• Production, Attributes and Relative Value of Alpaca Fleeces in Southern Australia and Implications for Industry Development

    An investigation of commercially important alpaca fibre attributes aimed to identify the influence of management and production variables on alpaca fibre and to quantify the relative economic value of fibre production. Fleeces from five farms in southern Australia (n = 1100) were measured using midside samples and standard tests and were assigned a relative economic value based on an analysis of market price data. Greasy fleece (GFW) and saddle weights of Huacayas peaked at 2 years and Suris at 3 years of age and then declined with increases in age until 6 years of age. GFW of Huacaya were not affected by mean fibre diameter (MFD). In Suris, GFW increased with MFD reaching a peak at 29–33 μm. Mean ± S.D. of clean washing yield was 92.0 ± 1.5%. The proportion of the fleece as saddle, neck and skirting components was (mean ± S.E., %): saddle 55.9 ± 0.9, neck 16.3 ± 0.5, skirtings 27.8 ± 0.6. About, 10% of Huacayas had fleeces with MFD < 24.0 μm, while 14% of Suris had fleeces < 24.0 μm. Both Huacayas and Suris had about 50% of fleeces with mean fibre diameter > 29.9 μm. One-third of Huacaya and Suri saddles had 50% of their fibres medullated. For Huacaya and Suri alpaca, the incidence of medullated fibres increased linearly from 10 to 60% by weight as MFD increased from 20 to 36 μm. The ratio of medullated fibre diameter to MFD declined as MFD increased. For Huacaya, there was no change in average staple length as MFD increased. Huacaya alpaca had a greater fibre curvature than Suri alpaca. Data on resistance to compression and staple strength was correlated with other fibre attributes. The price declined by 11% per 1 μm increase in MFD from 22 to 26 μm and by 5% per 1 μm increase between 27 and 34 μm. The total relative economic value increased with increasing GFW and with increasing saddle weight up to 2.5 kg. Total relative economic value declined as MFD increased above 23 μm, increasing live weight above 60 kg and with increasing age above 2 years for Huacaya and 3 years for Suri. The productivity and economic returns from fleece production of Huacaya and Suri breeds was similar. The Australian industry needs to implement commercial mating, shearing and culling strategies to maximise production and returns from animals aged less than 3 years. The main driver of economic value from fleece production was lower MFD of the fleece. more »