2022/2023 Alpaca Owners Guide

O wning alpacas provides unique and won derful opportunities, especially at harvest time. Alpaca fiber is an agricultural com modity that is renewable and sustainable. It can be sold to buyers at fiber collection sites, sold in bulk to spinners or other fiber artists, or it can be sold as value added products to consumers. The in come from your fiber and fiber products can make a significant contribution to your farm’s income. There are hundreds of options to utilize your alpacas’ fiber, but which you choose depends upon your budget, the time you have available, and the talents you possess. Perhaps you would

It is very helpful to have plenty of people to assist with the process on shearing day and that they are knowledgeable about what you want them to do. It is also essential that you are prepared to keep your fleeces organized and identified, especially if you plan to do histogram testing or participate in the AOA EPD program. It is important that your shearing area allows for enough space to shear safely, and that it is free of debris such as hay, straw, or dirt that might contam inate the fleece once it is removed. The area will need to be swept or vacuumed between animals and should also allow for easy access to your herd.

Planning ahead will make your

shearing day go smoothly and leave your fiber best prepared for its intended use.

As the fleece is removed from your alpaca, you will need to decide how to handle it from there. Some owners choose to simply bag the blanket, neck, legs and belly fiber separately. Others use more elaborate storage methods such as “noodling” the fleece which keeps it more organized for later skirting. Some will immediately gather the fleece in order to skirt and sort the fiber into individual grades. Whichever method you choose, you must be organized well before shearing day to execute it, and how well you manage this first step in your harvest has the potential to affect the value of your harvest. It is also important that your alpacas be as clean and free of debris as possible on shearing day. Some owners will actually vacuum their alpacas’ fleeces prior to shearing, others will pick the debris off

like to open a farm store and make your own products from your alpacas’ fleeces, or perhaps you have other priorities in your life that make selling your fleeces to others a more realistic approach. The intent of this article is to help you in making decisions about utilizing your harvest, and to provide you with some resources to help make your alpaca venture more profit able. Offered here are the basics from shearing, to adding value, and finally things to consider for operating a retail business.  From Start to Finishing: The Harvest Shearing is the obvious start for your harvest. It is important that you make arrangements with a shearer long before shear ing season. Shearers are booked months in advance of their arrival at alpaca operations, so it is important to get in contact and schedule a date several months in advance. In your sched uling conversation it is important that you and your shearer understand each other’s expectations — fromwhat it will cost to shear each animal — to how many helpers the shearer will provide or expects you to have. Do they charge for mileage or setup and will they trim teeth and toenails? Most importantly do they understand your goals for shearing and that you intend to utilize as much of your alpacas’ fleeces as possible. If you have not identified a shearer, please ask other owners in your area for names and references. Fellow alpaca owners will be best able to help you make your choice of shearers.

by hand. The less debris in the fleece, the bet ter the product made from it. Keeping your alpacas dry is also essential as damp fleeces will mold if not allowed to dry properly.

Shearing day is a fun, busy, and exhausting day that culminates in the joy of knowing that your harvest was properly done and your fiber is ready to sell, show, or process.

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