A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

August 3, 2008

Clearing the Fleece From The Barn – Another Option


As we continue to work to get all of our fleece out of our barn and processed into product I am continually looking for new ideas and resources to help us make a profit from our fleece.  


This year we will sending fleece to the North American Alpaca Fiber Producers (NAAFP) Cooperative, the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA) and the leg and belly fleece will be processed into the beautiful rugs and energy mats that have been such good sellers during the past year.  Some special fleeces will be sent to a mill for putting into roving so that I can hand spin some of our own fleeces for special projects.  With close to 60 alpacas on the farm we have plenty of fleece to disburse!


I was recently made aware of a project that is interesting and that could be helpful to some alpaca breeders looking for a use for their alpaca fleece.


Peter and Carol Lundberg of Elderberry Creek Alpacas, Stayton, Oregon have started the Alpaca Blanket Project and are looking for alpaca fleece to keep their project moving forward.


The Alpaca Blanket Project has evolved from collaboration with Pendleton Woolen Mills, Pendleton Woolen Mills has a world-wide reputation for creating beautiful blankets, throws and clothing and has been a family owned business for 140 years.  The Lundberg’s have worked with Pendleton Woolen Mills to develop a Pendleton Blanket made from alpaca fiber.


The alpaca fiber used for the project will be graded and sorted prior to being sent to the mill.  Peter and Carol will be doing most of the grading and sorting.  The mill requires at least two sorts of 400-500 pounds of fiber in the same grade, but different colors, for each run of blankets (throws), meaning that Peter and Carol are going to have their hands full – literally.  Once the alpaca fiber has been graded and sorted Pendleton Woolen Mills will do the carding, spinning and weaving.

The throws will be approximately 60” by 70” and the Lundberg’s goal is to have the throws completed in time for the 2008 holiday season,


While initially those sending fiber to the project will not be paid for their fiber, it is hoped that if enough blankets are produced those donating 10 lbs or more of fiber will be given the opportunity to purchase one of the blankets at a wholesale price.  It is anticipated that in the future there will be payment for fiber sent to the Alpaca Blanket Project.  Those donating fiber to the project will be taking part in a project that will increase public awareness of the wonders of alpaca fleece, something that benefits the alpaca industry overall.  They will also be helping a project get off the ground that will eventually be another resource for alpaca breeders to make income from their alpaca fleece.


If you are interested in learning more about the Alpaca Blanket Project there is plenty of information available on the Lundberg’s website www.elderberrycreekalpacas.com.  The blog of the Elderberry Creek Alpacas site contains more information and updates on the project’s progress so don’t forget to check that out while you are on the site.



February 25, 2008

Fingers in the Fleece

Geraint - Summer 2007We are back to the task of sorting through the fleeces in the fleece room.  I am determined to reduce the pile before we get to this year’s shearing!

The deadline for submission of clip to the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA) is February 29 and so I am trying to get as many fleeces as I can shipped off to them today in order that the fleeces are received by the deadline date.

To me sorting through fleeces is an enjoyable task, it gives me the opportunity to reassess the alpaca whose fleece I am working on and consider any breeding decisions I need to make for that particular alpaca.  For some of the boys there is no breeding decision to be made, for one reason or another they will not be used for breeding, but as I look at their fleece it is a good reminder of what the pairing of the parents produced.

There were a couple of fleeces in my stash yesterday that I decided to hold back for show.  We sheared a lot of show fleeces last year and I haven’t had the opportunity to show them all and as I looked at them on the skirting table I decided that it really would be worth entering them in a show.  There is a good-sized fleece show coming up in May in Denver and so I plan on entering the fleeces in that show.

