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Alpaca FAQ's & General Information
- Two kinds of Alpacas: Huacaya (pronounced wah-KI-ya) and Suri (pronounced surrey)
- Huacaya fiber is short, dense, crimpy and gives a woolly appearance
- Suri fiber is silky and resembles pencil-like locks
- Short and low set tail
- Have soft padded feet with two toes
- Do not have horns, hooves or claws, incisors, or upper teeth
- Eat grass and chew cud
- Adult alpacas generally weigh between 150 and 200 lbs.
- Average height is 36 inches at the withers
- Have three stomachs
- Adaptable to any climate
- Members of the Camelid family (Vicuna, Guanco, Llama and Alpaca)
- Native to Andean Mountain range of South America
- Primarily found in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile
- Provided clothing and transportation to the Incas
- First imported in the United States in 1984
- Domesticated for over 5,000 years
- Current figures note about 50,000 registered alpacas in the U.S.
- Average lifespan of an alpaca is about 20 years
- Gestation is 11.5 months.
- Female alpaca normally gives birth, without assistance, in the daylight hours
- Baby alpacas are called crias
- Have single births. Twins are extremely rare. Most recent figures note 1 in 2000 is a twin
- Alert, intelligent, curious, and predictable
- Social animals that seek companionship
- Communicate by softly humming
- Also communicate with neck posturing, ear and tail positioning and head tilt
- Deposit their odorless bean-like pellets in concentrated areas
- Sheared without harm every 12 to 18 months
- Require minimal fencing. They can be pastured at 5-10 per acre
- Virtually disease-resistant animals
- Require annual vaccinations with tetanus and other locally appropriate vaccines
- Need routine parasite control
- Need occasional nail and/or teeth trimming
- Main end-product is fiber
- In ancient times, alpaca fiber was known as the "Fiber of Gods"
- Soft as cashmere and lighter and warmer than wool
- Hypo-allergenic and contains no lanolin
- Comes in 22 natural colors
Who raises alpacas?
Alpaca owners and breeders come from all walks of life. Many are
doctors, financial advisors, educators, or cattle farmers, to name a
few. Some raise alpacas as a full-time business, others commit
part-time. From young families to empty-nesters, phased retirement to
full-retirement, raising alpacas offers countless options for everyone.
Why do people raise alpacas?
Alpacas offer a very attractive business and farming opportunity no
matter where you live: urban, suburban, or rural. Urban dwellers can
board (or "agist") their alpacas at nearby farms/ranches so that they
can enjoy the benefits of ownership while living in a large city or
suburb. People also raise alpacas for companionship and to enjoy a
How do you transport an alpaca?
If traveling for short distances, they can be transported inside
vans or other larger vehicles. Most folks put down a piece of old
carpeting or inexpensive Astro-turf to minimize the impact on the
vehicle's carpeting in case an "accident" were to occur. Most of the
time, however, the animals will "cush" (that is, sit down) for the
journey. Longer distances generally require transport in a livestock
How much acreage does it take to raise an alpaca?
Because the animals require so little pasture and food, you can
usually raise two to eight alpacas per acre, depending on terrain,
rain/snowfall amounts, availability of pasture, etc. They can also be
raised on dry lot and be fed grass hay, if desired. Consult with your
local County Extension Officer for specific local recommendations.
Are alpacas easy to care for?
They are a small and relatively easy livestock to maintain. They
stand about 36 inches tall that the withers (the point where the neck
and spine come together), weigh between 100-200 pounds, and establish
communal dung piles that are easy to manage. The alpacas need basic
shelter and protection from heat and foul weather, and being livestock,
they do require certain vaccinations and anti-parasitic medicines.
Additionally, their toenails need to be trimmed every couple of months
and the fleeces sheared off once a year. Speaking of toenails, these
animals do not have hooves-they have two toes, with hard toenails on
the top of their feet and a soft pad on the bottom of their feet, much
like a dog's foot. Therefore, you don't experience compaction of the
soil to same degree that you would with other types of livestock.
Can you raise alpacas in a hot, humid climate?
The answer is generally yes. Alpacas have proven to be amazingly
resilient animals. Alpacas are being raised successfully in Arizona,
Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and also in Alaska and many
Canadian provinces. Certainly, in the hotter, more humid climates, the
alpaca breeder does need to take health and safety precautions, like
shearing fleeces off early in the year, providing plenty of fresh water
to drink and dip their bellies into, and areas of shade.
What type of shelter and fencing do alpacas need?
