Wool is grown by llamas and alpacas, just like sheep, and is sheared regularly.
Sometimes, llama & alpaca wool is called "fibre".
We think that from the perspective of the industry as a whole, the foundation of this industry is wool and the garments made from the wool. We call this WOOL FIRST. Although these animals have other uses, such as showing, pets, guard llamas, meat, and recreational and commercial llama hiking and packing, all of which are important uses, there is little doubt that wool and garments are the most important.
Llamas and alpacas produce one of the worlds finest and luxurious natural wools. The wool has a number of extremely desirable attributes.
Llama and alpaca wool is silky, soft, supple and smooth to the touch. It is prized for it's unique silky feel and luxurious handle.
Historically, because native South Americans bred llamas for packing and alpacas for wool, llama wool was not as good for clothing as alpaca wool. The natives carried out breedings that suppressed the wool in llamas and enhanced the wool in alpacas. We are one of the farms that has recognized that the common genetic ancestry of llamas and alpacas makes it possible to produce llama wool that is as good as alpaca wool. We achieve this by llama breedings that rejuvenate the inherent quality wool genetics of llamas. The result is that our llama herd can produce woolthat is as soft and appealing as alpaca wool.
On average, alpacas are sheared annually, and llamas a little less frequently. The volume of wool produced per year per animal can range from a few pounds to over 16 pounds.
With a combined total of over 6 million llamas and alpacas in South America, it is not surprising that the South Americans, through a handful of wool companies, control the llama and alpaca textile market. It is a big industry. In 1998, South America exported over 13 million kilograms of wool and wool product.
Since the 1980's, there have been enough exports of llamas and alpacas from South America for herds to develop in several countries, and among the leaders are Canada and the United States.
Canada has over 3000 alpacas and there are over 130,000 registered llamas in North America. With these expanding herds, public awareness and usage of llama and alpaca wool is growing. Notwithstanding that growth, however, as measured by imports from South America, Canadian awareness and usage of the wool, per capita, is one quarter that of the United States.
In North America there is a growing interest in this wool from brand names in apparel, such as Donna Karan, Joseph Abboud, and Barry Bricken. In Europe, which is the traditional and most creative market for alpaca wool, consumption is linked to fashion trends. The lead consumers are the Italians, Germans and French. During the 1990's, the Far East became a profitable market for this wool, with Japan leading the way, mainly for women's apparel in fine knits of natural colors. Korea is not far behind, and there is growing interest in Hong Kong and China. There is even interest in the Arab countries where alpaca yarns are used to manufacture a cape like product used for protection against desert wind and chill.
If one stands back and looks at that kind of information, some exciting ideas emerge. First, llama & alpaca wool and garments are enormous industries. Second, the development of this industry outside the control of South Americans is growing steadily, but still very young. Third, there is an enormous opportunity here for those who choose to participate in it, by building herds of their own, and by increasing consumer knowledge of the multitude of products to be made from llama and alpaca wool.
Llama and alpacas are the basis of an exciting industry that is developing worldwide.