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How to Prepare your Fleece for Sale!

Alpaca Naturally is purchasing fibre from Canadian alpaca breeders. We pay for fleeces that are sheared and/or sorted to a standard that, as much as possible reduces second cuts, stained fibre, vegetation and guard hair. Fibre MUST be well sorted, relatively free of contamination and sound to maximize its value. We take blankets, necks, legs and belly fibre if it is finer than 35 microns in diameter and is between 1 1⁄2 “ and 6” in length. The fibre is all classed by certified classers into 9 colors, 2 lengths, and 6 different grades according to fineness. Records are kept providing valuable information which is sent to the Producer with a cheque based on classed fleece weight according to the following chart.


Grade

Fibre Length

Colour

Price/pound

Grade 1 and 2 >23 micron

Long and short

All colours

$13.00/lb

Grade 3 23>26 micron

Long and short

All colours

$11.00/lb

Grade 4 26>29 micron

Long and short

All colours

$9.00/lb

Grade 5 29>32 micron

Long and short

All colours

$9.00/lb

Grade 6 32>35 micron

Long and short

All colours

$7.00/lb

 

A premium of $1.00/lb is added to all fibre that comes in farm classed.
We will sort fleeces sent to us, but please understand that we charge an hourly fee of $20.00 to do so. Fleeces that have been rolled into a bag with course or contaminated fibres take considerable time to make manufacture ready. It is in producers best interest to sort their fleece on farm at shearing time when it is easy to do so.  We are unable to use fleeces that are too contaminated with vegetation, second cuts, guard hair, staining, or are over 35 microns so they will be disposed of or returned at the producers expense.

 

What can you do to maximize the value of your fleece?

Preshearing Tips that make a difference

  1. Feed alpacas so they do not pull feed down onto their backs or necks or can not get their heads deep into the feed.
  2. If possible keep alpacas on green grass for a week prior to shearing. Ensure dust baths are clean and pastures are not contaminated with sticky type seeds.
  3. If bedding is still necessary, fresh straw, or green feed bedding is easiest to clean out of the fleece.
  4. Cleaning the fleece should be initiated prior to shearing and may take 5 to 30 minutes per alpaca.

Various methods used by producers include:

  • Commercial blower or industrial shop vac to blow dust and vegetation from the fleece. Care must be used not to tangle the fleece. This method does disturb the character and crimp of the fleece so should not be used for show fleeces. Alpacas should not be let back out into dirty environment before shearing as the fleece is blown open and is very susceptible to contaminants in this state.
  • Vacuum fleeces prior to shearing.
  • Smooth stick to gently rub and flick debris from the fleece.
  • Hand pick surface debris or gently rub surface with a micro fibre cloth.

Shearing Day Tips

  1. Prepare a clean indoor space with sufficient room and lighting for safety, or order good weather for outdoor shearing.
  2. Assemble crew of four to six people to efficiently perform the necessary task
  • Alpaca Handler —gets alpacas cleaned, haltered, weighed and ready for shearing.
  • Shearer—keeps shears, combs, cutters working to ensure safety and efficiency while shearing. Dull shears will shear uneven lengths. Cutters not properly cleaned will leave tiny fibre balls through out the entire fleece to wreak havoc for the miller and his machinery. These balls will come through to your fine alpaca yarn creating an unwanted shedding/pilling problem with the finished garments. PLEASE TELL YOUR SHEARER HOW IMPORTANT HIS/HER GOOD JOB IS TO OUR FINISHED PRODUCT. They are harvesting your annual crop, please ensure it is done to maximize your return.
  • Table Crew—keeps alpaca safe and steady on the table or floor.
  • Fibre Dude— is one of the most important members of your shearing team as he/she manages the fibre from shearing to sorting tables. One efficient system is to have a large flat piece of cardboard to catch the blanket as it comes off the alpaca cut side up. It is ideal if your shearer can take the blanket off in one piece but you may have to take it in two halves.. The blanket can be easily transferred on the cardboard to the sorting table undisturbed and any second cuts can be easily removed before they get imbedded into the fleece. Make sure the sheet of cardboard is large enough to carry your largest blanket. If you are short of help to manage the fleece on shearing day, your fibre can be stored on the cardboard and piled in a corner of your shop until a Classer or Sorter can come in the next few days or weeks (if securely stored) to properly bag it.
  • Sorter (or Classer)— sorts, (classes) weighs, bags, labels fibre for storage, shipment and production. If the fleece has come to the sorting table in one or two pieces on the cardboard,cut side up, the farm sorter would then just blow or pick off all the second cuts that are laying loose on top. Then the fleece can be easily flipped to cut side down on the sorting table and skirtings can be removed to smaller bags for a classer to class into appropriate Grade Color Length Lots. The farm sorter should put all smaller bags into the larger blanket bag. Leave bags open in a dry area to ensure the fibre is dry before sealing it in the bag for shipment. All bags must be properly labeled for identification. Forms can be printed off from our website.
  • Recorder—keeps production records.
  • Alpaca Handler— Weighs and returns alpaca to the barn.



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Cleaned weighed alpacas wait to be shorn.

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Alpaca is stretched onto shearing table and the blanket is removed in one large piece/side with minimal second cuts to be easily removed before bagging the fleece.

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The blanket is laid out on a sorting table to be skirted, the act of separating the courser edges from the prime blanket fleece.

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Each different lot of fibre off of each alpaca, whether it differs in fineness, length or color should be bagged separately and all bags put into that animals, larger blanket bag and one form identifying the alpaca put into the blanket bag.

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The finished product.

If any of this seems too overwhelming for you in the first years of alpaca farming, call a certified Sorter or Classer or register for our next Sorting Classing course. This is a process that once you get it….YOU GET IT!!!