Alpaca Information

Where do alpacas come from?
Alpaca Facts
Alpaca Fiber
What do alpacas eat?
Shelter
Care and Maintenance
Transporting

 

Where do alpacas come from? (back to top)

  • Alpacas are members of the camelid family.
  • They are native to South American Andes Mountains – Chile, Peru and Bolivia.
  • Llamas, Viciunas and Guanacos are the other three camelid family members that originated from South America.
  • Alpacas were imported into the United States from 1984 – 1998.
  • With just over 110,000 Alpacas in this country, they are still an uncommon livestock breed with growing popularity.
  • It’s official! The Federal Government has officially designated alpacas as farm livestock! This is great news for alpaca breeders.

 

 

Alpaca Facts (back to top)

  • Alpacas are fiber-producing animals.
  • Llamas were raised as beasts of burden and used for carrying loads.
  • One might consider alpacas to be “South American” sheep.
  • There are two types of alpacas:
    • The Huacaya (wah-KI-ah): soft, crimpy fiber – teddy bear look!
    • The Suri (sir-e’): little or no crimp that hangs down in beautiful pencil locks with luster and shine.
  • Alpacas are a very intelligent, gentle, docile, curious, yet timid animal.
  • They can easily be trained to lead and do obstacles.
  • An Alpaca averages 150 lb. and stands about 36” at the withers,  making them easy to handle.
  • They live an average of 20 years of age.
  • Alpacas are herd-oriented animals and can get stressed or despondent and lonely if alone.
  • Since the Alpacas are environmentally-friendly, you can put 5-10 on one acre, contingent on fencing, layout, terrain, etc…
  • They make a humming noise which is very relaxing to their owners.
  • Do they spit?
    • In defense – they can also stomp with their front feet as a way of defense as well.
    • Also, when eating at the feed trough they will spit at one another as they consider it “their food.”
  • Do they bite?
    • No! They only have bottom teeth.
  • Do they kick?
    • Sometimes! They will when approached or touched from behind – but the soft, padded feet usually don’t hurt, but it will get your attention!
  • Clean up is very easy, as they are very clean animals in that they all go in one spot – a “poop pile.”
  • Alpaca manure makes a great fertilizer for gardens!
  • A baby Alpaca is called a cria (cre-a), which means creation in Spanish.
  • The father is called a sire; the mother is called a dam.
  • The female can be bred at 18 months of age and will carry the baby for 11-12 months.
  • Females are induced ovulators and will have 12-14 cria in a lifetime giving birth to a single cria – twins are rare, only 1 in 10,000.
  • Delivery occurs almost always during daylight hours.
  • A cria weighs between 15-20 lbs. and is standing within the first hour, and nursing within the second hour.
  • At about three weeks after giving birth, the female is re-bred;  therefore, she basically spends her whole life pregnant.
  • A cria is with their mother for 4-6 months before it is weaned.
  • Alpacas are fully insurable for theft and mortality “a safety net for your investment.”
  • All our alpacas are registered with the Alpaca Registry, so therefore they are all named, and yes we know all their names!
  • Each alpaca has a microchip as a means of identification.

 

 

Alpaca Fiber (back to top)

  • Alpaca fiber is one of the world’s very finest and natural materials.
  • Baby Alpaca is the finest classification of Alpaca fiber.
  • Thousands of years ago, Alpaca fiber was reserved for Inca royalty.
  • There are 22 natural color variations of Alpaca fiber, including white, several shades of fawn, brown and gray, and true black.
  • Alpacas do not shed their fiber, but does get shorn once a year.
  • Shearing is done in the spring so they can keep cool in the summer.
  • They can grow fiber at a rate of up to 6” per year and yields between 5-10 lb per year.
  • Compared to wool, it is many times warmer, softer and lightweight.
  • Alpaca is as fine as cashmere and is similar to mohair in strength.
  • People who have wool based allergies will not be allergic to Alpaca.
  • Unlike sheep’s wool, Alpaca fiber does not contain lanolin (oil); therefore, it can be spun right off the animal.
  • Since Alpaca does not contain lanolin found in wool it allows for the hypoallergenic nature of the fiber.  Lanolin holds dust and microscopic allergens that create allergies to wool.
  • A strand of fiber, if looked at under a microscope, has a hollow core which gives it powerful insulating value.
  • Since Alpaca fiber is hollow, it can breathe and is comfortable for any season.
  • Alpaca fiber is smooth, unlike wool, and therefore feels less prickly or itchy next to the skin.
  • Unlike Llama fiber, pure Alpaca fiber is free from coarse guard hairs.
  • We are members of the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America.
  • Each year we send a portion of our fleece to the co-op. We send it to New Mexico where it is scoured (cleaned) and sorted. It is then sent to Nazareth, PA to be spun into yarn, a DK and Bulky weight.
  • We (the co-op) also have our best selling product – the Extreme Socks. They come in a regular length and a boot length as well as a slipper sock. Ohhhhh… what a warm sock – the warmest you will find!
  • As a member of the co-op we can purchase the yarn and socks made from the member fiber to be sold in our on-site farm store. We sell the remainder of our fleece at our farm as raw fleece, roving or yarn.

 

What do alpacas eat? (back to top)

  • Alpacas are ruminants.
  • They have one stomach with three chambers.
  • Alpacas graze in pastures and are supplemented with hay  - orchard grass.
  • Rather than pulling grass out by the roots when grazing, Alpacas bite off the tops and leave the roots to grow back again.
  • Alfalfa is discouraged, as it has a high protein content that can be unhealthy for the alpacas.
  • We use a pellet form of food supplement to help them get vitamins and protein.  The pellets are great since there is no molasses in it to coat the trough and attract flies!
  • We also have a free-choice mineral mix they can choose at anytime.
  • Fresh, clean water is always important.
  • Automatic water bowls are great – they always have fresh water and can be heated in the cold winter months to eliminate freezing.

 

Shelter (back to top)

  • Alpacas are native to the Andes Mountains at 10,000 – 12,000 feet.
  • Winter:  Shelter is needed for winter winds.
  • Summer:  Shelter is needed for shade.
  • Fans are also used to keep them cool.
  • Alpacas do not challenge fences.

 

Care and Maintenance (back to top)

  • Each Month – deworming
  • Every 4-6 Months – trim toenails
  • Once a Year
    • immunization and rabies
    • shearing
  • As Needed – Trim teeth and take out fighting teeth

 

Transporting (back to top)

  • Alpacas can be transported in a mini van for short distances.
  • For longer distances, a trailer is nice to have.
  • When in transit, the alpaca will “cush” (lay down) when they feel movement.

 

   
 



Copyright 2015 - Eastland Alpacas
Eastland Alpacas
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