THE ALPACA


THE ALPACA

The alpaca, with the scientific name Lama Pacos, is the most numerous of the four South American camelids. According to some researchers, the alpaca comes from the domestication of the vicuna, and lives in the high Andes of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and today for introduction in the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

The alpaca is an animal of fine appearance, harmonious in their walk, slender body covered with fiber which together are called fleece. Presents footpads feature that gives the condition of ecological animal to avoid damage the pasture, nor cause erosion. The alpaca as domestic species is brought up in herds, their main production is the fiber having any number of colors, from white to brown to black, also the color gray and roan.

Meat production is complementary, targeting mainly local consumption and transformation processes in dried beef jerky commonly known as salt. The alpaca starts to play between 2 and 3 years old, has a gestation period of 11.5 months and produces one offspring a year.


SURI

alpaca suriThe Suri breed has a smaller population that around 15% of the national total, however, is the animal most striking domestic camelids by her look and beauty. Its main habitat is the wet highlands.

Among its zootechnicals features, we can quote: its rectilinear shape, the body covered with fibers perpendicular curls hanging on the body, well proportioned head with medium ears and straight, big eyes and a “tuft” of fibers that cover the face, nostrils wide and pigmented mouth highly motile and pigmented lips, the body lines and angular, with strong limbs covered with fiber to the reeds, has good conformation, denoting a smooth and slim silhouette. Presents white and colored fleeces that ranging from light cream to black.

Suri fleece exhibits greater fineness and uniformity of luster, due to its scales are better arranged. No curly coat, but rather undulations, their growth rate is higher and it exhibits better fat content than the Huacaya fiber.


HUACAYA

It is the breed with most widespread in the country, representing 85% of all alpacas, zootechnical characteristics being as follows:

It is a well-developed animal body, head relatively small, triangular shaped ears, nostrils wide and pigmented lips highly motile mouth also pigmented, with well trained and forelock clean face, neck long and strong. The acceptable size is 80 cm. to the cross, the fleece must cover the entire body including the extremities to the reeds, the top line of the animal is slightly convex, which continues to tail, with strong legs and good poise, which together gives a harmonious appearance general .

The fleece is fluffier and exhibit their finest fibers in a degree of curling in most of its length, is sheared once a year with an average fleece weight of between 5-10 lbs. Overcome the 26.5 micron have a high fiber content core, giving greater stiffness in the fibers limiting its use.


NATURAL COLORS

The color of the alpaca’s fiber is varied (22 natural colors), but is more uniform than the llama, and goes from white to black, presenting tones of brown, grey and natural colores. This is a feature that can not be found in other natural fibers, called ‘nobles’, used for the manufacture of textiles. In natural colors, there is considerated 9 colors called pures, and ranging from white to beige, brown and black.


HABITAT

The camelids Habitat consists of Puna ecological formations, and the highlands that are distributed from northern Peru to northern Argentina, including the Andean areas of Bolivia and Chile, having as general characteristics of be wetter north where it continues to the Paramo, and drier in the South.

The altitude of the highlands oscillates between 3,800 and 4,500 masl with an average temperature of 6 oC to 8oC and 400 and 700 mm. annual precipitation.

For the case of Guanaco, plus previous formations can be considered as own habitat, the lower areas as stage desert scrub, coastal hills and the formation Chaco of Paraguay.

In general, the camel can live from sea level to over 5,000 m. altitude. The Alpaca can live around the wetlands, the Vicuña instead prefers the high plains and the Flame inhabits all levels preferring dry places.

The dominant vegetation in the highlands case consists mainly of grasses, interspersed with small bearing species, compound and sparse forests of Polylepis, Buddleia and Puya.


FEATURES OF ALPACA FIBER

The features of Alpaca fiber, are mainly determined by:

  • Finesse
  • Length
  • Resistance
  • Soft to the touch
  • Resilience
  • Hygroscopicity
  • Fat
  • Thermal Properties

Fineness

The fineness of the alpaca fiber is between 18 and 40 microns, depending on what part of the fleece  longer reflects the age of the animal.

Length

The fiber length varies depending on the type or variety. It is reported that the length of fiber from the variety Huacayo, is about two inches shorter than that of the variety Suri, whose length is estimated between 6-8 inches. The fiber length and its variability is related to the growing period. When considering two years of growth, as originally fleece, length and variation are greater than those of a year of growth.
The excessive length of material demand fractionation, giving it a greater variability in the fiber, with consequent loss of material. The averages of both staple length, and fiber are values that place as textile suitable for combing system, especially if one takes into account that the lower limit of fiber length for this process is 3 inches.

As a result of the comparative study of the useful features of alpaca one year versus two years of growth, it was concluded that the fiber has better characteristics one year long, besides uniformity, compared to those grown in two years, damaged at the apex in almost an inch action of ultraviolet rays, intense in the Peruvian highlands.

Resistance

The resistance is the degree of tension supports. Alpaca fiber is almost 3 times stronger than wool.

Smoothness

The softness is given by the type of fibers which compose it; may be thin or thick. The soft feel is given by several factors including the fiber flakes, fineness, moisture and very nature of the fiber. The race Suri fiber has no perceptible desquamation giving it a smooth, shiny and soft giving it less than the huacaya.

Resilience

Is a textile characteristic which is manifested in the facility as the fiber is deformed and returns to its normal position. The alpaca wool compared to the, has slow water absorption power.

Hygroscopicity

It is the ability of textile fibers absorb water from the atmosphere, altering its volume and weight characteristics. This feature is important in the marketing alpaca, since it absorbs moisture in relation to the variation of relative humidity.

Grease

The alpaca fleece has a grease content of 2% to 5% which is low compared with the wool is 15% to 20%.

Thermal Properties

The fleece which covers the alpaca, allows these animals to withstand the temperatures varied high Andes, and the heavy rains of the summer due to its special characteristics such as the presence of a bone that contain air pockets that determine a great thermostatic power and impermeability. This power allows the fiber thermostatic act as a thermal insulator keeping body temperature at normal levels.

All these features of the alpaca fiber, give the high quality fleece.