Huacaya Fleece

Huacaya alpacas have crimped fleece that grows directly out from the body, giving huacayas a rounded figure. The fleece should be well nourished and exhibit a defined, highly aligned crimp across all fibres, with excellent and consistent definition to the staples. Coverage should extend down the legs and up the neck to a full bonnet on the head with a clean muzzle and ears.

The most important characteristics of huacaya fleece are:

  1. Density – perhaps the most important attribute, determines a fleece's commerciality. Density measures the number of fibres growing within a fleece, which dictates the quantity of saleable fleece produced. Higher density also protects the fleece from dirt and moisture penetration, and promotes alignment of the fibres within each staple.
  2. Fineness & Handle – these set the value of a fleece per unit weight. The finer the fleece, the more per kilo it will earn. The handle measures quality and further determines price. A soft handle is generally associated with fineness, as well as a low standard deviation, which is another positive trait. However, a soft handle doesn't necessarily mean fine fleece, as more lustrous fibres, such as those from suris and darker fleeces, influence the feel of the handle without relying on fineness.
  3. Character – nothing to do with animal personality, the fleece character is the nature and organisation of the fleece, its overall appearance and quality. A nourished fleece with high frequency (very crimped), highly aligned crimp and well-formed staples will produce the greatest fleece weight, and thus the best return. The fleece density assists character by compacting the fibres and holding the crimp.
  4. Lack of Guard Hair – these coarser, straighter hairs mostly occur on the neck, belly and legs, and should not appear in the main blanket. Guard hair is prickly, so these fibres cannot be used with the rest of the fleece. The less guard hair an animal has, the better the fleece, at least in terms of consistency. The overall aim of fibre production is to eliminate guard hard to breed a single coated alpaca with dense, fine and soft-handling fleece.
  5. Lustre – this defines the amount of light reflected along the fibre, which enhances its appearance when processed into an end product. Lustre is additionally a characteristic of the nourishment of the fleece, denoting a healthy animal. Lustre is most important when selecting suri fleece.
  6. Colour – huacaya alpaca fleece comes in varying shades of colour from white to black, with shades of fawn, brown and grey in between. Animals may be solid in colour or be any combination of the above. Consistency of colour along the whole length of a staple is the most important aspect.

Other important factors defining huacaya fleece quality are:

  1. Uniformity of micron – processors require fleece with minimum fibre variation. Variation in micron along a fibre shaft can also indicate stress or dietary tenderness in the fleece.
  2. Uniformity of colour – processors expect fibre colour to match specification and colour contamination within fleece is unacceptable, particularly white and lightest fawn. However, allowances should be made for greys and some fawns, which can have colour variation.
  3. Uniformity of length – careful breeding aims to have fleece growth for 12 months consistently over the body. Ideally, the neck fibre length will match the main blanket, increasing the weight of the prime fleece.