How often do you shear alpacas?
Alpacas are shorn once a year, usually in spring. Shearing is the biggest maintenance required and usually takes around five to ten minutes per animal for an experienced alpaca shearer.
If you are purchasing your first alpacas, ask the vendors for the name of a recommended shearer, or ask if you can bring the alpacas back to the property on their shearing day.
A very small percentage of alpacas are shorn standing up. The preferred method of shearing is to lay the animals on their side and restrain their legs with a tether at each end. This protects the shearer and the alpaca from being accidentally cut. One side of the animal is shorn and it is then rolled over and shorn on the other side. Depending on the density of the fleece, alpacas cut anywhere between 3 and 10 pounds of fleece. Some of the high quality stud males will cut higher weights.
What do you do with their fleece?
Alpaca fibre is highly prized for its very soft feel (handle), its high thermal properties, its durability and its variety of natural colours.
It is processed into high quality fashion garments such as suits, jackets, skirts, and coats. Sweaters knitted from alpaca fleece are soft, light and warm. Because of its natural warmth, it is also used as a continental quilt filling. Coarser fibre can be used to make car seat covers.
The international market for alpaca product is enormous with demand always exceeding supply.
A few alpaca owners prefer to hand spin their fibre. Commercial prices depend on quality with a premium paid for finer micron fibre. Sales to home spinners can be considerably higher.