Monday, May 9, 2011

Alpaca Fiber - gaining recognition among breeders?

In the past two weekends, I attended two different alpaca shows. . . one in NJ and one in PA.  There were a lot of breeders that I have know for years and a lot of breeders, that were either new or that I was unaware of in the past. 

The theme I saw over and over again from breeders I have known is "Fiber" with tag-lines on their banners such as "Fiber Shop" or "It's about the fiber" or "Our focus is on fiber".   While you may be thinking well that is a good thing, people are finally getting serious about fiber, I have a different take on it.  For years, the majority of alpaca people did nothing with their fiber.  They gave it away on Ravelry, sold it for $5 a pound raw, used it as compost, told prospective alpaca buyers that you could not make money off of it etc etc.  There were always those of us (like Alma Park), that used every ounce of fiber and touted that "thar is money in them that fiber'.   And let's not forget Alpaca United - born out of the Build a Tent work shop which is trying to "brand" alpaca fiber  and produce "a modest cash return in year 5 and forward".  Are you kidding me???? 5 years?  I am making MUCH more than a "modest cash flow" now and I don't have to give anyone $250 to do it.  I also find an AOBA BOD members involvement in AU to be a conflict and the new CEO visiting farms who never had or never will have a focus on fiber insulting.  I also find the fact that the CEO is an active real estate agent troubling if he is supposed to have a fiber consulting organization.   AFCNA is just recently returning a "modest return" on contributors fiber and I see AU, AOBA and AFCNA duplicating efforts and wasting money. 

I feel breeders have jumped on the bandwagon because they are not seeing the returns on the breeding end of the market that we all once did. . . .but alpacas (on the livestock end) still command a high price for low volume of work.  Higher than much other livestock in the US today and are quite easy to care for.  It makes me (and other fiber folks) chuckle because some of these new found alpaca fiber enthusiasts act like it is something new or "focus on fiber" is a new focus or a new idea or concept.  My tag line and mission statement have been the same since we started our farm in 2002 and continues to be a "focus on fiber".

Alpaca showing is necessary for marketing and recognition, but we need to concentrate on the fleece more.  We also need to make people aware that what wins in the show ring is not necessarily superior fleece for yarn.  Super crimp in huacaya is not necessary for good yarn (although it does produce a different and more lofty yarn) and neither is tight pencill locks in suri.  As a matter of fact, the flat lock type (in suris) is preferred for processing.

What we need to concentrate on in our herds is consistency!!!  This will allow a lot less labor in skirting, sorting and grading. 

There was a thread on one of the online forums the other day about coating alpacas and if that "keeping them coated and clean provides an unfair advantage in the show". . . I wanted to respond, but did not feel like being flamed.  An unfair advantage?  Are you kidding me people, if coating them keeps their fleece clean and we are SUPPOSED to be a fiber industry - they it should be applauded NOT penalized.  I actually have researched coating them over the last several years and wavered because I was worried about the hot, humid NJ summers . . . but am actually going to coat my crias and juvis, a a few of my top show boys this year following shearing.

The fiber is my passion!  Even before I had the animals, I sought out alpaca yarn to crochet with.  Fiber will always be my passion!!

If you want fiber to be your passion too - contact us and we will show you how!

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