What are alpacas?
Alpacas are part of the camelid family. They are related to camels, llamas, guanacos, and vicunas. Alpacas are modified ruminants. They have 3 stomachs vs. cows that have 4 stomachs.
What are alpacas raised for?
Alpacas are raised for the luxurious fiber that they produce. Alpaca fiber is stronger than wool, more water resistant than wool, more lustrous, can regulate temperature better than wool and is as soft as cashmere. The Incans called it “the fibre of the gods.”
In Arizona if you are a member of ABA then you can join the fiber pool and have your fiber processed into end products such as yarn and socks that you can sell to consumers.
Where do alpacas come from?
Alpacas originated in South America. They come from Peru, Chile, and Bolivia. The first alpacas were imported into the United States in the early 1980’s.
Are alpacas hard to maintain?
No, alpacas are not hard to maintain. However, they do require basic maintenance depending on the environment where you live. Vaccinations are needed to keep disease and parasites/pests away. Your local camelid vet will be able to assist you in placing a vaccination schedule together for your alpacas. Toenail trimming and teeth trimming may be necessary. Alpacas are sheared annually to keep them from getting heat stress.
Alpacas will also need at the very least a three-panel shelter. This will protect them from the elements such as the cold wind in winter and will provide them shade from the summer sun. Fencing is also necessary to keep out predators such as coyotes or even your neighborhood dogs.
What do alpacas eat?
Alpacas are grazing animals. They eat grass hay. Alpacas need 10-12% protein in their grass diet. You may want to vary the diet in a lactating dam to include some alfalfa or other alpaca supplements.
How much land do you need for alpacas?
This all depends whether or not you will be feeding dry lot or not. If you plan on feeding your alpacas purchased hay then you can place up to 10 alpacas per acre depending on local ordinances. If you plan on allowing your alpacas to graze then you will want to limit it to 5 alpacas per acre.
What are some general facts about alpacas?
- Weight is approximately 100 to 175 lbs.
- Average height of an alpaca is 36 inches from the withers.
- Life span is 15 to 20 years.
- Gestation for an alpaca is 11 to 12 months.
- Baby alpacas (crias) are born weighing approximately 15 to 20 lbs.
- Alpacas eat hay, which make them very inexpensive to feed.
- Alpaca fleece comes in 22 natural recognized textile colors and the fiber is stronger than wool.
- Alpacas are shorn once a year and the usable fiber can weigh between 5 to 10 lbs.
- They are small and take up little space. On average you can have 5 to 10 alpacas per acre.
- There is a communal dung pile for the herd. If they are in a large pasture then there are usually two communal dung piles. Therefore cleanup is easy. Not to mention that gardeners love to use the alpaca dung in their gardens.
- Alpacas do not have hooves. There feet are padded, so they do not damage the pasture. They also have no front teeth, so they cannot bite making them gentle enough to have around small children.