Our Fiber Animals
It’s all about the fiber
Pasture magicians | Munch all day | And create luxury coats
Here, at Aliento Farm, we raise 3 different luxury fiber animals. We have guanacos, pygora goats, and Satin Angora rabbits. Our sister farm, Happy Home Ranch in Centerville, WA raises Merino ewes which provides the base for our exclusive fiber blends.
Caring for a small herd of guanaco is not for the faint of heart because they are large animals who have not lost their wild nature to domestic breeding. They look similar to their descendants, the llama, but are more deer like in their face and legs. We were naive to their wildness when we acquired them in 2017 from a larger herd that had been a zoo dispersement. Since that time, we’ve learned to handle them a bit and have worked to gain their trust and respect. These animals are central to our lives here on the farm. The twice daily care we give them has challenged us to be more patient, more brave, and more in touch with ourselves and each other.
WHAT IS A GUANACO?
- One of 4 New World camelids.
- The latest DNA testing indicates that alpacas (domesticated) were bred from vicu-nas and llamas (domesticated) from guanacos about 4,000 years ago by indigenous peoples.
- Importation of vicuna and guanaco fiber is controlled by an international agree-ment (signed in 1975). Further importation of live animals is forbidden.
- Guanacos come in one color pattern – caramel on top with white underside.
What kind of care do they require?
- Very similar to an alpaca or llama.
- “Undomesticated” does not mean dangerous.
- It’s easy to establish a co-equal and affectionate relationship with them, although….
- Their natural survival instincts are intact and have not been bred away by 4,000 years of domestication.
- They quickly sound the alarm when there is something new in their environment.
How did guanacos get to whidbey?
- Nearly all guanacos in the U.S. are descendants of a herd brought here in the early 1900’s for zoological purposes.
- The fewer than 1000 guanacos in the U.S. have all been born here.
- Greg (retired) and Lisa (mostly retired) wanted to move to Whidbey so Lisa could do fiber art.
- They bought a farm in Clinton with fencing for animals.
- Before escrow closed, Greg went to a sheep festival in Dixon, Calif., and stumbled upon a woman spinning guanaco fiber. She had a small herd. We bought 4, including 2 pregnant females.
- We moved to Whidbey in July, 2018, and moved our guanacos (and baby guanacos) here in October, 2018.
Get to know our guanacos
- Angie and Georgia are pregnant by our male (Coacher) — first pregnancy for Angie. Both are due May of 2020.
- Angie and Coacher are in love and would prefer to be monogamous.
- Angie loves banana peels.
- Katherine is exceedingly large (about 350 lbs.) and has an under-bite, and is the herd leader.
- Coacher likes to sleep in the sun near Greg while pastures are cleaned.
- Ace (a juvenile male who will breed with Katherine next spring) is sowing his teen-age oats. Kooper has the finest and lightest color fiber. (measuring 14 microns)
What’s so special about guanaco fiber?
- The downy undercoat of a guanaco is considered the second finest natural fiber in the world, after the vicuna.
- The hair fiber is warm, soft, lightweight, water resistant, and durable.
- The fiber measures about 16-18 microns.
- Processing guanaco fleece is time consuming. The coarse guard hairs must be re-moved. Hand de-hairing is intricate but more effective that machine de-hairing.
- Each animal produces only 1 or 2 pounds of useable fiber every 18 months or so.
- The staple length is short. Ranging from 1 ½-3 inches the fiber is tricky to spin. For this reason, it is often blended with longer, more crimpy fibers like fine wool.
Satin Angora Rabbits
Our satin angoras are mostly sweet and oh so soft. Their fiber has a luster similar to silk and is very warm. We pluck our angoras every 3-4 months and marvel at the abun-dance of fiber that comes from such small animals.
Beatrice and Henrietta are a bonded pair. They cuddle and lounge together when they aren’t gorging on dandelion leaves. Jasper is a young handsome buck whose silver grey fiber leaves me speechless. He might be a daddy someday. For now, he is a good little boy and even knows to use the litter box.
Our two baby goats are the friendliest fiber animals on the farm. They love to cuddle and run around. Milo and Daisy were both bottle fed babies so they are bonded to hu-mans and want very much to be in our company.
Pygoras are a breed created for fine fiber. A cross between Angora goats and Pygmy goats. They are new to the farm, but I plan to blend their cashmere down with the other wonderful fibers to create luxurious things you’ll want to feel.
When my friend, Jen, found out that we couldn’t raise the fine wool we needed as a base for our downy fiber blends she jumped at the chance to collaborate. Our climate is too dry for the fine breeds, but her farm is dryer and can support the growth of beautiful fine wool.
Her girls are sweet and spoiled in their homemade coats. They are special because of the variety of colors that range from traditional white to silver grey to black. We can’t wait to see what we can create with these low lanolin, wonderfully springy, low micron fleeces!
Guanaco fiber waiting list.
Would you like to have first opportunity to buy guanaco fiber? We’ll let you know when we have some for you.
PS. I won’t share your email