History & Future
In South America alpacas were domesticated over 5000 years ago. While the llama was the ‘beast of burden’, the alpaca was selectively bred for its luxurious fiber. The garments woven from this wool where only worn by Incan royalty.
The Spanish conquest in the middle of the 16th century saw much of the alpaca population slaughtered to make way on the low lands of South America for sheep and cattle. The animals that did survive did so on the high plateau of the Andes, the Altiplano, at 3000 – 5000 m above sea level. They did survive here as no other domesticated animal is able to survive at such high altitude and under such climatic conditions.
The small number of alpacas in South Africa means that the industry is still in its beginnings. The limited amount of wool supplies hand spinners and weavers.
We currently process our complete annual clip into finished product, with only a small amount sold as raw fiber or yarns.
There is now also a small mill in Wellington specializing in the processing of alpaca fiber into high-quality yarns.
Additionally, BKB, a major player in the sheep wool industry in South Africa, has started buying in alpaca wool in 2016.
Because of the alpacas’ slow reproduction rate, the farming of alpacas solely for their fiber is still several years away. The fiber marketing and added value aspects of the industry (yarns, fabrics, clothing) will grow as the number of breeders and alpacas increases.
The ultimate commercial objective is to see alpacas being farmed in large numbers purely for their fleece. In addition to these fiber herds, there will also be breeders who continually strive to improve the quality of their herd. These alpacas will be for the improvement of the quality of the commercial fiber herds.