Since ancient times, the South American Andes Mountains have been the ancestral home to the prized alpaca. Alpaca fleece was cherished by members of the Incan civilization and was referred to as The Fiber of the Gods . Since 1984 herds of alpacas have graced the United States landscape. There are two different alpaca types, the huacaya alpaca (pronounced wa-ki-a) and the suri alpaca. Huacayas and suris differ in their body styles and fiber characteristics. Huacayas have a more compact body style and their fiber is more crimpy and similar to sheep s wool (without lanolin) while suris have a lankier look with longer necks and legs. Suri fiber hangs in locks and is widely known for its high luster or shine. Cross breeding the huacaya and the suri is not encouraged in the industry.
Alpacas come in 22 natural colors: various shades of fawn, black, brown, grey, white, rose grey and multi colored pintos.
Alpacas are first bred at 12 to 18 months of age, have a gestation period of 335-350 days and very rarely have twins.
Alpacas weigh an average of 120 to 175 pounds, are 36 inches at the wither and can live in excess of 20 years.
Alpacas communicate by humming and live peacefully in herds. They get along well with other domestic animals.
Alpacas are good natured and rarely spit .
Alpacas are ideal for small acreage farms. The maximum of 10 alpaca per acre is recommended.
Alpacas cush when in transit and can easily be transported in a minivan or small trailer.
Alpacas are browsers and are gentle on pastures because of their padded feet. An adult alpaca eats approximately 4 pounds of grass hay daily.
Alpacas pastures are easy to keep clean because they use a communal dung pile.
Alpaca droppings are practically odorless, low in nitrogen and make excellent fertilizer.
Alpacas are intelligent animals, easy to train and gentle and safe for children to handle .
Alpacas can be raised as breeding stock, pets, 4-H animals or as fiber producers.