This varies widely, depending on such things as weather and
predators. But as a general rule, the alpacas do need at least a
three-sided, open shelter where they can escape inclement weather. And
if predators are present in your neighborhood, then a minimum of
five-foot-high, 2 foot by 4 foot no-climb fencing is necessary to keep
out the predators. Traditional horse fencing (with 4 foot by 4 foot
openings) is not recommended, as curious alpacas might be physically
harmed if they put their heads through that type of fencing.
What do alpacas eat?
The main thing alpacas eat is just grass or hay, and not much of
it-approximately two pounds per 125 pounds of body weight per day. A
single, 60-pound bale of hay can generally feed a group of about 20
alpacas for one day. Alfalfa is discouraged or red only sparingly, as
it has high protein content that can be unhealthy for the animals.
Additionally, all alpacas require access to free-choice mineral
supplements and plenty of fresh water to drink.
What does an alpaca cost (price range and average)?
Price, as always, is a reflection of demand. Interest in buying
alpacas is high and limited. Alpacas cost about $1000 for a
non-breeding male, to over $250,000 for a top-class herdsire. Most
people start their herd with good quality, bred females, costing
$12,000 to $30,000. The slow rate of reproduction means that supply is
unlikely to exceed demand in the foreseeable future.
When do you think supply will outweigh demand?
The fiber industry continues to evolve along with the breeding
industry. The dynamics of the alpaca industry will continue to change
but the potential for a financially rewarding business opportunity will
How many ounces of fiber will one alpaca produce?
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. Some alpacas
already achieve, or exceed, these levels.
Who buys the fiber?
Alpaca fiber is sold several ways. Hand-spinners and fiber artists
buy raw fleece. Knitters often purchase alpaca yarn. Fiber Cooperatives
Mills collect alpaca fiber and process it on behalf of the producer.
What is an ounce of fiber worth?
This varies. In its raw state, an ounce of alpaca varies from
$2.00-$5.00. Each stage of the process (cleaning, carding, spinning,
knitting, finishing, etc) adds more valuable to the fiber. As a
finished garment, it can sell for $10.00 per oz. Hand knit goods are
more desirable and have sold for $1,000.00, in some cases.
The Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association (AOBA) began in 1988
and gained non-profit status in 1991. It serves the following purposes:
(1) To promote public awareness and membership appreciation of the
Alpaca's unique qualities; (2) To educate the membership on the care
and breeding of the Alpaca; (3) To promote the growth of the Alpaca
industry as a whole; and (4) To foster the establishment of the breed
outside of its native land by encouraging husbandry and breeding
practices based upon, but not limited to, herd health, overall
soundness, and alpaca fiber production and products.
AOBA's Board of Directors and Sub-Committees: Marketing, Education,
Affiliates, Fiber, Government, and Show are volunteers who oversee
everyday operations. Since AOBA's formation, with 87 members and a
known alpaca census of 392, its membership has grown steadily to over
4,000 members with about 55,000 registered alpacas.
The Alpaca Registry, Inc., established in 1988, is a Colorado-based
non-profit corporation that mandates blood typing for registered
alpacas. It accepts only offspring of registered alpacas that qualify
by blood typing. ARI owns the database that houses genealogy, blood
typing and ownership records of North American alpacas. It is governed
by a five-member elected Board of Directors. ARI membership includes
all owners of living, registered alpacas. Board members serve staggered
terms and are collectively responsible for policies and procedures
governing registrations, transfers of ownership, and the screening of
unregistered, non-pedigreed alpacas.
Incorporated in 1998, the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America,
Inc. (AFCNA) is an organization of nearly 700 North American alpaca
producers. Most are small farmers, who have decided to raise alpacas to
enjoy the country lifestyle and satisfaction of raising livestock.
AFCNA pools their annual shearing of alpaca fiber and benefits from
processing larger volumes of fiber and market products made from
alpacas, on a national level.
AOBA/ARI Fiber to Fashion National Conference
The AOBA/ARI Fiber to Fashion National Conference highlights alpaca
fiber and end-products. Educational seminars, hands-on workshops, panel
discussions, and social events are available. The all-alpaca fashion
show is a definite crowd pleaser. This event draws alpaca enthusiasts,
near and far, who showcase and shop for the finest, and often
one-of-a-kind, alpaca fashions. The Student Design Competition draws
fashion and design talent from the nation. Vendors are available,
selling everything from casual to elegant, formal apparel.
AOBA National Conference
The AOBA National Conference, held from May 16-21 2006 at
Louisville, KY, is the largest AOBA certified halter & fleece show.
Breeders witness the inner-workings of a billion dollar industry and
learning never ends. Education seminars range from alpaca care to
marketing techniques. Artisans compete with hand-crafted items. And,
there is no better place to buy and sell alpacas, apparel, and a
variety of alpaca-related materials.
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