Thursday, June 12, 2014

What We Need...

What We Need for the Long Haul

     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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Alpacas at Windy Hill ~ ~
7660 Bradley Rd. Somis, CA ~ (805) 907-5162

1 comment:

  1. Cindy,
    Great article! It is a wonderful summary of the industry and its needs.

    I have seen, and have continued to see a strong need for commercial quality USA sock yarn.
    As an alpaca products retailer and wholesaler, I know the very strong market for alpaca socks. This demand continued to grow. Unfortunately, the biggest roadblock to growth of USA made alpaca socks is the availability of yarn! A number of sock sellers right now are scrambling yet again this year to get yarn! I'm lucky to have ordered early this year and have a good deal of yarn but hear reorders are going to be difficult. I hear even Peru is limited in yarn this year!

    This does not have to be the case. There are plenty of alpaca farms just sitting on fiber. From my days as a shearer I know all too well of many farms just sitting on their fiber, not willing to dive into a co-op model, they just want a simple means of fiber sales. This may be wrong or lazy but it appears to be the reality.

    A strongly driven effort to produce commercial quality cone sock yarn will encompass infrastructure that includes: shearing, collection, sorting and processing. With a quality yarn there is already a willing and eager market. How great is that! A focus on the development and continued growth of commercial sock yarn products will go a long way toward supporting the alpaca farm industry and the fiber sales upon which it ultimately depends.

    I applaud your efforts and hope for the future success of our mutual goal of a strong alpaca future!
    Brian Schieber
    P.O. Box 8598 La Jolla, CA 92038
    877-PURELYA *
    Naturally Unique
    Alpaca Clothing and Gifts Since 2002
    A Preferred Retailer