Facts About Alpacas

//Facts About Alpacas

Facts About Alpacas

  • Alpacas are members of the camelid family. They are a smaller cousin to llamas but are not used as pack animals and have a much higher quality fleece.
  • Alpacas are raised for their fleece, which is finer than cashmere and warmer and more durable than wool. The alpaca has more thermal capacity in its fiber than almost any other animal, so its fiber is extremely warm, yet also lightweight. The fleece of the alpaca has, literally, no negative characteristics. It is hypoallergenic, does not contain lanolin or grease and is, therefore, easier to process than wool, is extremely strong, has a natural luster, does not easily stain, pill or create static and is easily cleaned through hand washing or dry cleaning. Alpaca fleece has been synonymous with luxury for centuries.
  • There are two different breed types of alpacas, the huacaya (wa-KY- ya) and the Suri (“surrey”). They are, physiologically, nearly the same, but differ in their fleece characteristics. The huacaya have crimp or waviness to their fleece, making them appear fluffier, whereas the suri have long locks which hang down from the body in a silky fashion. Suri alpacas do not have crimp.
  • Shearing of the Alpaca’s fleece occurs once a year, generally in the spring. Shearing does not harm the Alpaca and, in fact, protects them from heat stress.
  • Alpacas come in 22 distinct, natural colors. Their fiber can also be blended and dyed to create a myriad of combinations.
  • Alpacas are still relatively rare, in number, outside of South America, to which they are indigenous.
  • Alpacas are now raised from Australia to Alaska. They are extremely versatile, adaptable and hearty.
  • Alpacas are not raised for meat in North America.
  • They stand approximately 36 inches at the withers (shoulder area) or approximately five feet tall at the head.
  • They weigh from approximately 100 to 200 pounds, as an adult.
  • The lifespan of the Alpaca is approximately 20 years.
  • Alpacas are modified ruminants. They have one stomach with multiple compartments. They chew their cud after eating.
  • Alpacas communicate with each other through a soft, pleasant humming sound. Mother alpacas also make a clucking sound to their cria. Other communication includes an alarm call which is a high pitched, repetitive call an alpaca will make to alarm the herd of a potential threat, such as the sighting of another animal in a nearby field. Often, the same alpaca will emerge as the guardian or “watchdog” of the herd and the others will gather behind the one who is calling and will look in the same direction, toward the perceived threat. Male alpacas make a deep, guttural sound, called orgling, which they make when they are breeding or attempting to mate. Sometimes, even very small males will attempt an orgle.
  • Occasionally, alpacas do spit when they are afraid or threatened or when they are competing for food.
  • Alpacas are environmentally proactive. They have soft, padded feet with two toes from which a nail grows out and down. Their feet are easy on the earth and their excrement makes good fertilizer.
  • They generally use a community dung pile, meaning they establish a few designated areas to which they return to use the bathroom. This makes cleaning up after them much easier. Alpaca feces is a small, low odor, low nitrogen pellet called a bean. It is similar in appearance to that of deer.
  • Alpacas do not have upper teeth. They have a split upper lip used for grasping hay or grass. This feature is another characteristic which makes them environmentally friendly. They tend to “mow” pastures as opposed to destroying them.
  • Their lack of upper teeth and padded feet, coupled with their nonaggressive nature, make them safe and easy to handle. They are easy to halter train with consistency and brief training periods.
  • Alpacas do not challenge fences. Fences which are “no-climb” are required to protect them from any potential predators such as dogs or coyotes.
  • They require a three sided shelter to protect them from the elements.
  • One acre of pasture can support approximately 8-10 alpacas.
  • Alpacas are easy to care for. They require few needs as far as nutrition and medication.
  • Alpacas require only a moderate amount of food. They eat approximately 1 ½ to 2 percent of their body weight in hay per day or about 20 to 25lbs. of hay per week. Low protein orchard grass is the best hay and pasture for them. They do require free access to fresh water. Some owners supplement their alpaca’s diet with minerals, offered on a “free-choice” basis, and/or special alpaca grain. There are a number of brands of alpaca grain available through feed stores, agricultural suppliers or by ordering through specific alpaca supply companies (see links).
  • Monthly de-worming is advised for alpacas with a simple shot.
  • The Alpaca’s gestation period averages approximately 335 days, or 11 ½ months. They generally produce one baby, called a cria (cree-ah) per year. Twins are rare but when they do occur, they typically do not fare well.
  • Alpacas are induced ovulators, meaning breeding induces ovulation. There is not a period of being “in heat” as in other species.
  • Female alpacas are generally ready to breed when they are a minimum of 100lbs. and approximately 18-24 months old.
  • Male alpacas may be ready to begin breeding anywhere from two to four years of age.
  • Up to ninety percent of alpaca cria are born between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm each day. This is a fascinating adaptive mechanism of the alpaca because in their native alto plano land, babies would need to be born after sunrise and early enough in the day to be dried by the sun before it sets, to avoid the risk of freezing. Not all of the dams have read this part of the instruction manual, but it occurs with amazing frequency.
  • Artificial insemination of alpacas is not currently practiced in the U. S.
  • Weaning of cria usually occurs at five or six months of age.
  • Alpacas are easy to transport. Many owners use a minivan or an SUV, when not using a livestock trailer, to take them from place to place. They will usually cush (sit with their legs folded under them) until the ride is over.
  • The Alpaca Registry provides a means of registering alpacas and tracing their bloodlines through DNA. In order for alpacas to be shown in the various alpaca shows across the country, they must be registered. Any alpaca you purchase should be registered or be able to be registered.
  • Alpacas are microchipped for identification purposes.
  • Alpacas are fully insurable against theft and loss. There are several companies who provide this insurance. (See Alpaca Resources). The cost of insurance is generally 3.3% of the insured value per year. Rates differ for alpacas fewer than three months and over twelve years of age.
  • Owners who do not have the land or facilities or ability to care for their own alpacas on a daily basis have the option of agisting them, which amounts to paying another farm a daily fee to care for the alpacas. This is commonly done in the alpaca industry for a variety of reasons. The agisting owner can still enjoy the pleasure and many of the tax benefits and other financial advantages of alpaca ownership.
  • Alpacas are intelligent, trainable, clean and safe. They are intrigued by children and are generally very good with them. Raising alpacas promotes family responsibility, togetherness and an opportunity to have a successful, enjoyable business from your home.
By | 2017-12-29T20:47:53+00:00 September 3rd, 2015||Comments Off on Facts About Alpacas

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