A highly prized Alpaca is one that has dense fleece that is soft to the touch. Longer fibre, 85 - 160 mm in length is preferred over shorter fibre, as it is easier to spin into yarn. Fibre thickness is sometimes used as a gauge of quality for clothing grade yarn with fibres of less than 25 microns being preferred over fibre that is greater than 25 microns in thickness, since generally speaking a smaller micron fibre tends to be finer to the touch.
Good herd management, proper nutrition, and a consistent approach to breeding with superior quality animals all contribute to raising alpacas with superior quality fleeces.
As the Canadian alpaca fibre supply increases, we will see alpaca at the head of the specialty fibre industry as the fibre of the future.
Some Common Terms Used in Grading Fibre
AFD - Average Diameter Fibre
AFD represents the average measurement of single fibres in microns. The larger or coarser the fibre, the higher the number. A finer fibre has a correspondingly lower number. 20 microns is finer than a fibre measuring 25 microns. In our business, micron counts of around 15 are considered super fine and micron counts of around 35 are considered coarse. The micron count required by the manufacturer will be different for different products. Average micron counts between 20 - 25 allow the producer to sell his product for a number of potential uses.
SD - Standard Deviation
Standard deviation is a measure of variation and hence uniformity of the fleece. A fleece with a low SD is of superior quality to a fleece of the same micron count with a higher SD. In fact fleeces with higher micron counts and lower SD's often grade higher than a fleece with a lower micron count but a high SD due to uniformity of the fleece.
CV - Coefficient of Variation
The CV is the percentage as determined by dividing the standard deviation (SD) by the average diameter of the fibre (AFD). This number is used to compare one fleece to another. Since environmental conditions and herd management practices make a difference with respect to fibre quality, the CV is best used for comparisons within one group of animals on one property.