In this Fact Sheet: Alpaca and Llama, Angora, Broadtail/Karakul, Cashmere and Mohair, Down and Feathers, Felt, Fur, Leather, Pearl, Shells etc, Silk, Wool and References
Alpaca and Llama
Both the Alpaca and Llama are domesticated species of Camelids, their fibres are usually sold under the term Alpaca. There are about 9,000 in the UK herd consisting of 2 breeds of Alpaca’s, Huacaya and Suri. Male llamas are shorn once a year (producing 1.5-2 kg fibre/annum) and females are shorn once every two years. Alpaca’s fibre is finer than that of llamas and there are 22 naturally occurring colours, they produce between 2.5-5.5 kg of fibre per year. The fibre is used for making knitted and woven items such as sweaters, hats and gloves (1).
Angora is a fibre which is obtained from a specific breed of rabbit. There are only a small number of angora rabbit wool producers in the UK as their management is a labour intensive industry. Farmer’s cage animals individually to avoid damage to their wool and the females are not deemed very productive, producing only an average of 24 young per year. The regular wool yield of English Angora is 200-400 grams/year. The normal practice for harvesting their wool is by shearing, this happens four times a year and provides a fibre of 5-6 cm. The largest angora fibre producer is China, (2, 1). This fibre is used for making knitted and woven items, it may also end up in the production of felt.
This is the skin/pelt of a prematurely born Persian lamb or karakul. The Humane Society of the United States investigated the production of these pelts back in 2001.
Broadtail fur is produced by killing pregnant sheep and killing the unborn and newborn karakul lambs (3). Fetal lamb fur is highly valued by furriers as 10 to 15 days before natural birth the fur is silky and very smooth (4). It is manufactured into items such as jackets, coats and trims on garments.An estimated 4 to 5 million karakul lambs are killed each year for their fur (3).
Cashmere & Mohair
Both of these fibres are obtained from goats. Most goats have two coats, a course hairy outer/guard coat and a soft undercoat (cashmere). The angora goat on the other hand has a single coat (mohair), this is coarser than cashmere but produced in larger quantities. Cashmere is harvested by either shearing or combing whereas mohair is harvested by shearing (twice a year, spring and autumn) (1).
There are around 50 cashmere producers in the UK with a herd of around 2,500 goats. Britain currently processes 60% of the world's mohair, almost all of which is imported. UK mohair production is currently around 25 tonnes per annum from a flock of between 4,000 - 6,000 animals.
Shearing takes place twice a year in spring and autumn. In commercial flocks breeding stock would normally be culled after 6 years (1). Goats are particularly susceptible to changes in temperature, therefore, unless they are housed, they should only be shorn in suitable weather conditions. Combing is a preferred method in adverse weather conditions (5). Cashmere and mohair are used for yarn, fabrics and garments.
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