British Alpaca

The British Alpaca is the by product of several years of refinining the genetics of its ancestor from South America. Selective and expensive breeding programmes have enabled alpaca producers in the United Kingdom to control fibre and therefore the quality of cloth produced.

  • Fineness
  • Colour
  • Staple length
  • Density
  • Medullation
  • Luster
  • Fibre diametre (Micron count)
  • Lack of coarse fibre

To produce high quality fibre nutrition plays an important role as it impacts on fibre growth. It is believed that fleece weight and quality is 50% in the breeding and 50% in the feeding. Pasture management and pre- shearing grooming are keys to a clean fleece.

Alpaca Fibre

Factors that influence the value of alpaca fibre:

  • Fineness: this is a highly heritable genetic trait and a rigorous selction process is implemented to impact on the herd's overall fibre finess.
  • Colour: consistency of colour in the herd is important as it enables the processing of true colours.
  • Staple length: this is an important processing consideration as it determines which manufacturing process to be used – woollen or worsted. It is also an important factor, contributing to TDW (Total Down Weight). It must be a strong consideration for superior selection. Minimum length for alpaca shearing is 45mm, to give a shorn absolute minimum fibre length of 35mm
  • Yield: alpacas that yield a clean weight (measure of useable fibre) after shearing over 3 kgs. Yield also greatly affects TDW and should preferably be medium to high. Low yielding fleeces will incur greater costs in dehairing and therefore return less to the producer per kilogram of dehaired alpaca.
  • Handle: this is a selling point for garments i.e "soft to touch"

Fineness is the key factor in determining speciality fibres. Cashmere which is universally recognised for its soft handle has been identified on 68 breeds of goats. Cashmere is defined not by the goat of origin but by its degree of fineness. Its mean diameter ranges from premium fibre below 16 um, 16 to 16.6 um and 16.7 to 18.5 um. The key to soft garments is the absence of the 'prickle' factor – which is the absence of guard coarse hair in the fine fibre. British Alpaca have been genetically selected over time for an absence of guard hair or outer coat. To avoid prickle in alpaca coarse hair of 30 microns or more must be maintained at 5% or less by weight in any garment or fabric.