Alpacas are a regal animal, gentle, graceful and intelligent, a joy to own and work with. Domesticated over 5000 years ago, they are one of the oldest domestic animals in the world. The Alpaca (vicugña pacos) belongs to the camelid family. Alpacas are very adaptable to a variety of climates as they originated in the High Andes of South America (Peru, Bolivia and Chile).
The alpaca comes in two breed-types: huacaya (pronounced wah‑KI‑ah) and suri (SOO‑ree). Huacayas, the more common type, account for about 90% of all alpacas, and have fluffy, crimpy fleece giving the animals a teddy bear-like appearance. Suris, on the other hand, grow silky, lustrous fleece that drapes gracefully in beautiful pencil-locks.
Lifespan is approximately 20 years. The gestation period is 11.5 months, the baby is called a cria. Crias are most often born without assistance between 11 AM and 2 PM. In the wild, the young one would be on it’s feet and ready to move with the herd at dusk. Mature alpacas generally weigh in a range from 110 to 180 lbs.
Diet consists mainly of forage including fresh pasture and hay, leaves from low tree branches are also consumed. Domesticated alpacas generally receive supplemental pellets as a source of extra nutrients. They have no top teeth in the front, the camelid style split upper lip is used to graze.
Alpacas are very curious yet shy, they can be trained to walk with a halter and lead. These gentle animals will defend themselves by spitting, kicking or stomping. Usually they spit at each other, mostly over food, unlike their larger cousin the llama who spit more prolifically. A predator proof enclosure is essential for protection from coyotes, wolves, dogs, etc. As herd animals, they require at least another alpaca to thrive.
Alpacas are shorn, without harm, once per year. An adult alpaca might produce 50 to 90 oz. of first-quality fiber as well as 50 to 100 oz. of second and third quality fiber. Fibre grades go from 1 to 6, with one being the finest. Crimp in the fibre is another determinant for assessing the grade. Different grades of fibre are used in different applications, such as yarn, felt, etc. Their multi-hued fibre is soft, luxurious and lightweight, stronger and warmer than wool, coming in 22 different shades of color. Fibre can be dyed or blended with fibre of other colours as desired.
Alpacas are gentle, intelligent, clean, earth friendly, and low maintenance making them easy to raise and a joy to be around!