Alpacas are a domesticated member of the camel (camelid) family. The camelid family also includes llamas, guanacos, and vicunas from South America, and the Bactrian and Dromedary camels from Asia and Africa.
Breeds: There are 2 types of Alpaca, Huacaya and Suri. Ninety-five percent of alpacas are Huacaya, with full, puffy fleeces whose crimp/crinkle is found throughout their fleeces. The lustrous straight fibre of the Suri fleece hangs down in "dreadlocks", giving the Suri alpaca an entirely different silky appearance.
Fibre: Both types of fibre are considered luxury fibres in the textile industry because of their unique qualities. Alpaca fibre is classified as a rare specialty fibre. It is soft and luxurious like cashmere, stronger than mohair and warmer than sheep's wool. Owing to the fact that Alpaca fibre has a smooth cell structure containing microscopic air pockets which allow garments to be lightweight and warm. It is an exceptional insulator, having more thermal capacity than almost any other animal fibre. It is natural, healthy, extremely durable and comfortable to wear and its excellent wicking properties help to repel water. Its hypoallergenic qualities provide no itch and does not contain lanolin. It has also recently been proven to protect against UV rays. Alpacas are shorn for their valuable fleeces, in the spring time, so that there is enough fibre growth to keep them warm when winter arrives. The fleece from shearing one year's growth normally weighs about 5 to 6 pounds per alpaca; some animals may produce up to 12 pounds of fleece.
Colour: Alpaca fibre comes in an array of 22 different shades ranging from white, black, grey, brown, rose-grey, etc. No other animal which produces fibre for textile use has such an enormous variety of colours.
Communication: Alpacas express themselves with a soft hum, other vocalizations, and with body language, such as neck posturing, ear and tail positioning, and head tilt. They have excellent eyesight and hearing, and will alert the herd and their owners with a few short shrill alarm sounds of warning if perceived danger.
Handling: Every Alpaca has its own personality and comfort space. Always allow them to come to you. Alpacas dont really like to be petted, but when they know you, they often like a scratch on the neck. Please Remember - It takes time and patience to earn their trust.
Personality: As a general rule alpacas are very placid and social animals each having a distinct personality. Their compact size, gentle and non-aggressive nature contributes for easy management and to a desirability as a companion animal. They also make wonderful pets and will halter train quite easily, jump in and out of vehicles, kush (sit down) and obey other simple commands. They are popular show animals and can be seen at fairs and fibre festivals throughout North America. Alpacas need the companionship of other camelids, and will huddle together or move en-masse when frightened. When handling an alpaca, each has its own safe zone. Some you can pet, most will want to just stay out of reach, and a few may want several feet of space to feel comfortable. Alpacas are one of the few species where intact males tolerate other intact males.
Behaviour: People often ask, "Do Alpacas/Llamas spit?" Alpacas/Llamas do not spit often but will occassionally do a little spit at each other to say, stop bothering me, or if one wants to get to the food first. An Alpaca/Llama may also spit if they feel threatened , frightened, or to protect themselves. A heavily pregnant female may do a larger spit if she is feeling really annoyed at something.
Feeding and Manure: Eco-friendly Alpacas are browsers rather than grazers and thrive on a low protein high fibre diet. Alpacas will consume about 1% of their body weight per day in dry matter, e.g., A 150 lb alpacas will eat about 1.5 lb of grass per day. Since alpacas only have lower teeth in the front and an upper pad, they are gentle on pastures, trimming grass but not pulling roots. Alpacas are very tidy animals and normally defecate in one place. Their waste, which consists of smallish hard pellets, similar to that of a deer can be collected and placed in a compost pile, where it makes an excellent garden fertilizer or alternatively spread onto the pasture as a natural fertilizer. Because the manure is not hot it can also be applied directly as a fertilizer to even delicate house plants.
Lifespan, Reproduction and Birth: The lifespan of an alpaca is around 20-25 years. During its life time a female alpaca can produce 15 or more offspring. Alpacas are induced ovulators, meaning the eggs of the female are released in response to mating. Male alpacas reach sexual maturity at about 2 1/2 years of age. Gestation is around 345 days. The birth weight of the cria is usually between 12 - 25 pounds. Amazingly, many crias seem to be born on a sunny day around noon, almost always between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m
Shelter: Although alpacas are accustomed to the cold of the Andes, they need protection from severe winter storms and the heat of the summer months. They do not like cold wind on their face, and especially dislike cold with freezing rain. A barn or three sided shelter usually does the job. A shelter is also very important for Cria during the first week after birth. Many alpacas, especially the darker colored ones really enjoy the gentle spray of water or using a children's paddling pool on a really hot day to cool themselves off.
Fencing: Although an alpaca will rarely challenge a fence, a 5 or 6 foot deer fence is recommended for keeping predators and especially stray dogs out.
ALPACAS - (ARI/CLAA Registered)
Registered Herd Identifier - Camelot (CMT)