2022/2023 Alpaca Owners Guide

 From Star t to Finishing: Storing a

 From Start to Finishing: Sorting and Grading Another method to add value to the harvest is to sort and grade your fleeces. While this process is typically utilized for larger harvests and more commercial use of fleeces, the process can also be used by the smaller producer to either participate in a commercial collection or to have their fiber spun into yarn for their own use or sale. Sorting and grading refers to the process of evaluating sections of the entire alpaca’s fleece after shearing, and sep arating it into batches according to color, micron, and length. Different grades of micron are better suited to creating different products, and batching fiber in this way adds value by com bining like fiber with like to create uniformity within a batch. Yarns created from uniform fiber, spin better and create better products with better hand or feel. As a fleece is sorted and graded, it may be divided up and placed in several different batches as micron and length will change across the blanket. Some owners learn how to do this process themselves from a mentor or through workshops, and there are individuals who have received special training to grade and sort fleeces for the alpaca owner either at shearing time, or later. Regardless of who does this work, it will increase the value of the har vest and the quality of the products made from it. For more resources on adding value to your fleece, selling, writing a business plan, marketing, and more visit the Learning Center at www.alpacainfo.com. 

Fleece Proper storage of your fleece between time of harvest and time of processing or sale will ensure the quality of your fiber re mains high. Storing a fleece in paper will allow the fiber to breathe and will absorb any moisture the fibers may have due to humidity or perspiration of the alpaca. Fleeces that cannot breathe may rot due to high moisture content. For long-term storage, consider a climate controlled and insect free storage facility. Moth infestation can ruin your fleece and destroy your harvest. For short-term storage consider using natural moth repellents such as cedar or lavender. Moth balls are not recommended as it is difficult to remove the odor from the fiber even after washing. Planning ahead will make your shearing day go smoothly and leave your fiber best prepared for its intended use.  From Start to Finishing: Skirting Whether you plan to spin your alpaca’s fleece yourself, pro cess it into yarn, or sell the entire blanket to a commercial buyer. Skirting is the simplest and most basic step to increase the value of a raw fleece. It is not difficult to do, takes little training, and creates the basic product for every use of your alpacas’ fiber. All of the fiber of an alpaca is not created equal. As you move from the topline toward the belly and down the ex tremities, the fiber coarsens. Also certain areas of the fleece are prone to contamination with vegetable matter, dirt, and dung. Skirting refers to the removal of the coarser fiber and the contaminated parts of the fleece in order to add to its value. If this process is not completed, the buyer will pay less for the fleece. The phrase, “garbage in garbage out” applies to alpaca products as well, and any product created from a fleece contaminated with vegetable matter or coarse fibers will be inferior to those created from well skirted fleeces.

46 | ALPACA OWNERS GUIDE 2022/2023

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