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Micron and finished yarn quality – are they related? We did a recent study that showed, Yes, micron and uniformity of micron are related to finished yarn quality. We evaluated skeins of yarn that were spun in our mill and compared these results to histogram data. The skeins were evaluated using a scoring system where the handle, brightness, loft, and twist consistency were each assigned a value between 1 and 5.  Uniformity of micron was measured using the histogram SD (standard deviation) value.

The results were similar to what we had guessed they would be, but with a little twist (no pun intended). We found that fleeces with average micron diameter of 22 or less almost always had a soft hand, and the uniformity of micron is not related to the softness of the skein in these lower micron fleeces. In fleeces with micron of 23 or more, the uniformity of micron is more important than the actual micron in influencing the softness of the skein. In other words, fleeces with what we consider to be high in micron (greater than 26), had a soft hand if the micron SD was low (less than 4.0). Fleeces that were high in micron and were not uniform in micron (had a SD greater than 4.0) felt scratchy to our skin and scored low in handle.

This confirmed what we see in the skeins we make in our mill – higher micron fleeces can produce soft, very nice yarn, as long as there is not a big spread in micron in the fleece.

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Posted by on in Alpaca
Crimp! In all things Good...

Is Crimp over rated?  I hear information from folks that is seems it is not always understood. 

I think many people think crimp may be good for memory or elasticity in a yarn.  That has a lot of variables involved with the spinning process for that to occur. 

Simply think of crimp as a "indicator" to possible traits that it might be connected to.   When I see crimp, my mind immediately rushes to confirm if the fiber perhaps might be fine. 

 There are several Alpaca studies that directly correlate higher crimps per inch to direct relation to fineness.  ( Holt, Gutierrez) I have seen thousands of beautiful samples of crimp that when opened, are also showing wonderful thin fibers..  The key of possible variation in a Huacaya fleece is how organized the crimp structure is.   Typically, the smaller crimp really defined styles do deliver a greater degree of fineness.  Compounding that with the degree of the fibers relative organized staple, may also support a greater degree of density.  

So its one indicator to other traits.....

On my current trip in Alaska, I am being educated by my cousin, an Alaskan native and accomplished artist, Bunny SwanGease on their use of fibers in their culture. 

The cover picture is of a beaver pelt, it has incredible crimp and I'd classify it in Vicuna range.  Now of course the  staple length of a beaver pelt is so short, it can not be sheared but I was impressed this indicator trait was applicable with other fingered species... Of course it does, same with Merino and other fibered animals. Even look at your pet cat fiber... 

We are on the right path with Alpacas - Crimp is Good!


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My wife Jennifer and I have been processing our farm's culls -- defined arbitrarily as any animal we deem unworthy of being breeding quality, males and females alike -- for roughly 5 years now. When we first began, it was in the shadow of the Great Recession, at a time when the market for breeding quality alpacas, even great ones, was facing what I would consider to be its most challenging period in the 19 years we have been around this industry. We actually "came out" of the alpaca meat closet shortly thereafter with an essay on our farm's website which more or less explained our thinking and rationale: namely that every single other livestock industry in the world, and especially those that are fiber producers, has used its culls as food animals since time immemorial. Of course as the branding consultant that we hired to help us market our meat and tanned alpaca hides pointed out to me, that essay was *way* too apologetic for something whose purposes it was to ultimately sell alpaca meat. Presto! The essay went away and was replaced by our online store, where would-be customers could peruse our various cuts, read about nutritional information, order our farm's alpaca cookbook, and of course order alpaca meat and hides!

Now obviously, not everyone shares our world view, and that's fine. The fact of the matter is, that there is a percentage of alpaca owners in North America for whom the idea of eating alpaca meat is a complete non-starter. To each their own. However, if we want to have a grownup discussion about a long-term financially viable alpaca industry, based ultimately upon producing the most high end textile fleece that we can, there is no way that happens without viable terminal markets (meat, hides, leather, etc...). How many alpacas do you think there are in Peru, for instance, over the ages of 7 or 8? The answer is not very many at all, and there's a very good reason for that: as the alpacas grow older, they produce less fleece, and the fleece itself coarsens out as well with each ensuing year, lessening it's value. In the years that we have been processing our culls for meat here at Cas-Cad-Nac, even on a relatively small scale (30 to 40 alpacas each year), we have seen the average age of our herd -- which runs between 200 and 300 animals depending upon the time of year -- go down, the average quality of the herd go up, and most importantly the metric that is impossible to ignore: the average AFD of our yearly fiber clip go down, resulting in far greater value when we sell and/or process our fiber.

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Posted by on in Alpaca
International Alpaca Odyssey (IAO) is always an enjoyable show to Judge.  The rules are not that out of line to the standard AOA rules but do offer other opportunities for exhibitors to show.  For instance, Best Head!  One of my favorites!  As Dr. Julio Sumar & Senior Alpaca Judge from Peru once said, "the head is the window to the rest of the alpaca..."  It always stuck with me and its so true on many levels. I would like to expand the criteria to include that the best head represented the best overall quality of the rest of the alpaca.
Walk in Fleece is a class where the fleece is Judged similarly as if it were on the table at a fleece show.  But here the Judge can incorporate more as the fleece is still on the alpaca.  I enjoyed doing both of these classes and the exhibitors seemed like they did as well so I thought it worth putting it out there for comments...
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Posted by on in Alpaca
Money Saving Ideas for Alpaca Shows

We might be miles apart but other shows in other countries have similar variables to handle.  The biggest commonality is how to cut venue costs so entry fees can be reasonable. I recently Judged a large alpaca show in Ertfurt, Germany.  The venue was at a large complex with other events in neighboring halls. The public entry fee was used against the venues rental.  Here is a picture of panels I saw made from hard wood that are stored at a local breeders warehouse.  I was told that this saved $1,000's in rental fees over the years.

Also, notice the fabric separating the different farm pens.  It is weed barrier used in landscaping.  Some farms cleverly used it for their banner, hung decoration and advertising on it.  The exhibitors were more relaxed about bio-security knowing their alpacas aren't nose to nose with others. 

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