1. What is an alpaca?

  2. Why Alpacas?

  3. Huacaya or Suri?

  4. An overview of the alpaca market

  5. The Fiber

  6. The fiber market

1. What is an alpaca?

Alpaca is a species of camel native to the Peruvian Andes. Though it looks like the llama, it is not one. Llama's fiber is much rougher and they are used to transport the wool of alpacas to the villages.

Alpacas have been domesticated there for over 5000 years by the Indians of the Andean countries. They have bred them to improve the smoothness and density of fleece.

Alpaca farms are located on the Altiplano at an altitude of 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) or more. The cold at that altitude is ideal for the alpacas and is partly responsible for the abundance and quality of their fur.

Alpacas are very nice and gentle animals. They are very curious and rather shy by nature. With children, they are very safe, because they keep a certain distance and are very careful.

They are animals who want, above all, to live in liberty. Alpacas must be kept in a natural habitat where they eat the plants they quietly cut with their teeth without uprooting them. Alpacas have big hooves like those of camels, when they move, they do not sink into the ground. Alpaca farming is environmentally friendly.


Some technical data:  
Adult weight 50-80 kg.
Height (at withers) 0.8 m. to 1.0 m
Life span 15 to 25 years
Productive life up to the age of 20
Birth weight 6-9 kg.
Age at weaning 4 to 6 months
Gestation duration 335-360 days
Number of crias 1 cria per gestation
Sexual maturity Males 3 years / Female 12 to 18 months
Gross weight of the fleece 2,50 to 5 kg

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2. Why alpacas?

Breeding alpacas is easy and environmentally friendly!

Easy because …

  • Alpaca farming is considered as an agricultural activity and can offer tax saving advantages.

  • Alpacas only eat 2-3 small bales of hay per month and about 1 cup of feed per day.

  • Alpacas get along well with goats, sheep, donkeys, horses and other pets.

  • Breeding alpacas is ideal for small farms because a small area of 1 acre of productive pasture can contain 5-8 animals.

  • A fence of 4 feet high is sufficient because they rarely attempt to escape from their enclosure.

  • Alpacas are calm, peaceful animals and their communcation is called humming. They can be handled easily and are very safe around children!

  • The alpaca is very resistant to disease

  • It can spend the winter outside with a simple shelter

  • They are sheared only once a year

  • Females reach sexual maturity at 12 to 18 months and may be reproductive until the age of 20.

  • Breeding takes place in a natural way, no insemination

  • Giving birth requires little assistance and complications are very rare

  • In general, alpacas give birth during the day, usually between 10 am - 2 pm / no supervision at night during the time of birth as with other animals. We have never had a birth during the night!

  • Maintenance and cleaning of the alpaca corrals are easy, as they defecate in specific locations.

  • Alpaca droppings are practically odorless and are excellent for soil enrichment.

  • Alpacas can be easily transported in a pickup truck, van or trailer. Usually they lay down during transport.

  • Around children, alpacas are very safe, because they keep a certain distance and are very careful.

Environmentally friendly because...

  • The alpaca has soft pads under their feet so it does not damage the soil by trampling

  • It cuts the grass instead of pulling it

  • Its feed does not contain any medication or hormone

  • Digestion of the alpaca is very effective, it eats little, resulting in less manure and greenhouse gas emissions

  • Alpaca manure can be composted in a month and even be used fresh in the gardens.

  • Their fiber contains no fat or lanolin like sheep. For this reason, alpaca fiber is easy to prepare for processing, without chemicals.

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3. Huacaya or Suri?

There are two different breeds of alpacas, the Huacaya and Suris. They are distinguished by their fiber. Both species have a silky fleece with almost no rough fiber. Therefore, the two species of alpacas produce a luxury fiber.
Huacaya Alpacas have a thick and bushy fleece. The wool grows at a right angle to the body. In addition, the fiber is wavy. This feature of the fiber is like a wave that keeps the shape of the garment or in other words, gives the "memory" to the finished product.


The Suri alpaca hair is very soft, silky, long and as thin as the alpaca "classic" type Huacaya. More than 95% of alpacas are Huacaya. This means that Suris do not even represent 5% of the world population of alpacas and are still very rare.
First of all, the Suri fibre differs from the Huacaya because of its enormous luster.  A lot of Suris even look as though they are wet, because of their great luster. Their fiber also hangs straight down and  forms long twisted curls,  giving a totally different appearance to the  Suri. This fiber is very precious for weaving of fabrics, as it gives the garment a great smooth  and  draped look, that flatters the body contour.
The product of both species is considered as a luxury fiber in the textile industry, but the Suri
fiber is rarer and more expensive.

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4. An overview of the alpaca market

The global number of alpacas is estimated at about 3 million animals. 98% of the animals are living in South America (Peru, Bolivia and Chile).

There are large farms in Australia, 65,000 animals, but also in Europe, raising alpacas has been in development for several years. In England, they are over 15,000 animals and in Germany and Switzerland around 20,000 animals.