One fleece that did make me smile was that of Geraint who is pictured above.  Geraint is the only surviving offspring of Primera who is a research female we have at the farm.  Primera was donated to our vet, as her crias had never survived.  We became involved in working with our vet to see if we could get one of Primera’s crias to survive and Geraint is the result.  As alpacas go Geraint is hardly the example of an award winning alpaca, but his fleece is actually not too bad.  As I worked on Geraint’s fleece on the skirting table I could feel it’s fineness and lovely soft handle and he even has some crimp definition and brightness to his fleece.  I took a little sample of it to Ric (who is still recovering from the flu) and asked him to guess whose fleece it was, he was unable to guess correctly whose fleece and was impressed when I told him that it was Geraint’s. 

This year things will be a little different at shearing time as we are going to have some of our fleeces sorted by a fleece sorter as they come off the alpaca on shearing day.  Our friend and client Troy Ogilvie of Timber Lodge Alpacas has completed his fleece sorting class and needs to work his apprenticeship by sorting a certain amount of fleeces and so will be coming to our farm to sort for us.  Those fleeces will then be sent to the North American Alpaca Fiber Producers (NAAFP) Cooperative to be processed into high quality yarn and products.  The great thing about having our fleeces sorted on shearing day is that at the end of the day all I will need to do is package up the various bags of fleece and ship them off to the Regional Collection Facility – no storing them in the fleece room or having to prepare them for the processor at a later date.  It will be done on shearing day and off the fleeces will go!  I will even get a report on my fleeces, which I will be able to use to help me with my breeding decisions.

That doesn’t mean to say I won’t get a chance to get my hands on some of my fleeces as I know there will be some we will hold back to show.   Those fleeces I will need to prepare for showing prior to sending them in and so I will get my fleece fix from working on those.  Fingers in the fleece – you just can’t beat it!


January 30, 2008

Congratulations Cody!

FFTX CodyGood News on the alpaca show scene.  We heard yesterday that Audrey and Lloyd Conklin of West Texas Gold Alpacas had received a special award at the Fiber to Fashion Fleece Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

We have known Audrey and Lloyd for several years now, they are both wonderful people and Audrey has her own style of telling a story that is always entertaining.  Audrey really needs to put together a book of all her funny stories!  I have particularly warm memories of Audrey and Lloyd helping us out at an alpaca show several years ago when one of our alpacas was taken ill at the show.  Audrey and Lloyd loaned us all sorts of supplies from their medicine kit and did all that they could to help us throughout the show.  Audrey and Lloyd are good people and it always is a pleasure to hear of good things happening to good people.

Fiber to Fashion is an annual event held by the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association (AOBA) and is the industry conference on the fiber side of the alpaca business.  The fleece show held at Fiber to Fashion is usually a large one with some stiff competition.

Audrey and Lloyd were not able to attend Fiber to Fashion in person but sent in several fleeces to the fleece show.  A friend of theirs was going to Fiber to Fashion and arrangements were made for their friend to pick up Audrey and Lloyds fleeces from the fleece show.  The friend was keen to report that Audrey and Lloyd’s fleeces had received several ribbons at the show including one really nice special one – the AFCNA Spirit of Fiber Award.

The AFCNA Spirit of Fiber Award is given to only one suri fleece and one huacaya fleece out of all of the fleeces entered in the Fiber to Fashion Fleece show.  The Award is sponsored by the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA) and is awarded to the fleece that best exemplifies what our fiber industry is breeding for.  It is a prestigious award.

The alpaca whose fleece is that won the award is FFTX Cody, one of Audrey and Lloyd’s herdsires.  Cody is not unfamiliar with winning blue ribbons and now can add the AFCNA Spirit of Fiber award to his list of credentials.

So congratulations to Cody, may your date book be well booked for this upcoming breeding season, and of course congratulations to Audrey and Lloyd too!


December 18, 2007

Wanted – Alpaca Fleece!

As members of the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA) we receive regular updates as to how the Coop is working and their plans for the future.

The latest update from the Coop shows that sales of Coop products have again increased dramatically this Holiday Season.  This is great news for the alpaca industry as it suggests that more people are becoming aware of alpaca and purchasing alpaca products.  For those who have worn alpaca products you know that it is so soft, warm and comfortable you can’t help but tell those you meet about how wonderful alpaca is.

