Alpacas 101

A Few Facts

Alpacas are members of the camelid family. They are mild-tempered and inquisitive by nature. There are two different breeds: suri and huacaya. Physiologically, both types are almost identical, but the main difference is the fleece. Suris have no crimp in their fleece which helps it to form locks that hang down from the body. The huacaya fleece has crimp that makes them appear soft and fluffy.

Alpacas are indigenous to South America and raised for their soft fleece. Fleece is sheared once a year. On average each alpaca will yield 3-8 pounds of fleece. Fleece can be spun into yarn or used for felt. Alpaca fiber is considered a specialty fiber. It is very soft, rivaling cashmere and angora for fineness. It is considered hypoallergenic. Also, because of physical characteristics of the fiber, there is virtually no itch associated with wearing the fiber directly against your skin. It is a very durable fiber that is also naturally flame retardant and long-lasting not to mention warm.

Their gestation period is 11 months. Females can be bred starting at around 24 months of age. A male alpaca does not generally begin breeding until 3 years of age. At birth, the average cria (baby) weighs 15 pounds.

Alpacas are curious animals and when relaxed will approach people to sniff their faces to meet them. They hum and are very observant of human behavior and seem most interested in children. They have a strong tendency to band together and are easy to handle due to their docile behavior.

Earth-Friendly Farm Animals

Below are reasons the alpaca is considered one of the most environmentally sensitive farm animals:
~Padded feet leave even the most delicate terrain virtually undamaged.
~Three separate stomach compartments allow it to convert grass and hay into energy very efficiently. One horse requires more hay than 25 alpacas.
~Gentle eater. The alpaca does not pull grass up by the root, but simply nibbles on the grass. It also does not generally eat or destroy trees.
~Although alpacas always need access to fresh water, being a camelid they require less water than most livestock.
~Free, natural fertilizer! Often called black gold, alpaca dung is great for vegetable gardens. It can be used directly in the garden without composting because alpacas process hay and grass so efficiently.
~Alpacas will consolidate their feces and urine in a couple of spots in the pasture, lowering the risk of spreading parasites and keeping clean up much easier.

The Alpaca Advantage

~Alpacas are small and easy to handle. Alpacas stand about 36″ tall at the withers and weigh 100-200 pounds.
~10-15 alpacas can fit in 1 well-maintained acre.
~They produce a valuable specialty fiber.
~They are gentle. They do not bite and if they did it would do little or no damage since they have no incisors. They generally do not kick, but if kicked little more than a bruise will probably follow.
~Minimal fencing. They do not charge fences so fencing is about keeping predators out, not so much about keeping alpacas in.
~They are considered disease resistant which helps to keep vet cost and care down. They are easy to maintain compared to most livestock.
~Easily transported for shows and sale.
~Adaptable! They can be raised from sea level to 15,000 feet.