1: How often do you shear alpacas?
Alpacas are shorn once per year in the spring before it gets too hot.
2: After an alpaca is sheared, what do you do with its fiber?
- Raw fiber can be sold directly to hand spinners and other craft people. Check out Fiber-U though mopaca.org.
- By joining the North American Alpaca Fiber Cooperative, your fiber can be pooled with other North American alpaca breeders and made into a variety of designer apparel. They sell out of alpaca socks every year, and demand is growing.
- You can have your fiber processed by a commercial mill or a mini-mill and spun into yarn.
- Alpaca fleece is easy to work with. You can even spin it yourself for a variety of apparel and craft projects like fly fishing dubbing.
3: Why is alpaca fiber valuable?
Alpaca fiber is classified as a rare specialty fiber. It is five times warmer than sheep wool fiber and more luxurious than cashmere. There are more than 22 natural colors of alpaca fleece. An infinite array of natural colors can be produced by blending these fibers. Alpaca fiber can also be easily dyed. Alpaca fiber is strong and resilient and has more thermal capacity than almost any other animal fiber. The fiber actually contains microscopic air pockets that contribute to the creation of lightweight apparel with very high insulation value. Alpaca fiber does not itch as wool often does because it does not contain lanolin and has a smooth cell structure.
4: What are the characteristics of alpaca fiber that are used in judging overall fiber quality?
- Fiber type
- Tensile strength
The above characteristics may be altered by husbandry, breeding, nutrition, and management procedures. It is vital to have a consistent nutritional program during the alpaca's growth period to ensure uniformity of fiber growth.
5: What are the main body areas of the alpaca that are considered when shearing?
6: When shearing only once per year, will I be able to make enough profit on the sale of fleece to justify the cost of an alpaca?
Depends on your ambition. The sale of fleece will help cover annual expenses of maintaining the animal or it will provide you with a decent second income. Marketing and Networking are key. Profits can be made by breeding and selling the animals from your farm and processing and selling the fiber.