animal textile fibre through the widespread dissemination of a new technology to increase fibre quality more accurately and rapidly.

The new technology, Optical Fibre Diameter Analyser (OFDA), will be disseminated through a network of researchers, producers' associations and manufacturers involved in the production of fine wool, mohair, cashmere and angora.
In particular, OFDA will be used to measure fibre quality in:
a) genetic improvement programmes for each of these speciality fibres in Europe; and
b) grading of fibres for presentation to processors and manufacturers.
The application of a common technology across Europe will ensure accuracy and comparability between countries through the development of a central database for fibre breeding schemes and a common measure of fibre quality in the grading of fibres for processing. The network will be established in nine European and affiliated countries.
In addition to a coordinator and group leaders for fibre measurement technology and genetic improvement schemes, each country will be represented by a Network partner located in a leading centre of research who will lead Network operations in that country. Coordination of the work will be achieved through the medium of workshops to agree common standards and protocols, a newsletter, and mobility of technical personnel for lectures and training courses.
The Network will:
1) enhance the dissemination of state-of-the-art fibre measurement technology and ensure comparability between fibre analyses in different countries, which is a key element in the future development of the European speciality fibre industry.
2) establish common European protocols for measuring fibre traits in breeding programmes for different fibre types.
3) improve the competitiveness of European producers of speciality animal fibres by establishing clearly defined, market-led quality objectives, grading and presentation standards and the creation of new information channels between producers, industry and research.

Current situation/results:
The OFDA technology proved to be a highly effective tool for measuring objective fibre qualities within the context of the breed improvement programmes for cashmere, fine wool and mohair. Common approaches to data recording were agreed and published, and will serve as a blueprint for future breeding programmes to follow. The collected information on fibre parameters is now in a standard format, and protocols for sampling and analysis, are likewise standardised. This is a great advance for European fine fibre breeding, as it allows an unprecedented level of co-operation between national breeding schemes, and provides a greatly enhanced resource for genetic research on fibre traits. The links between some of the breeding programmes will be continued beyond the end of the project. In particular, there are agreements to collaborate between the French, Danish and British mohair breeders; British, Spanish, Norwegian and Italian cashmere breeders; French, Norwegian and Finnish angora rabbit breeders; and German, Finnish, British and Spanish fine wool breeders. These agreements were facilitated and strengthened by scientific exchanges supported by the Thematic Network.
The project ended in December 1999.


John Alexander MILNE
Macaulay Land Use Research Institute
UK-AB9 2QJ Aberdeen
Tel.: +44 1224 31 86 11
Fax: +44 1224 31 15 56
E-mail: /


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