In 1984, the first alpacas from Chile and Bolivia were imported to the United States. It was not until 1993 that the Peruvian alpacas followed the same path. At the same time, alpacas appeared in Canada, mainly in Alberta.

However, it is no longer possible to import alpacas from Peru: U.S. and Canadian records are closed to new blood lines.  National foundations Herds in Canada and the United States are those that ensure the growth of alpacas in North America.

Since then, Canadian, U.S. and Australian breeders have developed techniques for selective coupling to improve the quality of alpaca fiber.

The offer of alpacas is limited due to the slow growth of this livestock. When you consider that gestation lasts 345 days on average, a female is mature at the age of one to two years and can give birth to only one cria at a time, this offer may to remain limited; in addition to the inability to import from Peru.

The vast majority of alpaca farms have about twenty heads per farm in North America.

Moreover, demand for alpacas has grown steadily since their introduction in Canada in the early 1990s. The same phenomenon was observed in the United States. More and more breeders are entering the alpaca market each year.

In Canada, the popularity of the alpaca was first occurred in Western Canada, the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia are well advanced in the market. in contrast, the eastern Canada market is still in its infancy, just discovering the market for alpaca. In 2009, only about 20 alpaca farms reside in Quebec.

The rarity of alpaca, limiting supply and increasing demand has an effect on the the price of the alpaca.

Many potential buyers are asking:
"What guarantees that the market for alpacas will not "collapse" like the market for ostrich, a few years ago in North America?"

The answer is more or less simple. Raising alpacas is not just a short term endeavor! Raising alpacas has been well established and stable for years in several countries. Apart from South America, there are also well established breeders in the United States, Australia, England and Europe. The alpaca market is stable and has been growing for the past 30 years.


Why should I buy good quality Alpacas?


A high quality alpaca will give a finer fiber and contain less medulated fibers (guard hairs). The price of alpaca fiber varies with fineness. The finer the wool, the higher the price on the market. The value of premium fiber is about $ 30 a pound. An animal will give you 5 to 10 pounds of fiber per year. There is high global demand for good quality alpaca fiber.

There is always a loss by the process of spinning alpaca fiber. This is approximately 10 to 20% of the input volume.

In other words, if 10 pounds of raw fiber is taken to spinning, you will lose 1-2 pounds (medullary fibers, sand, vegetation, waste of machines). If the alpaca fiber is of poor quality, the loss will be larger, up to 40-50%. This loss factor to the producer is then very important.

Important to know: As alpacas age, the fiber changes and becomes coarser. So if you buy young animals with lower quality fiber, the fiber quality will be even worse in the years to come. Instead of making sweaters and beautiful scarves, which you can sell with a greater profit, lower quality fiber can only be used to make products such as insoles and socks.

An animal of superior quality will give you a fiber quality for years to come, and your profits will be larger, not only through the sale of high quality offspring, but also with its products!
A lower quality alpaca will fail to maintain a high selling price. Scarity will remain for high quality alpacas. The rarity of alpaca, limiting supply and increasing demand maintain a high price for high quality alpacas.
For animals that have won prizes in exhibitions alpacas, you pay normally more than for animals that have not left a mark in the circuit of the shows. This is understandable, because this way the buyer has a guarantee for the quality of this animal, which was judged by a person with much experience. In addition, the judgement is objective and neutral.
But even for a good breeder, it is not possible to show all these animals to shows and alpacas judges. Above all, the adult females who are pregnant because they should not be too stressed out during pregnancy. Therefore, you can also find animals of superior quality, even if they have not won a prize.

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5. The Fiber

Warmer than wool, stronger than mohair,
softer than cashmere! 

Alpaca fiber: A unique and luxurious fiber!
Appreciated by the greatest designers of the international fashion industry in Paris, Florence, Milan, Rome or Tokyo, alpaca fiber is a real gem!

NASA has also used this fiber in early space exploration. In natural fibers, alpaca is what is best.

The value of alpaca fiber is, that it combines several attributes sought and has no default. This is the ideal fiber.

See yourself :

  • The alpaca fiber is so soft and silky due to the structure of the fiber that it surpasses almost any other specialty fibers both the super soft touch and its resistance.

  • It is as soft as cashmere and warmer and stronger than sheep's wool.

  • The scales of alpaca fiber are about ten times finer than sheep's wool.

  • No other animal produces wool in such a wide range of natural colors or 22 colors in all. From pure white to true black through various shades of beige and brown or gray. These fibers can also be mixed to produce a variety of shades.

  • Alpaca fiber can be dyed without losing its luster.

  • The alpaca fiber is lightweight and at the same time, a very effective insulator.

  • A good alpaca produces a fine fiber without medullary fiber. The luster of the fiber gives an incomparable silky appearance to 100% alpaca clothing,

  • The alpaca fiber is antiallergenic, not spicy and can be worn directly on the skin.

