1 August 1997

Guanacos could be on for fibre

SHEEP producers could profit by running South American guanacos for fibre production.

Results of a MAFF funded trial at IGER Aberystwyth have shown that running sheep and guanacos – which are related to llamas, and alpacas – on an upland unit can increase productivity.

Researcher Mariecia Fraser said the improvement could be due to differences in grazing behaviour.

"Guanacos, which produce high value fibre, consume less clover than sheep, which can, over time, lead to an increase in clover in swards. This can increase liveweight gains for other livestock, particularly sheep."

Guanacos will also eat dead, stemmy materials which sheep avoid, particularly rushes,thistles and unproductive grasses such as mat grass, said Dr Fraser.

The poorer quality feed had little effect on fibre quality.

"Nutrition appears to have little effect on fibre quality, so they could be run on poorer-quality land without compromising productivity."

But the guanaco fibre industry was in its infancy, making gross margin prediction difficult, she stressed. "They are difficult to obtain. Fibre prices vary greatly, but it is a high-value commodity, used for luxury textiles."