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TAS Country : February 9th 2012
uary 10, 2012 15 path VALUE: A premium fleece, with its silk-like qualities, can fetch up to $70kg FEED EFFICIENT: Mrs Eve with some of her alpaca herd at Howden Eve said. ''Alpaca farming is more than just a lifestyle option as it moves towards a viable fleece industry.'' One alpaca can cut 1kg or more of fleece and the prices can fetch up to $70kg. Mrs Eve, who is president of the Tasmanian branch of the Australian Alpaca Association Ltd (AAA), said the fleece was almost like silk and re- garded for its soft and luxurious feel. ''I heard it takes 30,000 silk worms to produce a kilogram of fibre, but it only takes one alpaca to produce that amount of fibre with a silky-type lustre.'' With advances in genetics, ultra-fine fleece of premium quality is being produced. ''As many as 22 colours, as well as white, allow an organic approach to producing fine alpaca products, mini- mising the use of harsh chemicals in the production process,'' Mrs Eve said. Blue-black was one of the most desirable, and white the most common because the fleece could be dyed. However, many breeders have mul- tiple colours on their farms, because of their beauty and the ability for use without the need for dyeing. Shearing season is from November through to January, generally after show circuit. Mrs Eve says the alpaca shearing community has colourful characters. ''We use a woman shearer, who was an ex-lawyer, but now she travels around the state shearing and teaching others how to do it, she loves it,'' Mrs Eve said. Like sheep, alpacas have similar treatments for worms, vaccinations, and husbandry, but there is no need for crutching, with the alpaca having a hairless perineum. Mrs Eve said the sheep wool indus- try has had 200 years to work itself out, while the alpaca fleece industry in Australia was relatively immature. The industry had an ongoing ap- proach to education in breeding for quality fleece and fleece preparation, classing and processing. Scientific research is an ongoing process and the alpaca industry is lucky to have a few universities on board in this regard, as well as RIRDC. ''There are quality prepared fleeces now on the table for sale. There are exciting prospects ahead,'' Mrs Eve said. Alpaca fleece was popular among craftspeople. It is also popular in the luxury-fibre market and is used by high-fashion houses for garments. The jumpers and rugs Mrs Eve showed off to Tasmanian Country are smooth, light, and soft. Tasmania produces the raw product, but much of it is transported to processors such as Australian Alpaca Fleece Ltd (AAFL) in Victoria for downstream processing either in New Zealand or in South America. ''Hopefully in the future, the Aust- ralian expertise and reputation for producing high-quality wool results in more processing being done in this country.'' Mrs Eve said there was a strong market for alpaca product. ''Supply often falls short of demand both on a domestic and global level.'' There are about three large commer- cial breeders and about 67 registered AAA breeders in Tasmania. The cost of an alpaca can be about $500 for a wether (neutered male) to $175,000 or more for a high-quality stud male. ''Breeding alpacas is an attractive option for those making a sea change from stressful corporate life. It is one of the most progressive and dynamic agribusinesses in Australia.'' Mrs Eve is excited about herd options now available and considers the sustainable industry has a clear future in Tasmania. Anyone interested in getting al- pacascould contact the association's secretary on 03 6264 2628 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or, for in- formation, go to www.alpaca.asn.au
February 2nd 2012
February 16th 2012