General

Information

Diet Reproduction Benefits Materials

Needed

Suggested

Memberships

 

General Information

 

Size:  100-175 pounds and approximately 3 feet tall

Alpacas are members of the camelid family, which also includes llamas, vicunas, and guanacos

Color:  22 officially recognized colors and blends of alpacas; can be solid-colored or multi-colored

Temperament: Gentle, curious, clean, herd-oriented, cautious of   strangers, and quiet; they rarely spit and when they do, it is generally at each other, not humans

Fiber: It is known for its fineness and often compared to cashmere.
It is also valuable because it is hypoallergenic. Their fleece grows about 5-10 inches per year and may yield UP to 25 pounds of fleece annually (enough for about 10 soft, warm sweaters).
Alpacas are sorted into 2 groups depending on their fiber type:

       Huacaya- dense, crimpy fleece that stands straight up to give them a fluffy appearance; this is the most common type of alpaca, comprising 90% of the population

       Suri- silky fleece that hangs down in tight spirals; suris are rare and make up the remaining 10% of the alpaca population

Origin: Andean mountains of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile; they were imported to the
 
United States in 1984 but since 1998 all importing has been banned.

 

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Diet

Alpacas are ruminants with 3 stomachs so they are able to convert grass and hay to energy very efficiently.

Alpacas prefer to eat fresh grass but they are supplemented with hay and food pellets to provide them with vitamins and minerals. Supplementation occurs most often during pregnancy, lactation, and wintertime.

They eat much less than other farm animals and actually cost less to feed per month than a large dog!

Alpacas rarely overeat.

Their camelid ancestry allows them to thrive without consuming a lot of water.  

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 Reproduction

Females generally reproduce from 2-17 years of age, however many people breed females at 18 months if their weight is adequate. They are induced ovulators, meaning that they ovulate (release an egg) upon sexual stimulation, and therefore they can breed at any time during the year. However, most breedings are restricted to the spring or fall during optimal temperature conditions for the cria and mother at birth. Adult females are known as Hembras.

Males take a little longer to mature than females and can generally reproduce from 3-17 years of age. However, some males may also be ready to breed at 18 months.  Adult males are known as Machos.

Gestation period = about 350 days

Baby alpacas are called crias and they typically weigh anywhere from 12-19 pounds at birth.

Twins are extremely rare --- unfortunately!  

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Benefits

 

Alpacas are extremely fun and easy to raise, yet they can be very profitable!
Their fiber is in high demand by the textile industry, crafters, and a spinner’s dream.
Some people own alpacas just for the pleasure of spinning their lustrous fiber.

They are intelligent and therefore easily trainable, so they can be taken to shows and make wonderful pets! Maintenance simply includes annual shearing, vaccinations, toenail trimming, and worming.

They readily mix with other species of farm animals.

Alpacas are very gentle animals. They do not bite or butt and do not have upper teeth, horns, hooves, or claws to do serious injury.

They are quiet animals, producing only a soft humming sound unless they are alarmed or scared.

Although it is more enjoyable to have the acreage to raise alpacas, it is becoming increasingly popular for people to board and alpaca at a farm as an investment.

They are transported easily and simply lay down in a trailer or small van for the trip.  

Alpacas are extremely clean animals, confining their waste to only a few spots in the pasture. This helps to control parasites and makes it easy to collect and compost their fertilizer.

Alpacas leave pastures undamaged since their feet are padded and they tend to eat only the top of the grass, leaving the roots intact. They are ideal for anyone (even small acreage owners) because they control pasture/lawn growth without the damage, smell, and noise of other species.

There are numerous tax incentives involved with raising alpacas. Visit the Farmer’s Tax Guide at www.irs.gov for more information.

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Materials Needed to Begin Your Own Alpaca Farm

Alpacas: You must start with at least two alpacas since they are herd-oriented animals

Land: Alpacas do not need much room. 1 acre can support 5-6 alpacas.

Facilities: Minimally, alpacas require an open 3-sided shed for protection against the extreme heat and foul weather.

Fencing: Alpacas will not try to knock down fences but fencing should be protective enough to keep predators from entering.

Nutrient Balanced Food Supply: There should be good quality pasture without poisonous plants, good quality hay, and feed supplemented with vitamins and minerals. 

Veterinarian: An experienced vet or one who is eager to learn is essential to proper herd health.

Alpaca Care Reference Books: We like Caring for Llamas and Alpacas: A Health and Management Guide by Clare Hoffman, DVM and Ingrid Asmus and Llama and Alpaca Neonatal Care by Bradford Smith, DVM, PhD et al.

Halters and Leads

Food and Hay Feeders

Water Supply Containers:  Heated water containers will be needed in the winter months.

Large Ventilation Fan: They need some help on those hot summer days! 

Scale: Many medications given to the alpacas are dependent on weight, plus, it is a good idea to keep a monthly record of their weights in order to see any alterations that may indicate a problem.

Veterinary Supply Kit:
contains items for emergency alpaca care

Record Book or Herd Management Computer Software

Misc. Supplies: worming medication, rake & scooper to clean up waste, toenail pruners, fly control 

If you plan to have crias you would also need to purchase a cria care kit, cria coat, heated pet pad, frozen colostrum and a cria scale.   

 

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Suggested Memberships

 

ARI: Alpaca Registry Inc

AOBA: Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association

Your State's Alpaca Organization

Fleece Co-op

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