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.
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.
Factors that influence the value of alpaca fibre:
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.