Every year before temperatures get too hot alpacas have to be shorn. Alpaca shearing avoids overheating of the animals and it is like harvesting for the alpaca breeder. Alpaca shearing is stressful for both..and it is a pleasure for both.
Alpacas are very friendly, cute animals. They are environmentallly friendly. They are producers of some of the finest fleeces on the planet. Only vicunas are superior. Both, together with llamas and guanacos, belong to the family of camelids. They originated from the Andes mountains in South America, namely Peru, Chile and Bolivia. They have been domesticated by the ancient inhabitants of the Altiplano, the Incas, thousands of years back. While the hair of sheep is called wool, the hair of vicunas and alpacas is named fleece to highlight the unique quality. Alpacas live with the indigenous people of the Andes mountains since thousands of years providing meat and wool to produce clothing. Quechua people are skirting and weaving alpaca wool since then.
At the times of the Incas only royals and clerics had been allowed to wear alpaca fleece clothing. It was called the “The Fibre of the Gods” or the “Hair of the Angels”.
When the Spanish conquered Peru they decimated the alpaca herds and alpacas were endangered to be completely eliminated.
In the last century the government of Peru encouraged the native population again to breed alpacas to boost the economy.
The first alpacas in considerable numbers have been exported to North America, Australia and New Zealand in the 1980 and 1990 later to Europe as well. The numbers of alpacas living in North America reaches 150,000 and exceeds 200,000 in Australia.
Vicunas are still not domesticated and their export is prohibited, securing a monopoly to Peru to produce and export vicuna fleece. Vicuna fleece is the most exclusive and expensive exotic fibre of the world.
Alpaca shearing is done by professional shearers or the breeder himself. We hired a shearer. You can shear alpacas on the floor or, more comfortable, on a shearing table.
Before alpaca shearing we gather our alpacas in a small mobile coral near the shearing table. They all get a halter.
Then we bring them to the shearing table one by one. The table is kept in a vertical position and the animal that has to be shorn stands next to the table.
It will be fixed and the table is turned into a horizontal position…
The legs get fixed, and the shearing begins. First we take a sample of the fleece, 4” x 4” from the side. This sample will be send to a specialised lab to analyse the quality of the fibre. Alpaca shearing enables us to judge the quality of the fleece by objective criteria.
First the back down to the sides are shorn. This part of the fleece is called the blanket and represents the most valuable part. The blanket is kept in a separate bag. Fleece from belly, legs and neck are called the 2nd cut and are considered to be of minor quality.
Before alpaca shearing…
Once the shearing is done the alpaca is brought back to his herd.
What do we get from our alpacas when we do alpaca shearing?
The annual fleece weight reaches 7 to 10 pounds.
Alpaca wool comes in 22 natural colours, from white to beige, fawn, brown, grey up to true black.
What makes alpaca wool so extraordinary?
It is the fineness and the structure of its fibre.
Some important characteristics of alpaca wool in comparison to sheep wool are:
alpaca wool is very soft and cosy,
it is 7 times warmer than sheep’s wool,
is not itchy,
alpaca wool has very specific thermoregulatory features, keeping you warm in cold temperatures and cool in hot temperature(You can read more about thermoregulation in our blog “Can I wear alpaca wool clothing in summer?”,
wicks away moisture,
alpaca fabrics are very durable,
alpaca wool is water repellant,
alpaca fibres are naturally flame retardant,
alpaca wool has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties,
alpaca wool is the least likely to wrinkle of all natural fibres,
alpaca wool is absolutely environmentally friendly.
These fibre characteristics allow us to produce excellent garments and other products like duvets and dog beds.
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