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Farming for fleece

There are two different breeds of Alpaca and of course, their fleeces are also different.
The Huacaya Fleece is like that of a sheep in which the fleece stands at right angles to the body, while the Suri Fleece hangs down from the body in a spiral lock formation.

 

When breeding or farming for Fleece Production we are looking to breed animals that are well covered with a rounded appearance. Coverage should extend down the legs and up to the bonnet on the head with a clean muzzle and ears.

 

Huacaya fleece:

The most important characteristics of Huacaya fleece are:

  • Density – this is perhaps the most important as it determines the commerciality of the fleece i.e. the quantity you have to sell. It also prevents dirt and moisture penetration.
  • Fineness and Handle – fineness sets the value of the fleece per unit weight. The finer the fleece the more per kilo it will make. Soft handle goes with fineness. The softer the handle the finer the micron.
  • Character – is closely related to density, as strong crimp definition and staple formation is necessary to achieve heavy fleece weights.
  • Lack of medulation – fleece should not contain broad microned straight medulated fibres, especially throughout the main blanket. The aim being to eliminate it completely.
  • Lustre – this is the amount of light reflected from the fibre, which enhances its appearance when processed into a garment.
  • Colour - Alpaca fleece comes in a varying shade of colour from white to black – 24 basic colours and around 250 shades of fawn, brown and grey, as well as rose grey.

Other determining factors are:

  • Uniformity of micron – processors require fleece with minimum variation in fibre diameter. This also helps to eliminate fleece tenderness (fleece breakage).
  • Uniformity of colour – an even colour is preferred by processors, but allowances need to be made for grey’s and fawns which can have a colour variation.
  • Uniformity of length – the fleece should be of the same length for 12 months growth. The ultimate aim is to have the neck fibre match the blanket fibre in length, thus increasing the weight of the fleece.

Faults we do not want in our Fleece production animals:

  • Open fleece with no density
  • Uneven fleece over the whole body
  • Colour contamination
  • Chalkiness
  • Harsh handle
  • Short staple length
  • Medulated fibre
  • Lack of overall coverage
  • Tenderness

The Suri Fleece:

The suri carries a silky, soft-handling, dense, locking fleece that moves freely. Yet hugs the body giving the animal a flat-sided appearance.

The fleece hangs from a centre part – neck through to tail – with well defined locks forming close to the skin and twisting uniformly to the ends. The overall effect is similar to the drape of a curtain of silk tassels.

The primary characteristics which distinguish a suri are its lock structure, high lustre, silky handle and long staple length. The suri exhibits little medulation giving its fleece a more uniform look throughout.

Legs, apron and belly should be well covered and silky, not coarse or “hairy”.

The most important characteristics of suri fleece are:

  • Luster and Lock Structure (these two qualities define suri fibre). Lustre is the sheen or pearliness in the fleece. The lock structure may be twisted, curled or penciled. They should be well defined (referred to as architecture), narrow, independent, uniform and form close to the skin. The most highly desirable architecture has a firm uniform twisted lock. The locks should be consistent across the body, commencing from the forelock and continuing through to the hocks. When the fleece is opened, the inside locks should be uniformly well defined and hand in similarly well-formed layers.
  • Fineness and Handle - A fine microned fleece has a soft handle. The handle of the Suri should also have a silky, slippery feel and be evident throughout the body, ideally including the ears, forelock, muzzle, apron, belly, neck and legs.
  • Density - The hallmark of the ideal Suri fleece is it’s compactness. This is synonymous with high fleece weights. A more rounded appearance can indicate volume (fluffiness) rather than density. Density is evident by gauging the solidity of lock (or thickness in terms of density, not broadness of lock), the number of locks over a relative area as well as the weight of the fleece.
  • Lack of Medulation - Ideally there should be little or no evidence of medulated fibres in the fleece.
  • Lock Length - The lock of the Suri is relatively long and its fibre should grow one or two centimeters per year longer than the Huacaya of similar age and micron.
  • Colour - Suri fleece comes in varying shades of colour from white to black. In between there are shades of fawn, brown, and grey including rose grey. Ideally the alpacas are solid, but may be any combination of the above.

Faults:

  • Flat, open fleece with no lock definition (architecture)
  • Medulation
  • Chalkiness or lack of lustre
  • Short staple length for age of fleece
  • Coarse handle
  • Lack of density
  • Rounded appearance indication fluffiness rather than density.

 

Our ABANZ Target for Fleece production:

Now we know what our Alpaca Fleece should look and feel like – from the descriptions above, why is it so important to have a target to breed for?

The answer is simple ……….. “If we don’t have a target, then we will never hit that target.”

One of the goals of ABANZ is to educate its Breeders on the importance of Stud Male Selection, as this is the key to producing offspring with the fleece types we are seeking to produce, so that we can produce our luxury products,

We as a group of Breeders are breeding for Super Fine Fleeces with all the fantastic traits listed above. By using specially selected Stud Males, year after year our herd Microns and SD’s are coming down very quickly.

ABANZ wants to offer its Breeders the price of $150.00 per kilo for good quality Alpaca Fleece so that we can turn this luxury fleece into luxury products.

This is our “ABANZ Target” and we hope to keep lowering the target in both Micron and SD and at the same time raising the target in Kilograms of Fleece produced from each animal per year.

When we achieve this target, it will give us a sustainable farming income from our Fleece Producing animals and the added bonus is that new people will want to farm these animals, because they will know that they too can make a living out of producing good quality Alpaca Fleece.

“This will result in increased animal sales as well.”

 
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