Currently we have the Extreme Socks from the Coop on backorder.  The Coop thought that they were keeping up with the holiday demand but a broken sock machine put the manufacturer behind schedule and now the socks are on backorder.  It is a shame that this should happen when alpaca product sales are so strong, but it is part of the business of retail.

One concern the AFCNA Board of Directors has expressed is that should demand for alpaca products increase by the same amount next year then the biggest problem for the Co-op could be lack of alpaca fiber – yes lack of alpaca fiber, imagine that!  This possible problem does not stem from a lack of alpacas (although more alpacas would still be a good thing), but rather that alpaca producers are not sending their fiber in to the Co-op to be processed.

For many alpaca farmers deciding what to do with your years clip of fleece is nowhere near as fun as raising and showing your alpacas and what tends to happen is that fleece skirting and processing is put on the back burner.   Many alpaca farmers have stashes of fleece on their farm that need to be processed, and perhaps now is the time for them to sort and skirt those fleeces and send them in to AFCNA.  It doesn’t cost much to join AFCNA and there are many benefits of Coop membership. 

As of today the Coop is not paying dividends to farms for fleeces submitted but eventually that will happen.  Fleeces submitted now will be recorded against each producers record so that when payments are eventually made the producers will receive their fair share of the payments.  The Coop is also doing what it can to cut down on shipping costs for its members by offering various shipping discounts.

Historically the AFCNA had a rocky start in its first few years, but thankfully those times are behind us and the AFCNA is now well organized with many plans for the future.  The products the AFCNA puts out are a quality product and well liked by consumers

So for those alpaca farmers who have stashes of fiber stored on their farms, give AFCNA a call at 877-859-0172 or drop them an email via their website http://www.afcna.com/ and find out what you need to do to get your fiber on it’s way to becoming beautiful end product while supporting the growth and future of the alpaca industry.


October 6, 2007

Is it really Fall?

I am beginning to wonder what has happened to our seasons, after a relatively wet summer with cooler than average temperatures we are now experiencing a warm, dry fall.    Yesterday the temperature reached 90 degrees with high humidity as well, high for us that is.

The alpacas didn’t seem too bothered by the heat; they did a fair bit of sunning but moved around the pasture well so I was not too concerned about them.  Having turned the fans off earlier in the week we had to turn them back on to provide some breeze, I guess when the first snow hits the ground it will be time to clean off the fans and put them up for the winter.

Chai was the only alpaca that seemed to be taking it easier than normal, but considering that she is only two weeks out from her due date her behavior was not unusual.  Of course we kept a close eye on her throughout the day to make sure that she was not going into labor.  Chai loves to sit on the bed of hay in the big shelter, I suspect it provides nice cushioning for her ever growing “bump”, but it means that we have to walk out to physically check on her rather than just looking out of the window.  Throughout the course of the day Chai looked good and was definitely enjoying lying on the hay and nibbling what is left of the big bale that was in the big shelter, she has developed wax caps on her udder now and so we are probably not too far off from her giving birth.

On the Zeus report there is exciting news, he had his biggest gain yet yesterday 0.6 lbs!  We were so excited that we phoned his owners and told them that we were going to have a party.  What will be really exciting is if he can show the same gain today, you can bet we will be holding our breath again as we step on the scales with him this morning.

We finally have a weekend we are both home so are planning on sorting through some fiber to send it off for processing into socks and also sorting out which fleeces to send to the Alpaca Fiber Coop of North America (AFCNA).  We have a lot of fleece to sort through and the process will take a little while but once we get into the routine of sorting some fleece every day the job will soon be done.  We also have several show fleeces to skirt so I need to work on those too as there are some good shows coming up which I would like to enter.

It will be nice to have a weekend without dashing here and there, that is of course unless we end up dashing out to deliver Chai’s cria!


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