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Alpaca Description

Alpacas are domesticated members of the camelid family and a cousin of the llama. The alpacas fiber come in a broad spectrum of 22 natural colors, more colors than other livestock. They grow to weigh about 150 pounds and can live to 20 years or more. A female alpaca bears only one offspring a year after an 11 to 12 month gestation period. The offspring are called cria; the cria weighs around 18 pounds at birth and start walking within the hour. The cria receives milk from their moms for six to eight months. A young female can breed around 15 months or at 110 pounds of weight. The alpacas are very hardy and adaptable to all climates and regions of the United States. Alpacas have proven to be amazingly resilient animals.

There are two types of alpacas: the Huacaya, which has a fleece with a waviness (“crimp”) that gives it a fluffy, teddy bear-like appearance, and the Suri who's fiber has no crimp, but individual fibers that wrap around each other to form lustrous pencil locks that hang down from the body, parting elegantly at the spine. Alpaca management is relatively uncomplicated. They require a barn or three-sided shelter from the elements, and fences should be designed more to keep predators out than to keep alpacas in. Alpacas prefer grazing in an open pasture as opposed to confinement in a barn or stall. Occasional grooming, trimming of toenails, annual shearing in the springtime and regular deworming and vaccinations are advised.
Alpacas are ruminants, and they need no special diet. They are grazers with highly efficient digestive systems. They do very well on low protein, good quality grass hay. Many breeders give a supplement to their alpaca’s diet of a pelleted “ration balancer” which supplies the necessary vitamins and trace minerals for bone development and for a healthy cria. An alpaca costs far less to feed than most traditional domestic animals. Because of their small size and easy care, alpacas are ideal animals to raise on small acreage. Breeder can put six to ten alpacas comfortably per acre. Alpacas can be sheared with regular sheep-shearing equipment and yield is approximately from five to ten pounds of lustrous fiber. Alpacas are intelligent animals and are amazingly alert. They quickly learn to halter and lead for the shows. The alpacas communicate with each other through posture, tail and ear movements and a soft humming sound.


Updated October 31, 2012