A strong world market for alpaca fleece ensures the long term viability of the industry. Australian Alpaca Fleece Ltd. in Sunshine, Victoria, struggles to receive enough wool each year from growers to meet the ever expanding market for the end product. With prices ranging from $60 per kilo down to just $5 per kilo it is important to understand the market demands, properties of alpaca fibre, how to interpret a fibre test and the meaning of some key terms in relation to alpaca fleece.

Key terms

Mid Side Sample : A sample of wool (a small hand full) taken from the mid point on the side of an alpaca usually at the time of shearing.

Histogram : A method of graphing the distribution of individual fibres in a fleece sample. When comparing histograms, visual impressions may be distorted if the scale frequency differs. The example histogram shown below is of STANSBURY'S H3 SIGNATURE, a third generation line bred male.

Micron : 1 micron = 1 millionth of a metre.

Mean Fibre Diameter : In a fibre test, a sample of wool is laser scanned to find the mean or average fibre diameter of the measured sample. The fleece is more valuable if the average fibre diameter measured in microns is lower.

Standard Deviation : A measure of how much the fibre diameter varies within the tested sample. This is also measured in micron.

Coefficient of Variation : Calculated by dividing the standard deviation by the average fibre diameter and then multiplying by 100. It measures the range of fibre diameter variation relative to the average fibre diameter.

Coarse Edge Micron : Indicates the number of microns greater than the average in the area of the coarsest 5% of fibres tested. Better quality and more uniform fibre distribution is indicated by a lower percentage of coarse edge fibre.

Comfort Factor : The percentage of fibres less than 30 micron.

Crimp : The waviness of a fibre. It can be measured and expressed as the number of complete waves per unit length. Although not always a reliable indicator, finer fibre often has more crimps per unit length.

Staple : A well defined pencil like bundle of fibres that are aligned.

Density : A reference to how much wool an alpaca is carrying and a term that is often used in the show ring. Although there are many indicators of density, they can be misleading due to variations in micron. Skin follicle testing and weighing shorn fleece are reliable methods of determining an alpaca's fleece density.




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