Section 4.1: It’s All About the Fiber

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
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All About the Fiber

Demand, Supply And A National United Effort

We, as breeders, have enjoyed higher than normal margins for creating seed stock for many years. But the natural maturing of the American alpaca industry coupled with a fluctuating American and world economy is impacting our seed stock and breeding revenue streams. We need to diversify; seek new markets; modify our income models.

We are viewed by many as a disposable income lifestyle bubble without a product. Now is the time to begin the process of branding, standardizing, marketing and selling that product. Right now we could be viewed as the tail wagging the dog. Additional revenue from our alpaca fiber harvests will provide alpaca breeders with revenue in poor economies as well as attract potential breeders and stimulate breeding sales by offering both animal and fiber sales as potential revenue. Our breeding model is maturing. Our fiber model has not. Robust profits from former years have priced many potential new breeders out of the market. More breeders will bring a larger national herd. There will still be profit from selling at lower prices, but also to a much bigger and healthier market.

The opportunity to lead and structure a fiber market while it is in its infancy will be challenging, but at the same time, both exhilarating and ultimately profitable. This is where the emu, ostrich, llama and tulip ‘bubbles’ fell short –a failure to structure sales and marketing channels to their benefit, brand their products, and standardize processes for their products.

Manufacturers, distributors and retailers are expert in exploiting the value-rung below them and therefore alpaca fiber producers should not expect premium margins unless we manage the value chain in which we compete. This is where the cashmere market began to falter from the breeders’ perspective. Outsiders added the value (fashioned product) and took the lion’s share of the profit.

Have you heard these before?

  • ‘It’s About the Fiber.’ This is a common slogan in the alpaca business we all give a nod to.
  • ‘What do you do with the fleece?’ This is a common and often embarrassing question asked by potential customers and sadly, breeders alike. This is the two-ton elephant in the room that evokes excuses, misinformation, or silence.
  • ‘We’ll need a million alpacas on North American soil before we can even think of starting a viable North American textile market.’ This is a statement that has stifled numerous grassroots efforts from taking the lead in building a national alpaca fiber market.

Value your fiber. There are numerous outlets that will accept your donation of shorn fleeces. Do not under value it by throwing it away. If you are interested in establishing a fiber business as part of your alpaca farm, there are many avenues open to you. You can sell raw, skirted fiber to hand spinners. You can process fiber yourself or have it processed by a mill into one of many forms: roving or batts for hand spinners and felters; yarn for knitters, crocheters and weavers; or felt sheets for needle felters and other crafters.

How do you sell your products? Again, you have a number of options. If you are not interested in setting up a retail business, you can sell your products wholesale to craft, clothing, gift or yarn shops. In most locations, with minimal effort and expense, you can establish a retail store at your farm. You can sell your products online. Sheep and wool festivals and farmers’ markets are wonderful venues for selling fiber or yarn for handcrafting or for selling handmade products. There are also commercial users of alpaca fiber. These offer a number of options for you to receive income from your fiber.

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