Alpaca co-op hits major milestone

Bargo farmer Mick Williams’ alpaca fleece organisation notched up a major milestone last week.

The Waratah Alpaca Fibre co-op, which was established in June, buys fleece from alpaca breeders and sells it to buyers, including a Chinese manufacturer.

Mr Williams celebrated the co-op’s first big sale since its inception.

Eleven tonnes of raw alpaca fleece was packaged in a shipping container and sent to China.

“It is full steam ahead,” the alpaca breeder said.

“I was part of every process of this sale and shipping. I helped pack the container with three others and we triple checked the order.

“Unfortunately there was no champagne to pop to toast our first major sale but it was still great to see the truck leave the farm.

“We are now collecting fleece for a second 10 tonne order.

“The co-op has also supplied almost five tonne of fleece to Australian manufactures.”

Mr Williams, who also has a farm in Mittagong, is working hard to secure more buyers.

“I am preparing quotes for another two Chinese manufactures and I am talking to a Turkish manufacturer and an Indian carpet maker,” he said.

The co-op now has 35 members and about 30 non-members who sell fleece to the co-op from NSW, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria.

The breeder feels like the alpaca co-op has become another strand in Australia’s rich agricultural history.

Mr Williams said the co-op had the “ability to change the alpaca industry forever”.

“The co-op is helping the alpaca industry to become mainstream,” he said.

“The co-op is not a new concept. We copied it from our forefathers of the sheep industry.

“The industry is gaining more awareness. We don’t want it to be the butt of jokes anymore.

“It is an exciting time to be an alpaca breeder.

“Now we need the number of alpaca breeders to increase.”

Mr Williams said the co-op would provide expertise and support to those who wanted to start breeding alpacas.

“There is a place for hobbyists in the co-op who only have five alpacas as well as breeders with hundreds of alpacas,” he said.

“In the first shipping container, there was 2.5 kilograms of fleece from a 19-year-old breeder who is just starting out in the industry. 

“But who knows where she will be in 10 years time?”

Mr Williams said breeders now had confidence and enthusiasm in the industry.

“Some breeders used to give away their alpaca fleece but now there is a genuine market for raw fleece,” he said.

“Some breeders were selling the fleece for 10 cents a kilo, which was insane.

“Now they are being paid a reasonable rate.”

Mr Williams said the Chinese manufacturer had asked for 300 tonne of fleece which showed their was strong interest in Australian alpaca fleece.

“We want to steadily grow and continue to ship fleece to China,” he said. “We also want to maintain the high-quality premium product.”