Leisure Ranch Alpacas

Dedicated to breeding quality Suri Alpacas

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Tanning Services

Make full use of every alpaca!

The tanning of the alpaca’s hide is another great way to utilize these animals. The hide of an alpaca is quite durable. A full fleece pelt makes a fine throw or lining.  I have seen several products such as moccasins, gloves or purses made of the tanned hides.

If it is being done with other forms of leather chances are it can be done with alpaca too.

The reality of raising animals is that you will have animals that die. Having the hide tanned is a way to still utilize the animal. Often, we tan a favorite herdsire or a cria that just did not make it.

As alpaca breeders ourselves, at The Leisure Ranch, we treat the hide of your alpaca as if it was one of ours. All Tanning is done in our purpose-built, in-house shop located at our ranch.

The key to a good looking, soft hide is proper preparation and thinning of the hide PRIOR to tanning. Membranes and connective tissues must be removed BEFORE a hide is tanned. After tanning, the hide is broken by hand and in our six-foot tumbler (except long fleeced Suri) to soften the leather. Your hide will be blown and brushed as appropriate to ensure the natural look of the fleece.

Hides can be trimmed, or returned to you whole for you to trim for whatever specific use you have in mind. Keep in mind that the belly and leg fleece of most alpacas not the best quality, this is normally trimmed off.  Generally, an alpaca hide is best from the neck to about the knees of each leg and to just above the belly area. The rough callouses or pads on the belly, knees, and elbows will be cut off. Often the butcher leaves the tail with bone on a skinned hide, this is generally removed but can be de-boned and tanned if requested for an additional shop charge.

A quality tan starts with proper handling of the fleece at home and once the animal arrives at the butcher. By following these suggestions, the hide will be off to a good start.

  • During the process the hides are washed. We do some picking of obvious vegetable matter (VM) and poos, but If we receive your alpaca hide full of burrs and stickers, that’s how you will get it back.

  • Let the processor know BEFORE you turn your animals over to him that you are having the hide tanned and you would like them to take care not to introduce any additional VM into the fleece. Make sure to ask them to keep the hide off the “pile” of other hides so as to keep the fleece as clean as possible.

  • Insist that they take their time skinning so as to not make any unnecessary holes, cuts and knife marks in the hide. If you send us a poorly skinned hide there is not much we can do and that is what you will get back.

  • Ensure that the hide is kept as cool as possible.

  • DO NOT RINSE THE HIDE OFF. If the hide is soiled, we will clean it during the tanning process. Avoid introducing any more moisture to the hide at this stage.

  • Unless you know how to skin and flesh a hide yourself, DO NOT SALT THE HIDE. If you do, contact me to discuss this cost cutting option prior to shipping them. NOT RECOMMENDED for most situations.

  • Properly cooling, then freezing the hide is the RECOMMENDED way to proceed.

  • To avoid any hair slippage and spoiling, it is important to get the hide frozen as soon as possible. To do this correctly, lay the hide out hair side down as flat as possible in the freezer. The idea is to cool the entire hide before rolling it up so no heat is trapped when it is rolled up. Depending on the size of your freezer, this may take several “turns”.

  • Once the hide is cooled, fold it skin to skin and gently roll it up.

  • Place the rolled up hide into a pre-labeled (last name and number of hides. Ex. 1 of 2, or 2 of 2 etc.) white kitchen trash bag. We will follow up by tagging each hide once we start the tanning process to avoid any confusion.

  • Keep frozen and make arraignments to ship it or drop it off at our facility. Be sure to double bag the frozen hides. Include your contact information in a separate plastic zip lock bag. Use appropriate packing material in the boxes. We recommend shipping on Mondays or Tuesdays and to only do overnight or 2-day shipping.


Sadly, I receive hides so full of cuts and holes that they are almost in ribbons. Whether this was because the processor, or person skinning rushed the job, did not know what they were doing or was unaware that the hide was going to be used, it resulted in hides that were in unusable condition.

It is your responsibility to know the condition of each hide prior to shipping them. We have no way of knowing the hide is damaged until we have it thawed, do the first stage of stabilizing and lay it out to clean. This is several hours into the process. Hides that have large holes or cuts are subject to tearing during tanning and make producing a quality end product very difficult or impossible. Hides that are in too poor of shape we will dispose of and you will lose your deposit. So, it’s in your best interest to not send us hides that are literally falling apart.

The hide of an alpaca is comparable to that of a deer. They are fairly thin skinned and care must be taken when skinning. It is common to find a few small nicks or holes in most hides. With long fleece they are often not noticeable on the fleece side once tanned and finished. If requested, and if it’s possible, we can sew some of these SMALLER holes.

If you are thinking about having a hide tanned give Pete a call or send us an email. Our rates are very reasonable and competitive. We offer bulk discounts. We would be happy to discuss the process and pricing with you.

Updated May 30, 2020