- Alpaca and llama fleece are classified as specialty or luxury fibers, but sheep fleece or wool tops the list of animal fibers used today. The camelids (alpaca and llama) are quite similar to each other in fiber and background, and though they bear some similarity to sheep, the differences between the fibers of these herding animals are outstanding.
- The commercial value of unprocessed wool is determined by its intrinsic quality; an indication of capacity to meet both processor and consumer demands. Wool quality is evaluated through routine assessment of characteristics that include mean fibre diameter, coefficient of variation, staple characteristics, comfort factor, spinning fineness, fibre curvature and clean fleece yield. The association between these characteristics with wool quality stems from their correlation with raw wool processing performance in terms of speed, durability, ultimate use as apparel or carpet wool, and consumer satisfaction with the end-product. An evaluation of these characteristics allows wool quality to be objectively quantified prior to purchase and processing. The primary objective of this review was to define and explore these aforementioned key wool characteristics, focusing on their impact on quality, desirable parameters and methodology behind their quantification. An in-depth review of relevant published literature on these wool characteristics in sheep is presented.
Relationships Between Skin Follicle Characteristics and Fibre Properties of Suri and Huacaya Alpacas and Peppin Merino SheepWe aimed to quantify the number, type and arrangement of skin follicles in Huacaya and Suri alpaca skin and correlate their follicle characteristics with fibre traits of harvested fibre and compared these relationships with those of Merino sheep. Fibre and skin samples were collected from the mid-side of 12 Huacaya alpacas, 24 Suri alpacas and 10 Merino sheep. The mean fibre diameter (MFD ± s.e.) of the Huacaya and Suri were: 35.5 ± 0.9 and 28.3 ± 1.0 μm, respectively. The follicle groups found for alpacas were very different from the normal trio of primary follicles found in sheep and goats. The follicle group of the alpacas consisted of a single primary follicle surrounded by a variable number of secondary follicles. The mean ± s.e. primary follicle density was 3.1 ± 0.3 and 2.7 ± 0.1 follicles/mm2 for Huacaya and Suri, respectively. The mean ± s.e. secondary follicle density (SFD) was 13.7 ± 1.2 and 17.5 ± 0.6 follicles/mm2 for Huacaya and Suri, respectively. The mean ± s.e. ratio of secondary to primary follicles (S/P ratio) was 5.1 ± 0.5 for the Huacaya and 7.3 ± 0.2 for the Suri alpacas. The sheep had higher S/P ratios and SFD, lower MFD and produced significantly heavier fleeces. The key correlations found between traits in alpacas include a negative correlation between SFD and MFD (r = –0.71, P = 0.001) and a negative correlation between S/P ratio and MFD (r = –0.44, P = 0.003) and a positive correlation between S/P ratio and total follicle density (r = 0.38, P = 0.010). The study revealed that important relationships exist between alpaca skin follicle characteristics and fibre characteristics. It was the number of secondary follicles in a group that imparts density and a corresponding reduced MFD.