About Alpaca Fiber

Shorn Alpaca fleece Detail

What's so great about ALPACA?

We raise 'huacaya' alpacas so this page is about that type of fiber. The other type is called 'suri' which has different characteristics -- is lustrous and smooth and drapes on the alpaca's body in locks. See bottom of page for a picture of suri alpacas

Once you get your hands on alpaca fiber you immediately understand the intrinsic value of everything produced from it. Technically, we measure its quality in microns, aiming for fiber around 20 to 25 microns. Many alpacas have fiber that is even finer. A human hair is about 70 microns. Micron consistency across the sample contributes to its "handle" -- the way it feels.

Fiber of the Gods:

Current-day alpaca fleece characteristics are the result of selective breeding by the native population of the Andes over thousands of years. The alpaca was believed to be a gift from their gods. Natural alpaca fleece comes in 22 officially recognized colors, and many more shades and variations. Imagine the most elegant of non-fading blacks, and every shade through dark brown, fawn, unlimited variations on grey, beige and of course a brilliant white that will take dye beautifully -- in any color.

Since alpacas do not have lanolin, their fleece can be used virtually right off the shearing table; harsh chemicals are not required to clean it.  Alpacas do not have "fur" because they are not "double-coated" which is a combination of outer "guard" hairs and an undercoat for insulation. Alpaca fleece is a combination of primary and secondary fibers which are relatively consistent in size and character. Primary fibers in alpaca fleece are usually not 'guard' hairs. These qualities make alpaca naturally soft and comfortable to wear, not itchy!!  Many people who cannot wear wool can wear alpaca. It very rarely causes allergic reactions and is oh so warm. Plus alpaca fiber comes in different grades so we have very low micron (diameter) fiber for baby things and next-to-the skin garments but also grades appropriate for sweaters, scarves and hats that receive heavier use and even socks and outerwear.

"Fiber of the Gods?" Indeed!

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Alpaca fiber has a natural "crimp" or "crinkle." Some breeders put a lot of value on crimp and breed to maximize it in their fiber.

Where Alpacas Came From:

Recently confirmed by DNA testing, alpacas descended from wild camelids, related to the still wild vicuna, who originally migrated from North America in prehistoric times. (They are closely related to the wild guanaco, the llama and, more distantly, the old world camels.) Incan Royalty reserved clothing made from the finest alpaca fiber for themselves; the Spanish Conquest of South America drastically reduced the populations of alpacas to deprive the indigenous people of their livelihood and assets in a coordinated effort to force them to work in Spanish gold mines. This resulted in a regression in the quality of alpaca fleece; ancestral grazing lands were overrun by flocks of European sheep and alpacas and llamas were forced into the most remote regions of the Andes where some interbreeding occurred.

The North American Breeder:

The exportation of alpacas from Peru was illegal until about 20 years ago. Before that a very small number of alpacas were imported to the US and Canada from Chile and Bolivia. Only alpacas that passed the strictest screening procedures were brought in. The Alpaca Registry is now closed to any new imports or offspring of non-registered alpacas.

Our goal is clear: To continue to breed for improvements in fiber qualities, in order to recapture the genetic potential of alpaca fiber; to achieve new advances in quality and build the herd to the quantity necessary for a sustainable North American commercial alpaca fiber industry.


There are two types of alpaca fleece, huacaya and suri.

Suri alpacas on the right, huacayas on the left
Huacaya alpacas and suri alpacas
Click to view larger version

To receive a sample of actual unprocessed huacaya alpaca fleece, just email us.
 
Here is a picture of a suri cria with his mother (upper right) and for comparison a huacaya cria with his mother. The suri alpacas belong to Ralph and Sandra Muraca, of Misty Mountains Accoyo Suri Alpacas, the huacayas are Cameron Mountain Spirit (the cria) and Snow Trillium, who was purchased from us by Mark Ownby and Merian Burkett of Lagniappe Farm.

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Call or email for a complete list of females eligible for the future cria program



 

 
 
Cameron Mountain Alpacas sells only registered alpacas.

Retail site for NAAFP products
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