- Animals: camelids
- Education and Training: general education and training
The growth of the alpaca industry in Missouri and the United States has been significant. Since the first importation of alpacas to the U.S. in 1984, the U.S. alpaca herd has grown to over 100,000 animals. In Missouri there are over 1000 animals on over 70 farms and similar numbers can be found in surrounding states. The alpaca produces a soft, fine fiber that is in demand because of its qualities. Some significant alpaca fiber qualities include
1) it is eight times stronger than wool
2) it is three times warmer than wool
3) it is found in 22 natural colors including the only natural true black fiber
4) it has very high wicking qualities (absorption of moisture).
As the industry and herd grow there will be even greater demand. The growth of the alpaca industry and its importance in the agricultural and fiber marketplace depends in large part upon disseminating knowledge about alpacas. The project will
1) teach husbandry practices in herd management, the importance of alpaca fiber and the environmental benefits of alpacas
2) teach the skills of fiber preparation and production, and how alpacas can contribute to the diversity of the agricultural community
3) enhance the agricultural development in rural areas and be an economic boost for local communities and
4) insure the viability of the industry. The value of alpaca fiber, and finished products made from that fiber, is the underpinning of the significance alpaca farming can have in the agricultural economy. However, education is the key to the development of this agricultural commodity.