A few years ago I had an epiphany. I decided I needed to buy myself several alpacas. I did my research, looked around, and talked to a few owners to learn as much as I could before I purchased any alpacas. My great idea was to use the alpacas for guard animals for my goats and sheep and sell their fleece. Of course, I was going to make a million bucks with the alpaca fleece and their offspring.
There are two different breeds of alpaca. One is called Huacaya alpaca and the other is Suri alpaca. The Huacaya has a shorter denser fleece with some crimp (curl) used for everything from socks to shirts, sweaters, and blankets. While the Suri has a longer finer, flatter fleece. It has no crimp and is best used for weaving. I’ve made socks and hats with it but it does need some other fiber mixed with it to give memory to the yarn. Alpaca is supposed to be the best fiber for those who are allergic to wool.
Well, I found four Suri alpaca girls that were close enough to where I live that made it a great deal. I bought these girls and attempted to bring them home. These were not goats or sheep! They didn’t understand the herding concept. Trying to get them into the horse trailer was an experience. I thought I could load anything with four feet into that trailer. After making a liar out of me, we finally got them to go in and home we went. Alpacas are different animals to work with.
In my sixty-some years of life, I have had many, many different types of animals. Pigs, goats, chickens, horses, sheep, turkeys, and now alpacas. None of the previous animals prepared me for handling these girls. You can’t rope them because their necks are so long and thin it would break if you tried. You can’t grab a leg for obvious reasons so you have to put them in a corner and grab their body.
These girls have a pretty good attitude. There was no spitting or kicking. Once they were caught, they just stood there waiting for the next thing. You really don’t have to do much with an alpaca since they haven’t been domesticated like most other animals. Their immune system is still working as if it were out in the wild. According to articles and people I talked to, they do pretty well without vaccines or wormers. The only real work done to them is trimming their feet and shearing.
I couldn’t wait until we could do their first shearing. Alpacas have their own very unique communication system that I found out. These four girls were of various ages and it was soon evident who was the herd leader. They make a kind of cooing sound when they just talk to each other but when they are upset they are louder with more emphasis. These girls made an even different sound they made when we sheared them.
I found a shearer and we got everything set up in the barn for him to shear. I had all four girls in a pen inside the barn. Then I could catch one and take her across to the shearing room. My barn used to be a small dairy barn with milking stalls for cows. This was great. I could just tie the alpaca to the stanchion and let the shearer do his work.
Great idea, but we all know how great ideas go. It worked for two of them but the youngest one decided she didn’t want to stand during this ordeal so she just laid down. Ok, fine, we’ll do it that way. Then there was the herd mama. We tied her up and the shearer started clipping her. Oh, my goodness! She started squealing and squealing, it was hilarious. She started spitting at the wall, and screaming, she put on quite a show. We did get them all done with no blood, on either side. I was so excited to have all this wonderful fleece.
Next project, what to do with this wonderful fleece. I contacted someone who was able to explain what and how to process the alpaca fleece. What a job! The fleece is very fine which means it sticks to everything. It flies everywhere, especially up your nose, in your mouth, and in your eyes.
I found out that processing this fleece was not exactly what I had in mind and not at all easy. On FB I did find a way to have it processed and do it for a 50/50 share. By sending the fleece to a spinner, they process it and spin it into yarn and send it back keeping half the fleece for their work. So much easier. I do love the alpaca fleece when it is spun into yarn. Knitting with it is wonderful and I love the things I have made with it. Unfortunately, the experience was not what I expected and finally sold them. I have sold some of the yarn and kept some to use in the future. I loved having my girls but just not my bailiwick.