The effects of the suppression or elevation of plasma prolactin concentrations in spring on the timing of the reactivation of the hair follicles and the timing of the spring moult were investigated in cashmere goats. Thirty eight adult female goats, housed under conditions of natural photoperiod at 55°55′N from mid-December until May, were allocated to four groups starting on 5 January: ten served as untreated controls, eight received 2 mg ovine prolactin subcutaneously every 12 h for 7 weeks (PRL), twelve received 35 mg bromocriptine intramuscularly every 14 days for 17 weeks (BCR) and eight received injections of both ovine prolactin and bromocriptine at the above dose rates for 7 weeks (PRL+BCR). In the PRL group there was an earlier reactivation of the secondary hair follicles (PRL vs control, proportion of secondary follicles in anagen, weeks 1–5, P<0·01) associated with an earlier moult of secondary fibres (cashmere) but no significant difference in the activity of the primary hair follicles. In the BCR group there was a delay in the reactivation of both the secondary and primary hair follicles (BCR vs control, proportion of secondary and primary hair follicles in anagen, weeks 5–13, P<0·01) and a delay in the moult. In the PRL+BCR group there was an early reactivation and moult similar to the PRL group. Voluntary food intake (VFI) and liveweight were also measured. Only in the BCR group was there a decrease in VFI compared with the controls but with no effect on liveweight. It was concluded that the seasonal increase in prolactin secretion which normally occurs in spring is causally involved in the reactivation of primary and secondary hair follicles and moulting in cashmere goats.