HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. - Alpaca fleece is as soft as cashmere and warmer than sheep's wool and it's becoming big business in Middle Tennessee.
"You're getting a lot more interest now with people that want to get in on the business," said Jacki Robert, who runs the Alpaca Creek Farm in Hendersonville.
Alpaca fleece is spun into yarn and then knitted into sweaters, scarves and mittens.
The material is hypo-allergenic and much more valuable than sheep's wool.
"This sells for about six dollars an ounce whereas sheep wool sells for about six dollars a pound," Robert told News 2.
Each alpaca yields five to 12 pounds of fleece when sheared in the spring, which is worth $500 to $1,200.
Robert started the Alpaca Creek Farm in 2003 after a trip to Peru with six animals. Her farm had now grown to 33 alpacas.
Alpacas primarily eat grass and hay, and are considered environmentally-friendly because they don't rip grass from the roots or tread heavily on their terrain due to soft pads on the bottom of their feet.
Members of the North American Alpaca Industry recently met in Nashville to discuss how to grow and improve their business as the popularity of alpaca fur continues to broaden.
Around 99% of the world's alpacas still reside in Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
It's estimated that there are currently more than 150,000 alpacas in the United States.