Alpacas at Windy Hill

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What Do We Need for the Long Haul? The Alpaca Industry is morphing into yet another step toward the commercial fiber industry. What do we need to get there?

The alpaca industry has undergone a shake-down during the recession just like all industries in the U.S. Prices have gone down, just like the housing market. Some breeders have trimmed their herds down to the very best. Some have taken this opportunity to retire. Most of us have had a long dry spell in alpaca sales. What used to pass for moderate quality alpacas are now relegated to the “rug yarn” herd…or even the meat market.

There has been an increase in the pet/fiber market for alpacas that needed to move to someone else’s feed bill. Many people now own alpacas who could not afford them during the period when prices were high. These are all positive things.

The quality of alpacas in the show ring has progressed by leaps and bounds every year, and yet many alpacas who have the desirable fleece characteristics needed for a fleece market are selling as pets for the simple reason that their owners can no longer support them. Many breeders stopped breeding altogether, some for several years, because they were out of room, or out of funds to feed additional mouths.

We still need to increase our numbers by quite a bit to have the amount of fleece necessary to interest commercial fleece buyers. And we need to continue our good breeding practices that have led to the level of quality we are seeing today. WE CAN DO THIS!

This leads me to ask, “What do we need?” Our national organizations, AOBA and ARI have combined into AOA in an attempt to better serve the industry. Perhaps it is time for the mindset of us as breeders to push the reset button on their goals and objectives, study where we have been and where we need to be, and re-write those goals to better serve the future of alpaca in the U.S.

Here are my thoughts about the alpaca industry as we go forward.


We need....

People with vision who
are passionate about a commercial alpaca fleece industry
will set standards that advance the overall quality of the national herd
want to usher in the U.S. alpaca fiber industry
will coordinate the collection and sale of fleece at a fair price
will run AOA with drive and determination to make the U.S. Alpaca Industry succeed at home and abroad

Serious livestock-model alpaca breeders who
are in it for the long haul
breed herds of quality alpacas to create a viable U.S. fleece industry
have the financial standing to get through lean times
have enough pasture land to support alpacas in an economical manner
Objective methods for evaluating breeding stock and fleece so that
reliable choices can be made when planning breedings
the quality of the national herd continually improves
breeders have reliable means of achieving realistic breeding goals

Businesses that create commercial uses for alpaca fleece to
create finished products from U.S. alpaca fleece
create U.S. jobs with U.S. fleece
accommodate different grades of fleece
present the best possible use of each grade to the market
diversify the fleece market in the U.S.

A community of support businesses that will provide
sorting and grading services
shearing services
competent veterinary care
feed specifically aimed at healthy fleeces
equipment for alpaca handling and fleece processing
transportation and warehousing

An alternative end-use community of individuals, businesses and charities that
use alpaca fleece in craft and art endeavors
absorb culls from breeding herds
as pets
as meat and hides
as therapy animals
as ambassadors to the public


I am sharing these ideas with you knowing that this is not the complete picture. I'm sure I’ve left things out, and what I have included probably needs tweaking. I invite you, my readers, to add things you think would benefit the alpaca industry as we march onward toward the goal of the commercial U.S. fiber market. Will you join me? I would love to hear from you!

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