Alpaca fleece – Mother Nature’s insulation
Category: new products
Oct 22nd, 2012 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Oct 22nd, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Alpacas are native to South America, where they live in the high mountainous regions of Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Their largest import to the U.S. occurred from 1984-1998, according to Alpaca Registry, Inc. Since that time, the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association estimates that the North American alpaca herd has grown to over 100,000 animals.
These versatile animals are perfectly suited to survive extreme temperatures, both cold and hot, due to thier fleece; part of their fiber is hollow. The air pocket inside the hollow-core fiber provides alpacas with Mother Nature’s insulation.
In cold temperatures, the hollow hair traps an alpaca’s body heat, surrounding them in a protective barrier of warmth. The only time an alpaca feels the winter cold is when the wind blows, separating their fiber and breaking through their layer of insulation.
Alpaca fleece has even been used in sub-zero temperatures to prevent emergency communication electronics from seizing up. George Meyer of RJM Auto Electrics in Mount Isa, Australia is a specialist in arctic conditions and materials suitable for use in extreme environments. He says, “There is only one other natural material that rivals alpaca fleece for its warmth, but it is very hard to get hold of: polar bear fur.” (Alpacas Australia Magazine, Winter 2004) Yes, polar bears also have hair that is hollow. Mother Nature’s insulation can also be found on caribou, white-tailed deer and antelope.
Alpaca fiber is equally effective at keeping you cool when the weather heats up. The air pockets act as insulation against the heat. This keeps your body temperature cooler than your surroundings. Simply stated, in summer it blocks the heat out. In winter, it keeps the heat in. This concept is sometimes difficult to grasp, but if you think of alpaca fleece like the insulation in the walls of your home, it becomes easier to understand.
When alpaca fleece is made into a finished garment, it retains its wonderful insulating properties. A person wearing alpaca clothing experiences better temperature regulation, leading to comfort in any condition. Anyone can benefit from the natural insulation provided by alpaca clothing, but it is especially helpful for people with circulatory problems.
Persons living with health conditions such as Raynaud’s syndrome, diabetes, arthritis and hormonal imbalance can benefit greatly by wearing alpaca clothing. Maintaining a constant core body temperature is also critical for the elderly, cancer patients and those who have suffered traumatic injuries. (Raynaud’s Association, American Diabetes Association, Cancer Survivor’s Association)
Harvesting alpaca fleece is done by shearing the alpaca with an electric shears. Shearing is done by professionals who are trained in proper care of the alpaca and its fleece. After shearing, the fleece is ready for processing. Alpaca fleece is a renewable natural resource. Regular shearing is important to maintaining healthy alpacas. For alpacas living in Wisconsin, the best time to shear is in late spring. Once they are sheared the alpacas continue growing more fleece. This allows them to attain 1.5 to 2 inches of fleece growth before winter arrives again. The fiber that is harvested is made into clothing, allowing us to enjoy the insulation that has helped alpacas survive extreme conditions, both hot and cold.
So, the next time you feel too hot or too cold, remember Mother Nature’s insulation – alpaca fleece.
Sally & Tom Schmidt began Sabamba Alpaca Ranch and Bed & Breakfast in 2006. Located in De Pere, WI, they have successfully grown an award-winning herd of over fifty huacaya alpacas. Sally served as a director on the board of the Alpaca Fiber Co-op of North America and is a member of the National Show Committee for 2013. Sally & Tom specialize in educating new and existing alpaca owners. They focus on industry trends, health care, handling skills, product and business development, fiber sorting and grading, and breeding consulting. Their next Beginner’s Seminar will be held Saturday, October 13, 2012. Reservation required. Sabamba Alpaca Ranch also features a bed & breakfast. Guests interested in alpacas can stay overnight for a full “alpaca lifestyle” experience. Their retail store is located on the farm and carries alpaca products, including socks, gloves, hats, mittens, sweaters, yarn, long johns and more. Experience the luxury of alpaca clothing at Sabamba’s Holiday Open House, Nov. 10, 2012, or at the Old World Christmas Market at the Osthoff Resort in Elkhart Lake, WI, Nov. 30-Dec. 9, 2012. For more information, call 920-371-0003 or 877-504-7052, or visit http://sabambaalpaca.com.