Saskatchewan alpaca breeders hope new mill makes animals more popular

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WATCH: Alpaca breeders are hoping a new mill will make the wool more affordable and popular – Mar 3, 2020

A new mill in the town of Hafford, Sask., has some Saskatchewan alpaca breeders excited.

Carol Poole told Global News she’s hoping it helps others see the animals and wool products the same way she sees them.

“To me, they just made so much sense and it’s because their fibre is so warm and we live in a province that is so cold,” she said.

READ MORE: Alpacas land in Montreal, causing a furry frenzy

The Four Winns Mill is part of Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Innovative Manufacturing Centre, the purpose of which is to explore innovative and sustainable manufacturing methods and materials.

The facilities process a type of alpaca wool that previously wasn’t usable.

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“The fibre is itchy against the skin if it’s a higher grade,” explained Poole, secretary of the Saskatchewan Alpaca Breeders Network Inc. “It wasn’t really something we could wear, so we needed to find a use for it.”

“We figured out that we can make the alpaca product, but it is very expensive,” said Satya Panigrahi, the head of the Sask Polytech program.

“To make it more sustainable and economically viable we have to blend some different fibres.”

READ MORE: Livestock research key to staying competitive: Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association

More comfortable wool can be created by mixing alpaca wool with other material — in this case, hemp or flax fibre, which is otherwise typically discarded after the more profitable part of the crops are harvested.

The flax and hemp fibres are also processed by the mill and then mixed with the alpaca wool.

John Kindrachuk, one of the mill owners, said many other materials, eventually even recycled plastic, could also be processed.

“We would take that plastic and reprocess it, wash it, shred it, make it into pellets, add the fibre to the pellets so that it’s ready to be used by other plastic manufacturers,” he said, going on to say that plastic wrap and plastic crop bags are potential sources.

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Poole said she’s excited not only to make use of more wool but to have it processed in the province, as opposed to Ontario, where she otherwise had to send her product.

“Our cost of transportation … will be non-existent. We can drive it here if we want,” she said.

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