Written by Claudia Mendez, Founder & Owner Ella Ember
We often get asked how alpaca fiber is obtained. After all, many of our customers want to know how the products they buy were made and the materials that were used. So, let’s start by talking about how alpaca fiber is obtained and where we source our yarn from.
Are Alpacas Killed to obtain their Yarn?
The first and main aspect that must be pointed out is that alpacas are not killed to get their fiber. Alpacas are shorn in a similar way as sheep are shorn, in order to collect their hair.
The main reason for this is that an alpaca herder obtains a lot more money from selling the fiber from its animals than by killing them for their meat. A herder can shear an animal several times during the animal’s lifetime, while it only obtains meat once when they kill it.
Are Alpacas Harmed by the Shearing?
The second aspect that must be taken into account is if alpacas are hurt or harmed because of the shearing. That brings us to ask many questions.
How are the animals shorn?
In our case in particular, we source our yarn directly from a Co-Op of 1,300 alpaca herders in Bolivia. Since our yarn comes from individual herders and not from large alpaca farms, the shearing process used to obtain the fiber is manual. This means that every animal is shorn with scissors by its owner. In contrast, large alpaca farms use electric razors that gets the process done faster.
Individual alpaca herders claim that shearing their animals manually is less stressful for their animals. I am not sure how you can prove this, but getting shorn by the owner, who the alpaca knows, is probably one of the causes for the reduced stress in the animal.
Are all Animals are Shorn?
No, not all the animals are shorn. Only those healthy adult animals that have hair that is about 3 inches long or longer. Pregnant alpacas are also left aside as precaution. Baby or young alpacas are also not shorn.
When are Alpacas Shorn?
Shearing is usually done in the Spring months (in the Southern Hemisphere), usually between October and November. This actually alleviates the animals during the warmer months, when they get hot if they are left without shearing. If alpacas were shorn during winter, which is NOT DONE, the smaller animals would not be able to withstand the low temperatures and they would die.
As you can see, from the information above, shearing alpacas is a safe practice when done correctly, and alpaca herders take it very seriously. After all, their animals' well-being depends on it, and so does their economic activity.
I hope that knowing how we obtain our yarn gives you piece of mind that you are not only NOT HARMING alpacas in any way by buying our products. On the contrary, buying our products helps support over a thousand alpaca herder families in Bolivia and their animals. It also empowers many artisans who work from home, while they take care of their kids.
This makes us happy. I hope it makes you happy, as well!