K2Alpacas are lucky to have a great team of support, and without this, I - ‘AlpacaJoe’ - could not have undertaken a trip to the home of alpacas in Peru.
With arrangements in place, I am off on a working holiday. AlpacaJoe is now a walking sponge, looking to learn as much as possible about alpacas and everything to do with them.
In the meantime, the team at home continue with halter training; feeding and checking regimes.
‘The fibre of the Gods’
Alpaca fibre is called ‘The fibre of the Gods’ and not without good reason. It amazes me how alpaca is not more popular than it is.
There are a number of reasons which go back to the mid-1500’s when the Spanish conquered Peru.
They did not recognise the value and uniqueness of alpaca and they wiped out 90% of all alpacas; the alpacas survived by going high up into the Andes where many of the breeding techniques were lost and the alpaca crossbred with Llamas.
In the 1950’s, a few forward-thinking Peruvians started working on the breeding of alpacas and with some success which was disrupted by political unrest in the country, they eventually started to improve the breed.
They bred fineness and density into alpacas and bred out the Llama traits and deformities. Gradually, the alpaca grew in stature in the fibre industry.
In the 1990’s, the Australians and Americans discovered alpacas and breeders like Mike Saffley and others started to improve the awareness of alpacas and educate the world about alpacas. In Ireland, Damien Dryr was to first to bring them in.
Australia and America (USA) are now breeding very good alpacas with the UK close behind and Ireland has some very fine animals capable of competing in the UK competitions.
The fibre has improved so much over the last 25 years that Guinness Records announced that Alpaca is now the finest natural fibre in the world.
The majority of mills globally are not set-up to process alpaca because we do not have the critical mass required to support the mills.
This is a journey and alpaca will only improve further; Australia has achieved critical mass and the demand for alpaca in Australia now outstrips their ability to supply.
Europe has some way to go to achieve this critical mass; we are doing our bit here in Ireland to help.