If there is a thorny question that I am asked regularly is "how much should I ask for my raw fleece?", the freshly sheared alpaca fleece without any transformation.
To this question, I am often without a word; i don't know where to start! It is a business and marketing question (it depends on our goals, aspirations and interests) and a quality of the "product" question too (Quality is paid) ! Difficult to assess the quality of a raw fleece when you have not seen it and help to establish it's fair price!)
There are also questions of demand, geography, contacts (and luck!), fleece quality and aspirations (do we want to get involved a little, a lot? Do you want to sell to the highest bidder or make as much money as possible without processing? Do you want to sell as quickly as possible to make room or it was no hurry? )...
I know, what I'm saying here doesn't help you if you want to know how much to sell...! But these are all questions relevant to the sale of a fleece that will help you take a decision to establish a fair price.
but... Here are some prerequisites that can help you establish in the first place the general value of the fiber you have in your hands and give you ideas of average values to start your thinking about the price of sale. You will be able, thanks to this article, to have a better informed vision of what you want to do with your fiber and how much (how?) you want to sell it in the end.
What is the value of my raw alpaca fiber?
- Raw fibre has less market value than clean fibre (washed and carded)
- Clean fiber has less value than spun fiber
- Spun fiber has less value than the article already knitted with this same fiber.
And in all this, there can be a lot of variations complicating things (e.g. hand dye on spun or carded fibre, graded spun fiber, natural color rarer and in demand on the market... etc.)!
You have understood in my examples that it also always depends on supply and demand. The more the product is sought (and rare), the more it is possible to increase the value since it will sell anyway quickly.
For questions of length of article (we could talk about it for hours!), I will describe here only how to evaluate the raw fiber with its few variants that can change its value.
Aspect 1; Check the part of the animal for sale
The fleece (or blanket) is generally more expensive than the second quality on the same animal (neck, hips, shoulders) and second qualities more than the 3rd quality (which is sometimes not even available since too contaminated, poor quality or too short!).
The main fleece or blanket
The fleece usually comes in a single or two pieces (depending on the shearing technique used) and is the most beautiful fiber of an animal, in many senses.
On an animal, the fleece (blanket) is the softest fiber and is generally fairly uniform on its softness although some animals may have some variation of the finesse in their fleece. It is up to the person who sorts to decide whether this variation is worth dividing several distinct qualities.
On the length side, there are generally few variations between all the fibers. The blanket is thus easier to sort and is practically always able to be spun since the fiber is usually always long enough contrary to the second qualities, which could be too short.
The second quality
The second quality on the animal (neck, hips, shoulders) comes in a multitude of small pieces that must be sorted with much more attention because they have more variations (lengths, qualities... etc.). Guard hairs (affecting the softness of a yarn) are often more frequent. These parts of the animal often have a much lesser value because of the work required before the transformation and the general qualities.
Aspect 2; Consider the extra value that was given to the fleece!
The fleece was previously graded; Per exemple, we have a recent histogram (from the previous year, for example) or the breeder knows the approximate grade of the animal. The buyer therefore has a good idea of the quality he will have after the sorting and cleaning of the fleece.
Note that knowing the grade of the fiber does not say everything about its quality for processing (guard hairs, general condition...)!
The blanket has been sorted and/or data is available to the purchaser; So we pay only for what is able to be spun. The length of the fiber can be given as additional information. The buyer can predict more easily that the purchased fleece will respond specifically to his needs and he is less likely to have bad surprises...
The fleece can sometimes be sorted quickly when shearing process without necessarily being cleaned (skirting).
The Fleece has been sorted (sorting) and cleaned (skirting); All the vegetation and detritus have been removed and the fibre has been separated so that the quality is as uniform as possible for a quality yarn. It is therefore theoretically ready to send to the mill directly.
Aspect 3; Remove value from a fleece or remove any value when...
There is too much vegetation or any contaminant in the fiber; It is sometimes recoverable with a lot of work or unusable and is not worth much, even if it is graded 1.
It often happens with the fleeces of the crias whose tips act in velcro with everything they touch! The contaminant may be vegetation that has adhered strongly to the fiber in large quantities (hay, leaves, sawdust, wood chips, thistles...), but it can also be organic matter like a lot of urine, excrement or mud.
The fleece was poorly stored; It was put in bags while it was wet, for example, or stored in the sun in a closed bag, which may have made rotting or weakened some of the fiber because of the moisture created. It may have also been damaged by moths.
A poorly stored fiber will be more brittle or will have a fragility and fiber will not be able to spun. It is to be put in the trash quickly if there are insects or rotting inside the bag.
The fleece has been stored raw for too long; After 2 years of storage without being treated (washed and spun), even well stored, the fibre becomes more fragile and brittle and limits its use (it may not be spun, for example).
Notice to those who accumulate raw fleeces from year to year; The raw fibre has a limited life span as long as it is not spun!!!
The amount of raw fibre sold
Some buyers will buy in small quantities, others in larger quantity.
It is common as a seller to offer a lower price for large quantity buyers since the sales job is easier (one shipment and no need to find other buyers). Some will prefer that the buyer take all their available fleeces before they get a discount.
No one is obligated to sell in large quantities and the seller can decide not to make discounts either for big purchases.
Of course, selling in small quantities is more profitable, although it requires more work in return. On the other hand it is necessary to know that often, buyers of small quantities also want more details about what they buy since it is intended for a specific project.
When you sell in small quantities, you often have to add a lot of value to the raw fibre (graded, length, sorted, cleaned). Some small buyers will even want the fiber to be already carded, but in this case, we enter the category of the transformed fiber and not raw fiber...;-)
Basic average values of the raw fleece
In 2016, it is good to offer A minimum of $10 lb when purchasing a very large quantity of ungraded raw fleece batches | unsorted. Mills rarely go beyond $15 lb for Grade 1!
Sold graded and per unit, the prices of the fleeces will vary with an average value that I list below. Do not forget to consider the value added and the one to subtract in the prices!
Grade 1: $30-$50 lb (some sell up to $80 lb (more often in ounces), but you can no longer think of it as an average price, so...! 😉 )
Grade 2: $20-$30/LB
Grade 3: $15-$20/LB
Grade 4-5-6: $2-$10/lb
Some breeder like to sell all their fleeces quickly and in batches in order not to store them and risk that they will be unsaleable thereafter.
Others will sell to the ounce or fleece with a lot of information about the animal and its fiber.
Still others do not wish to sell at all, especially if they transform their own fibre or have it transformed for their own needs (which is our case here!)!
Caution: Do not expect to necessarily buy or sell at these prices. Do you want to sell a fleece of a champion animal Grade 1 to $5/once? He'll most likely have a buyer for you somewhere! It is all a matter of interest and marketing; In any case, regardless of the price, you have to expect to work a minimum (and sometimes more!) to sell its fiber.
Does it pay to sell the raw fleece?
Now: definitely not.
As I said above, the more a product is processed, the more profitable it can be. Selling raw fleeces is one way of making a little money rather than throwing beautiful fleeces in the trash, simply! To have a good value, the alpaca must be transformed.
Generally, one is able to-pay the shearer-for the animal with the money collected from the sale of the raw fleece. Really nothing to get rich and above all obviously not enough to cover the annual expenses of the animal! So we have to move on to make a profit!
I finish with a little thought; -Things are worth only to the one who knows what to do-...:-).