  • The fiber of the alpaca, although extremely thin (five times thinner than a human hair) is not less strong. It lends itself well to industrial process. It is compatible with manufacturing processes suitable for wool.

  • The fiber is cleaner than sheep, because the alpaca does not have grease, with the result that 87 to 95% of its fiber is used and clean compared to 43 to 76% for sheep.

  • The alpaca fiber is less expensive to process in industry because of its cleaness and does not need to be cleared (dehaired) of medullary fibers  as much as the camel (camel hair) or cashmere.

  • It does not contain lanolin, so it washes easily.

Criteria for determining the quality of alpaca fiber

Les éleveurs s'entendent généralement pour convenir que les principaux critères d'appréciation de la fibre d'alpaga sont :

  • Finenesse (fineness or micron count or Average Fiber Diameter - AFD)

  • Its uniformity (uniformity or low CV)

  • Density

  • Its ripple (crimp)

  • The lack of medullary fiber (no hairy fiber)

  • Luster (Suris) or brightness (Huacaya)

  • Its soft touch (handling)

The Canadian Cooperative provides six classes for alpaca fiber, depending on the fineness of the fiber (the number of microns indicating the average fiber diameter):

Grade 1 : " Ultrafine " moins de 20 microns
Grade 2 : " Superfine 20-22.9 microns
Grade 3 : " Fine " 23-25.9 microns
Grade 4 : " Medium 26-28.9 microns
Grade 5 : " Intermediate 29-32 microns
Grade 6 : " Robust 32.1-35 microns.

For a fiber of the same fineness (even micron) than cashmere, mohair or angora wool, alpaca will have a softer touch. Why? Because the micro scales of the fiber are twice as good aligned than for wool. The alpaca fiber offers less resistance to the touch and is more silky.
The fineness of the fiber depends on the genetics of the animal and its food, but also by the age of the animal.
The fiber of a female in gestation / lactation is often coarser than that of a male the same age who does not have this additional burden.
Among good animals with good genetics, the first fiber cuts are always of ultrafine quality.

Products with the alpaca fiber ...

The alpaca is used for the following products:
women's clothing, menswear, kids and baby clothes, socks, soles of shoes, clothing and sports accessories, scarves, gloves, mittens, bags, hats, pillows and comforters, dog and cat beds, etc..
The fiber can be felted, woven or knitted.


The advantages:
very high insulation potential, but breathes
Lightness, softness, strength, antiallergenic



A few more words about the ecology of the alpaca fiber

The choice to wear "cotton" will contribute to the use of herbicides and pesticides that have adverse impact on our planet, every hour of every day, as unfortunate to produce cotton, the industry uses a lot of herbicides and pesticides.
The choice to wear nylon or other synthetics contributes to the continued use of products made from petroleum.
The choice to wear "vision", "fox", "sable", "baby seal", "beaver" and even "leather" contributes to the slaughter of these animals for their skin and fur. In addition, these hides and skins require the use of petroleum products during the tanning process.
The choice to wear "wool" also has an impact on the environment by the fact that sheep's wool requires repeated washing with corrosive detergents to prepare it for processing.

... In contrast, alpacas are shorn once a year, their lanolin-free fiber can be easily treated with a little washing and on their return grazing, alpacas go to work on growing their fiber for next season.

With his 22 different colors, alpaca fiber offers a wide variety of natural colors with no dye. In South America, most alpacas are white, but the North American herd has the greatest diversity of alpacas with natural colors. The Alpaca in North America does not need dyes to provide consumers with a wide range of natural colors.

If we are to think globally and act locally, then we can encourage the use (purchase) of alpaca fiber because it meets all the criteria for a green movement.

The Alpaca is the green choice of all fibers!

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6. The alpaca fiber market

Today, the market for alpaca fiber is worldwide and Peruvians in control most. North America produces only 1% of the alpaca fiber produced worldwide. In both Canada and the United States, the alpaca fiber industry is still in its infancy and there is a lot of room for expansion and development of this natural resource so well adapted to our climate.
Alpaca fiber is considered as a very rare specialty and luxurious fiber. Indeed, we produce about 4,000 tons of alpaca fiber worldwide compared to 5.000 tons of cashmere, 8.500 tons angora (rabbit) and 22.000 tons of mohair.

Canadian, U.S. and Australian populations of alpacas includes only a few thousand heads. The purpose of Canadian farmers is to create a large national herd of alpacas to offer a stable supply for the fashion industry and the manufacture of clothing or other creational products.

More than 200,000 alpacas are on the ground in America, the time of this writing (2010). While Peru is often referred to having more than 90% of alpacas in the world, there is little remaining land in the Andes for future growth. The size of the herd of alpacas in Peru should remain relatively constant over the next 50 years. In North America, the growth potential of alpacas in the industry is virtually unlimited. We can create the largest herds of high quality alpacas right here in North America.

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Domaine Fraser Alpacas
St-Ferdinand, Québec, Canada