Section 1.1: Introduction: Alpaca Fiber Farming

Alpaca are renowned for producing the world’s most sustainable luxury fiber. Alpaca Fiber can be eco-friendly, softer than cashmere, and warm as polar bear fleece.

Experience the Alpaca Lifestyle while producing luxury products - through Alpaca Fiber Farming
This online resource will teach you how.

Introduction: Alpaca Fiber Farming


What do you do to achieve profit with alpaca fiber?


We selectively breed alpacas to maximize profit realized through the eventual sale of fiber end products and/or fiber-related services.


With a limited fiber supply or demand, how do we sell our fiber for profit?


As breeders, we come together as partners, rather than competitors, to build appropriate sales & marketing channels for alpaca fiber. In addition, we work in cooperation to educate North American consumers about the value of alpaca fiber in textiles.


Where do we begin?


We begin with a complete understanding of alpaca fiber, its potential value, realistic market demands (current and potential), and selective breeding goals and strategies.

Content Disclaimer: 

The alpaca is a relatively new and exotic sight in pastures and backyards all over North America. Less is known about alpacas than perhaps any livestock animal in America. As we learn more about our relatively rare alpacas, both through research and experience, our current “facts,” theories, and speculation are sure to adjust accordingly. 

Many of the “how’s and whys” of alpaca fiber are still hotly contested issues and some scientific research contradicts previous research. Study contradicts study. It is the intent of this content to attempt to separate pure opinion from responsible research, documented experience, and common sense. It is our sincere hope that this material will evolve into a more refined and accurate knowledge base as you and others question this material, engage in lively discussion, and contribute to improve this material.

This content is based on collective breeder experiences, independent university studies, research conducted in Australia (CSIRO), and articles written by Dr. Sumar, Ian Watt, Mike Safely, Dr. Jim Watts (SRS), DVM, Dr. Norm Evans, DVM, Mr. Villarone, Dianna Jordan, Chris Riley), Wini LeBreque, and Robyn Kuhl), along with many other sources.  Original composition of this material was made by Jim Tomaszek who offered his works for this collection.

Every attempt has been made to exclude unsubstantiated claims made by those who might choose to skew facts to favor sales of their own animals, breeding services, or fiber end products. 

For example, comparing alpaca to other fibers, as in “alpaca is seven times warmer than wool,” still needs to be qualified. Just as a steak cooked to perfection can be a delight to the gourmet’s palate, one burned to a crisp does not reflect a great steak at its best. Similarly, a thick micron and dirty alpaca fleece, mixed with long primaries and guard hair (the proper term is ‘kemp’), which is then poorly processed, can be thought of as the equivalent of a burned steak. It neither represents the standard, nor reflects the potential. As another example, Yokum McCall states that alpaca fiber is 50% stronger (1.5x) than wool, which refers to tensile strength, or the pressure point at which healthy fibers snap. However, we cannot say that an alpaca sweater is necessarily 1.5 times stronger than a wool sweater. What if the alpaca sweater was made with fiber from a sick alpaca? We must be careful not to mix apples and oranges. So, “branding” the North American alpaca (McDonald’s brands with their Golden Arches logo and slogans like, ‘You deserve a break today.’) is a must for quality control, customer perception, and the finished product.

The alpaca comes from a diverse genetic background. While DNA studies show the domesticated alpaca to be the closest relative of the undomesticated vicuña, further studies reveal significant breeding history with the llama. As a result, there are many “types” of alpaca, depending on various ancestries. This fact manifests itself in the alpaca’s fiber, which also comes in many varieties. While some styles will be in greater demand than others, dictated more by fashion than true worth, all styles of fiber have value. It is up to owners and breeders to create niche markets. In addition to creating an ever-growing supply and demand for fiber, we must also continue to educate the American public (as well as ourselves) on our harvests’ value. To accomplish this, we must be sure we fully understand the value of alpaca fiber ourselves. It is in the spirit of this challenge that this information was produced. 

The Alpaca Fiber Farming material consists of four interrelated sections:

Section #1 – The Current & Potential Value of Alpaca Fiber

Section #2 – Alpaca Fiber Evaluation – The Objective & the Subjective

Section #3 - Histograms, Follicular Skin Biopsies, & EPDs

Section #4 – How to Make Money with Alpaca Fiber and the Value Chain

The sections interrelate in order to present a comprehensive understanding of alpaca fiber, its benefits and shortcomings, how it compares to like fibers, and how it can be measured objectively to maximize profit. Section #4 presents case studies showing how it is currently possible to pay for the upkeep of a herd through fiber sales. It is hard work, multi-faceted, and requires that the industry focus on both maintaining open sales and marketing channels to attract an ever-growing population of alpaca breeders, as well as creating breeding and end product standards to ensure the success of an increasing variety of revenue streams for alpaca end products.

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