John & Susan Merrell
41390 Hwy 226
Scio, OR 97374
503-551-7219 (cell)
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Value Adding Alpaca

Alpaca fiber producers in the United States is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the movement towards the value added model.  In fact, they are already doing so on many different levels.

Many alpaca farms have already found ways to take advantage of value added agriculture. Many producers operate farm stores selling products made of alpaca fiber.  In many cases some, or all, of the product sold off the farm are made from the producer's own fiber, although purchased finished products are also common.

For the individual producer of alpaca fiber, value adding really begins in the pasture.  Pasture conditions directly influence the quality of the fiber that comes off the animals.  And, alpacas seen by people passing by the farm directly influence the perception of the end consumer, emphasizing the exoticness of the fiber and end products.

A clean, well skirted fleece is farm more attractive to fiber artists, should the producer choose to cater to that market, than is one that is contaminated with vegetable matter and second cuts.  These are simple, yet important steps in the value added chain that individual producers can take.

Many producers have invested in some basic small scale processing equipment, such as drum carders, hand spinning equipment, and/or hand looms.  Carded alpaca fiber is much more attractive to hand spinners than a bag of raw fleece, and can be sold or significantly more.

Hand spun yarn, if of a good quality, can sell at a significant premium.

Likewise, hand knitted or crocheted finished goods can sell at a significant premium, as can felted goods.  Many of these skills are easily learned and can capitalized on to produce supplemental income for the farm.

Some producers have gone as far as acquiring knitting machines so that they are able to increase their capacity to produce finished goods.

In short, there are many opportunities for on-farm value adding of alpaca fiber.  It is important, however, to acknowledge the skills and time necessary to successfully operate at these levels.  it is not a course that everyone will, or should take.

Alpaca Sales

"There were other considerations, the first of which was that I already had two or three people in use, notably a young person with big feet, in alpaca, from Kilburn, who for a couple of years had come to me regularly for my illustrations and with whom I was still--perhaps ignobly--satisfied..."

- Henry James
The Real Thing
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