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Alpacas of Somerset Farm

Quality--Selection--Value--Service

Dianna and Jack Jordan
8226 Stoney Creek RdSomerset, CA 95684
530-620-6033
530-744-7474
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July 13, 2018

You've Got Fiber…..Now What?

Exploring the choices for fiber processing

By: Dianna Jordan, Alpacas of Somerset Farm

The shearing is finished, life is back to normal for your alpacas, and you find yourself surrounded by bags of your bountiful harvest. Now, what are you going to do with it? Fortunately, you have many choices available…..from independently owned mini mills to fiber cooperatives.

Determining your best option(s) begins with asking some key questions. Your answers will help guide you to the fiber processing choices that best meet your needs. Some questions to ask include:

• Does your business plan include a ranch/farm store? If so, do you want to sell a variety of merchandise from different sources? Do you want to sell only fiber and fiber products produced by your own herd? Do you want to sell a combination of both? Do you want to provide only "made in America from American fiber" products?

• Would you prefer to purchase or trade for "ready made" products or create your own?

• How important is it to get back end products created by your favorite alpaca from your own herd?

• What is the size of your clip (number of bags, weight, etc.)?

• What is your budget for fiber processing?

• What is your anticipated ROI (Return On Investment)?

Your answers to these questions will give you a good idea of which options, or combination of options, are best suited to meet your needs.

MINI MILLS

Mini mills are just what the name implies…miniature versions of full fiber production mills. By design they process smaller volumes of raw fiber, the processed goods are individualized to the needs and requests of the fiber producer, and they ensure that the products returned are from the fiber producers own alpacas.
In answering the few simple questions, you may have discovered it is important to you to submit fleece from a specific alpaca and receive back finished product from that particular alpaca. When sent to mini-mills, you control the outcome. You can request rovings, yarns, blends, felt, etc. You can ask for blends from two or more alpacas. Mini-mill owners will work with you to produce the products that work best for your needs.
If you are looking for personalized service, products made from the fiber of your own animals, and are willing to wait until your fiber can be worked into the mini mill schedule then using the services of a mini-mill is a good option for you.

FIBER POOLS AND COOPERATIVES

Fiber pools and cooperatives are another option for fiber processing. Unlike mini-mills, when you submit your fiber production to a fiber pool or cooperative the products you receive will not be made exclusively from your alpacas. As the names suggest, the raw fiber is collected and then processed together.

If you have a ranch store and want to sell a variety of products from different sources, then sending your raw fleece to fiber pools or cooperatives may a good solution. The cost of purchased product varies depending on the individual organization and the agreements with the contributors. As the fiber producer, you determine what works best for your situation.

If you aren't concerned with getting product back that comes from your own alpaca(s), want a variety of finished products to choose from, and want instant access to available products then joining a fiber pool or cooperative is a good option for you.

CHOOSE TO USE BOTH...BUT CHOOSE

Another option is using the services of mini mills and fiber pools and/or cooperatives. You may have one or two special alpacas and you want that fiber processed separately and returned. If so, send that fiber to a mini mill and send the rest of your fiber production to a fiber pool or cooperative.

Whether you choose mini mills, fiber pools and/or cooperatives, or a combination of both, please do something with your fiber. Alpaca ranchers have a consistent end product and that product is fiber. As you look at your bags of fleece stop for a minute and picture luxury clothing, warm wraps/sweaters/coats, toasty toes and warm heads. Picture quiet evenings turning yarn into a special gift for that special someone. Think about the flourishing fiber industry we are on the verge of creating and become part of that process by choosing to process your harvest and getting it into the hands of the consumer.