When the alpacas almost came to extinction during the Spanish conquest in 1532, the Incans found a way of making the alpacas thrive by cross-breeding two percent of the remaining alpaca species to the llamas. This hybrid formed the two-coated fleece alpacas that we have today.
In Peru, an alpaca’s fleece is called the “Fiber of the Gods,” where farmers depend on their living. Alpaca is considered a source of income and, more importantly, a gift from God to the Peruvian culture. In return, people treat alpacas with respect and high regard in their culture.
From a worldwide perspective, alpacas are regarded of equal importance in the economy, in the clothing industry, in the mental health industry, and surprisingly, in the food industry.
But what brings the alpacas on the pedestal of many categories?
Elite in the Fashion Industry
As a matter of fact, alpacas fleece is the second strongest animal fiber and the most expensive in the world. Alpaca fleece ranges from $5 per pound to $40 per pound for a high-quality fleece type. This cost goes up when businesses make the fabrics into elegant mitts, scarves, suits, sweaters, and socks.
There are two breeds of alpacas, namely the Huacaya and the Suri breeds. The difference can easily be spotted in how their fleece looks.
Huacayas make up 90% of the alpaca population, and their fleece is fluffier, crimp, and often used in sweaters and crocheted clothing.
Suris, on the other hand, are silkier and have a natural drape ideal for crafting scarves, shawls, and suits.
The alpaca fleece rose to be the most luxurious fiber in the world. Most of the alpaca fiber is produced from Peru and exported to the United States and Italy.
You have probably heard of the clothing line Sol Alpaca with outlets in Peru, Chile, Australia, Canada, and the United States. Sol Alpaca sells top-quality clothing made of elite alpaca fiber from matured and baby alpacas. Sol Alpaca is renowned for producing the latest and sophisticated pieces of clothing in an animal and eco-friendly approach.
Alpaca fleece also conquered the runways of high-end fashion events worldwide. In 2014, during the Milan Fashion Week, many designers showcased the great material of alpaca fiber by designing jackets and coats.
In the same year, alpaca products also dominated the New York Fashion Week. Twenty-five pieces of the 2014 Fall Collection were all made from alpaca fleece.
Comfort and Diversity
Alpaca fleece comes in 22 colors and up to 300 shades that many textile business owners and designers adore.
It comes with natural shades of White, Light Brown, Light Silver Grey, Beige, Medium Brown, Light Rose, Grey, Light Fawn, Dark Brown, Medium Silver Grey, Medium Fawn, Bay Black, Medium Rose Grey, Dark Fawn, True Black, Dark Silver Grey, and Dark Rose Grey.
Alpaca fleece is dyed-free and all-natural depending on the sheared alpaca’s genetics and age.The alpaca fiber is also in demand to producing baby clothing since the fleece is hypoallergenic and softer than cotton. Alpaca fleece doesn’t have lanolin, a substance found in sheepskin known to cause wool allergies.
It is also ten times warmer but 30% lighter than wool, water, stain, and flame resistant. Alpaca fleece is the best material for scarves and coats.
Low Breeding Opportunity
Buying one high breed alpaca can range up to $50000, the usual breed costing from $3000 to $10000, not to mention that a potential owner cannot raise one alpaca alone. Alpacas are herd animals, and it takes three or more alpacas for them to flourish.
The breeding opportunity for the alpacas is also pretty low, demanding the alpaca fiber to be sold at a high price. A female alpaca only produces one “cria” (alpaca offspring) every 350 days, and one alpaca can only make 8-10 pounds of alpaca fleece per shearing.
Shearing is only being done once in the spring and cannot be done multiple times in a year since alpacas need their fleece to protect them in the freezing winter.
What adds up more on the alpaca cost is a tedious process of the Expected Progeny Differences (EPD).Since breeding opportunity is risky and low, alpaca business owners in the US came up with a method of tracking the source of alpacas to ensure that only the best fibers are produced.
Under the EPD program, a piece of alpaca fiber is examined through histograms to predict how the alpaca’s fiber will look.
Emerging Part of the Food Industry
Alpaca meat is also slowly becoming part of upscale dining next to how people embrace the taste of beef and lamb. Though business owners raise alpacas to produce fleece, they also venture into utilizing alpacas as part of human consumption to maximize all its aspects.
An average alpaca can provide 60 pounds of red meat and often described as sweeter and tastier than deer meat, found either in the market or online.
Alpaca meat as part of the animal meat for consumption is just new in the United States, while Australian cuisine has established alpaca meat. Australia is also one of the thriving alpaca nations of breeders next to South America, with over 1,500 alpaca breeders.
What interests the food business owners are the low-fat content of alpaca meat and its high protein content.
Alpaca Manure for Soil Quality
Alpacas also provide efficient fertilizers to enhance soil quality. Aside from the fact that their poop doesn’t smell, farmers don’t need to age the manure to use it as fertilizer. It has the required amount of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus needed for a healthier soil ready for planting.
Using the alpaca manure is also proven to drive away pests. Studies show that insects and pests are controlled when an alpaca poop is used as fertilizer as there’s an offensive smell that drives them away.
Today, alpacas are essentially on the pedestal of providing the textile industry with the rarest high-quality fibers.
Looking at how alpaca farming maintained its success from the past years, it’s exciting to witness what more the alpaca business can offer — probably the reason why more business owners venture to raising these fluffy creatures day by day.