What are alpacas?
Alpacas are members of the camelid family which also consists of camels, llamas, vicuñas and guanacos. They originate from South America.
What’s the difference between a llama and an alpaca?
Llamas are much larger and are shused primarily as pack animals. Alpacas are a foot or two shorter and have straight rather than “banana shaped” ears. Alpacas are primarily used for their fleece however they can also be used as chicken and sheep guards whereas Llama are traditionally used as pack animals to transport things.
What kind of alpacas are there?
There are 2 breeds of alpaca. The huacaya and the suri. The main difference between the 2 forms is in the structure of their fleece. Huacaya have a fluffy looking fleece and are a lot more common than suri, who’s fleece forms into a “dreadlock” appearance.
What makes alpaca fiber so special?
Alpaca fiber is soft and luxurious yet strong and lightweight. Being hollow fibre it is very insulating. It is also lanalin-free, making it hypoallergenic. They come in a wide range of natural colours varying shades of white, fawn, brown, black and grey and the fleece can also be dyed.
Are they easy to keep?
Alpacas are herd animals and need company of others. They prefer the company of other alpacas to humans. Although they don’t usually like being petted or cuddled they are normally placid and fairly easy to handle. They are generally resistant to health problems.
Do they spit?
Alpacas can spit if they are frightened, to show their dominance over other alpacas or to show males they are pregnant. They rarely spit at their owners.
How much land do I need to keep alpacas?
As a guide 4-5 alpaca per acre is very easy to maintain. Higher stocking densities can be achieved with the correct pasture management. Alpacas don’t normally challenge fences so standard height stock fencing is usually adequate but shouldn’t contain barbed wire.
What husbandry is required?
Alpacas don’t require much more than observation on a daily basis. They need year round access to hay. Alpacas with higher nutritional demands may be supplemented as necessary. Several times per year their feet should be checked and their nails trimmed as necessary. They are usually vaccinated annually and wormed as necessary. Vitamin supplements are useful over winter. Annually they are shorn and their teeth checked. Most people use contractors to do their shearing who spend their summer travelling around alpaca farms exclusively to do this.
How often do they have babies?
Alpacas can be bred from around 18 months. They are pregnant for 11 – 11½ months and are remated around two weeks after they have had their baby (cria). Twins are rare and even more rarely survive.
What is their life expectancy?
Alpacas can live 18-20 years and sometimes more. Female alpacas can breed most of this time.