As alpaca breeders, our focus is on the quality of the fiber produced by our alpacas. Part of that focus is treating that fiber as the valuable commodity it is. One of the most important days of an alpaca breeder's year is shearing day, the day when the precious fiber, the reason alpacas are owned and bred, is harvested. This fiber is the product of a year's worth of work; therefore, as a breeder we want to be especially careful when harvesting it. At DJ's Classic Alpacas, shearing is one of the most exciting days of the year; next to the birth of each new cria, and attending shows. We open our farm to other farms to bring their animals for shearing and we invite anyone interested to attend.
Why is alpaca fleece so valuable?
Alpaca Fiber is as soft as cashmere and warmer, lighter and stronger than wool. There are more natural colors (22) than any other fiber producing animal. The fiber is a thermal insulator and absorbs ambient humidity, thus affording greater protection and comfort in a variety of climates. The fiber will not burn unless it is in direct contact with a flame and therefore offers the wearer greater safety. The fiber is almost completely waterproof and is hypo-allergenic. High strength and elasticity make this fiber highly durable. This cashmere-like fleece, once reserved for Incan royalty, is now enjoyed around the world. Alpaca fleece is in high demand to create warm, soft alpaca socks, coats, yarn, sweaters and other garments.
If alpaca is such a great fiber, why don't I see it in stores everywhere? Why is it so expensive when I do find an alpaca product?
There are not enough alpacas in the U.S. (approximately 175,000) to supply enough fleece to keep a U.S. textile mill running throughout a year. There needs to be an estimated amount of at least 500,000 alpacas in the U.S. in order to generate enough fiber, so we only have about 20% of the amount we need at this time. Peru has about 4 million alpacas, so they are able to produce many alpaca products from their mills.
Also it takes special machines to process the fine, smooth alpaca fiber, so not just any mill can produce alpaca yarn or garments. Alpaca farms that have their fleece processed must do it at specialty mills in small quantities, driving up the price. Then many items are hand knit, instead of on a machine, which again increases the amount of money put into the garment.
Royal Alpaca - Finer than 18 microns
Super Fine/Baby Alpaca - Finer than 20 microns
Fine - Finer than 25 microns
Medium - Under 30 microns
Strong - 30 microns and greater
Mixed pieces - Short fibers, coarser than 32 microns - used for felting
Most human hair is at least 100 microns, 5 times thicker than alpaca fiber!!