Alpaca fleece is rapidly moving to the top of an elite group known as specialty fibers. Admission to this select circle requires that a fiber be rare and extremely fine. Alpaca fiber easily meets both of these demanding standards.
To touch and then to wear a 100 percent alpaca garment inspires superlatives, i.e., “stronger than mohair . . .” “finer than cashmere . . .” “smoother than silk . . .” “softer than cotton . . .” “warmer than goose down or the new synthetic fabrics like Gortex,” and “breathes better than thermal knits.” And the really exciting part of these enthusiastic endorsements is that they are all true.
But there is more good news about alpaca fiber:
1) Almost indestructible, fine woven alpaca garments in remarkably good condition have recently been discovered in Peruvian ruins dating back 2500 years. Just think how long your new alpaca sweater will last!
2) Alpaca clothing is extremely healthy and comfortable to wear. The absence of lanolin and other oils in the fleece and its extraordinary fineness of handle mean that alpaca garments are both hypoallergenic and luxuriously soft on your skin. When you put on an alpaca sweater, you will immediately notice the absence of the scratchy “prickle” found in garments made of more coarse fiber.
3) Unlike other mono-color animal fibers, alpacas produce fleece in more than 22 different colors. This amazing spectrum delights hand spinners and industrial manufacturers and reduces the need for dyeing, which further protects and enhances the resilience, softness, flexibility, and hypoallergenic qualities of the fiber.
4) High demand and limited supply equals an excellent financial market for alpaca fiber. Owners can easily sell their fleece to private hand-spinners or the new national alpaca fiber coop. You may also want to purchase a spinning wheel and start peddling your way to your own homegrown and homemade alpaca sweater.
5) Alpaca fiber can pay for maintenance of your alpacas each year. Alpaca coats grow five to six inches and produce seven to ten pounds and sometimes even more fleece per year. Current prices paid for clean, high-quality alpaca fleece range from $3 to $5 an ounce. Using these established figures, an alpaca fleece weighing seven pounds which sells for $4 per ounce would produce a $448 income, which should be sufficient to cover annual feed costs, veterinary fees, and other maintenance expenses for that animal. This cycle repeats itself every year and makes the alpaca one of the few types of livestock that can virtually pay for its own room and board.
6) The future of alpaca fiber is very exciting. Improved diet, high-quality veterinary care, and scientific selective breeding will produce even finer and more abundant fiber in the years ahead. This will immediately translate into increased income without additional costs for the alpaca owner, which is the ultimate goal of every business owner.