Alpaca fibre industry

tn_258A rewarding niche market exists for alpaca fibre. Alpacas are in short supply world-wide and therefore expensive, yet they are economical to manage. They are excellent herd animals for small block owners. The challenge is to breed toward finer fibre and pure proven colours. Those who do this will gain generous returns from a proven luxury fibre market, as well as from the demand for breeding stock.

Alpaca fleece ranges from white through grey, brown, red, and roan to black. The colours may be solid or mottled. In fact there are over twenty recognised alpaca colours. An additional advantage is that the fleece, particularly white fleece, can be readily dyed to any chosen colour. The fleece is soft, silky, and very warm, due to its partly hollow fibre. Alpaca garments are lovely to wear being warm, light and very low in lanolin and prickle factor. This makes them particularly suitable for being worn by people with sensitive skin. The fleece also mixes well with sheep wool, mohair, and silk. Alpaca fleece is softer than merino wool and has a higher tensile strength, resulting in more durable garments. Some home spinners prefer a blend including 10 to 15 % sheep wool, to increase the elasticity of the yarn.

Alpacas are generally shorn annually, but can be shorn bi-annually to obtain a longer fleece. Shearing involves use of conventional sheep-shearing equipment, and the animals are restrained with leg lashings. Usually two or three people are required. The annual yield per animal is about 4 kg of non-greasy fleece. The first clip commands a premium because of extra fineness. The fleece is in two grades, the better top and side fleece is used for garments, and the coarser belly and leg fleece is used for wall hangings and rugs.

For shearing contact Mike Banks at shearpac@hotmail.com

or on 021 2562839

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