Alpaca Fiber: Concern Over Coarsening | The Alpaca Group

Coarsening Prevention and Maintenance of High Quality Fibers

coarsening-fibersAlpaca fiber is valued for its incredible warmth and softness. However, since the 1800’s, concern has mounted over the gradual coarsening of these fibers. Thicker, coarser qualities are less comfortable in apparel and less usable in fiber arts. As alpaca fiber thickness has increased to 31+ microns from the more preferable 20 to 26 microns, breeders are searching for ways to preserve optimal levels of softness while maintaining genetic integrity.

Preferable Textures

In the alpaca business, terms like handle, crimp, weight, staple length, lister, character, density, and coverage are all vital when assessing the quality of fiber in animals shows, fleece competitions, and for breeding purposes. Our breeders are well-versed in the language of fiber characteristics and can accurately assess the quality of fleece quickly. All of our champion herdsires produce the very highest quality and are assessed with top breeding standards in mind.

Breeders and buyers alike seek the softest, silkiest, and finest fiber possible, ranging from 18 to 25 micrometers in diameter. In older alpaca, we choose animals whose fibers remain fine and under 20 micrometers as they age. Our focus on producing the absolute finest fibers makes our alpaca incredibly valuable in today’s market.

DNA Testing and Vicuna

In 2000, a group of scientists lead by Dr. Jane Wheeler, the Vice President of CONOPA (Coordinadora de Investigacion y Desarrollo de Camelidos Sudamericanos) discovered, using DNA microsatellite testing, that the wild ancestor of the alpaca is a camelid called the vicuna, or Vicigna vicugna.

Vicuna fleece has evolved over a million years of development in some of Earth’s coldest and harshest environments. Their fleeces are incredibly fine and range between twelve and fourteen microns, with bi-annual shearing staple length at approximately two inches. While the volume produced by vicunas has discredited them as consistent fiber producers, Dr. Wheeler’s research opened doors for breeding potential to limit and even reverse the coarsening of alpaca fibers, improving quality of yield in future generations. In the words of Dr. Wheeler, “The present status of the South American Camelids is the product of a largely unknown past. However, in the light of the increased movement of both wild and domestic camelids in 1983, there is an urgent need to identify relict populations of genetically pure pre-Columbian llama and alpaca breeds to ensure both their preservation and the possibility of a return to high-quality fine fibre production.”

Our team at The Alpaca Group is committed to continued education with regards to breeding the highest quality alpaca and maintaining superior fibers. If you are looking to increase your herd or breed with one of our world renowned herdsires, contact us today. You’ll be thrilled with the quality of fiber you find in every one of our stunning, award-winning animals.