After a two hours drive trough the rainy forests of Jämtlands county, me and my sister finally arrives at Birgitta Eriksson's farm Vemdalens Alpacas. Birgitta has about 75 Jämtland sheep and 38 alpacas. She meets us with her partner at the gate to her house as we arrive.
After talking about her farm and how they work there, we go to meet the alpacas. They are much bigger then I expected and all have different brown, grey, black and white nuances. Alpacas have as many as 22 natural colors we learn. Their fleece is very soft and the micron of alpaca wool is often very low. The alpaca fiber don't have lanolin, the natural fat as sheep fleece have, so it can be treated differently. The fiber is hollow inside which makes it extremely efficient in isolating heat.
Most alpacas live in South America where the climate can change between very hot and very cold in the mountains. So their wool naturally has the properties of keeping cool when it's too hot and isolating the heat when it's cold.
All alpacas at Vemdalens farm has TB-status, that mean they have been tested and are free from tuberculosis. It is not very common but there have been some cases in the south of Sweden, she explains.
In Sweden there are about 1500-2000 alpacas. Birgitta has bought some of hers from Australia and Chile. She used to live in Australia for more then twenty years, where she also had alpacas and merino sheep. Since she already worked with merino, Birgitta really liked the idea of a Swedish merino-mix. She keeps a cover on all her sheep to prevent the fleece from getting dirty. It protects from the rain rain and is common in parts of Australia, but she is the only one in Sweden to use a cover. Birgitta only sheers the sheep once every year, while all other farmers we met do it twice per year. For her the fleece quality is the most important and the fibers will be longer and much cleaner her way.
Birgitta has two guarding dogs, Italian maremmano dogs that protect the sheep and alpacas from wild animals. In the region there are lots of bears and sometimes wolves.
As we are about to leave, Birgitta and her partner invites us back for a visit in spring when it's time for shearing both sheep and alpacas.