"Alpaca fleece is the natural fiber harvested from an alpaca. It is light or heavy in weight, depending on how it is spun. It is a soft, durable, luxurious and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep's wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Alpaca is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite." - Alpaca fiber - Wikipedia
An adult alpaca produces 5 to 10 pounds of fiber per year. It sells from $2-$6 per ounce for raw fiber to $10 or more per ounce in a finished garment.
Here at Grazing Hills, we pride ourselves in having very fine animals. We send our fiber off, each year, to get tested on its feel, the micron count, and other factors. We use Yocum-McColl in Colorado.
We breed for density, conformation, and fineness. We have a lot of excellent bloodlines that we have spent over 24 years perfecting.
Alpaca shearing is an annual event for alpaca owners. Like sheep, alpacas need to be shorn for their health. Unlike sheep, the alpaca's "wool" is a valuable commodity. It takes a special shearer to learn the art of alpaca shearing. We prefer the Australian one-pulley restraint system and shear on the ground with a mat. Last year we used Gina at Moonrise Alpaca Shearing. She did a great job!
Its quite the adventure on shearing day, requiring all hands on deck! Someone is catching animals and lining them up; someone vacuums the animals, trying to suck up as much VM and dirt as possible; another is sweeping up bits of fiber in-between shorn animals; one other person is weighing fleece; while the rest of us are trying not to look like chickens running around with our heads cut off!
A stressful as this day can be, we manage to get through it because this is the day we live for each year. We reap what we have sowed. We are thankful for our friends, who help each year, and help make this day much smoother.
It's an amazing ritual!
Fiber artists and hand-spinners buy some of our raw fleeces. Knitters, crocheters, and weavers that appreciate the quality of natural fibers, purchase our alpaca yarn. Fiber cooperatives collect alpaca fiber and process it on behalf of the producer. Some commercial users are now buying the fiber. Alpaca fiber can be used for anything that sheep's wool can be, and then some.
Tpically we send our fiber off to local mills, getting rovings or yarn back. This year, we actually invested in our own drum carder and picker, and are looking to do some of our own processing to help cut costs.
We love local artists and keeping our costs low. So, we are looking for more weavers and spinners who would like to make us some finished products to put into our store for 2018!
A few of our kids have actually learned how to knit and even do the drop-spindle. Stay tuned for some pictures of finished products by our talented Chicas!