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No wool over their eyes

Local producer part of push to produce certified fibers

A new effort to become certified in grading animal fiber by Maryjo Monteith, of Spring Canyon Alpacas, could take up to two years, she indicated recently.

The grading system includes fiber from alpacas, llamas, sheep and Angora rabbits, and will help those who raise the animals control the fiber and production of items made from the hair.

Monteith started the process of certification under the tutorage of Vicki Eberhart, president of the North American Wool Cooperative, centered in Okanogan County.

Growers have banded together to form a cooperative to better control the use of fiber from the animals. Through grants, they are about ready to develop their own manufacturing place.

Fiber has had to be shipped to places where the various products were developed.

With the cooperative, growers will be able to learn how to upgrade their animals so the fiber grades will be higher and in turn make more money for their operations.

An alpaca can produce about four to five pounds of fiber in a single shearing. The grade of the fiber determines what can be made from it. Grades go from one to 10, with one being the highest grade.

Grading can be a somewhat slow and tiresome process, but the plan, according to Eberhart, is to get all of the growers in the cooperative certified so they can grade their own product.

This will help them develop their herds so their fiber grade improves, Eberhart stated.

Typical products made from the animal fibers include all kinds of clothing and rugs.

In recent years most of the manufacturing of fibers from these animals has gravitated overseas. Eberhart is trying to bring this work back to the United States. Her certification effort is one of the steps she is using.

There are about 400 growers that are now members of the North American Wool Cooperative.


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