Scientific name: Vicugna pacos
The Alpaca is a domesticated species of South American Camelid. Other members of the Camelid family include Llamas, Vicunas and Guancos. Alpacas have been domesticated for thousands of years. There are no known wild Alpacas, though its closest living relative, the Vicuña, are believed to be the wild ancestor of the Alpaca.
Alpacas were first introduced to the United States and Canada in 1984 and have since become popular livestock and farm companions. Trade organizations like the Internacional Alpaca Association (IAA) and the Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association (AOBA), help to promote Alpaca breeders and the production of high-quality fiber.
Appearance / health:
Alpacas resemble Llamas, but are smaller in size and have short and straight ears (Llamas have long and curved ears). They average a height of 3-4 feet. Two types of Alpacas exist, differentiated by their fleece: the huacaya has short, crimped, wooly fiber, while the suri has silky pencil-like locks. Their fiber comes in various shades of color; a total of 22 colors are recognized by the textile industry.
Alpacas have short tails, soft padded feet with two toes (instead of hooves). They have no horns, claws, and upper front teeth. They chew cud but have only three stomachs instead of four.
Alpacas are relatively hardy and disease-resistant animals given proper care and housing. However, as with all other livestock and farm companions, they are susceptible to a variety of ailments and require annual inoculations, monthly de-worming, regular grooming, and health check-ups by qualified veterinarians.
Behavior / temperament:
Alpacas are social animals and are intelligent, curious, and alert. They emit sounds that express their feelings, like humming when comfortable and content, squealing when distressed, and screaming when fighting for dominance. Some alpacas have a habit of spitting –- aiming saliva and sometimes a digestive regurgitation at other alpacas.
They enjoy companionship and can become comfortable in the presence of humans. They allow their owners to pat them on the back and neck but will not take too well to being grabbed or held on the legs and feet.
Housing / diet:
Alpacas are best housed in pastures with 5-10 Alpacas per acre, depending on the fertility of the area. Alpacas tend to designate a “litterbox” area (or dung pile) in a corner of the field, making them more sanitary than other livestock. Fencing is necessary to prevent the animals from straying, and predators from infiltrating the herd (alpacas are not like other livestock that try to knock down fencing). Fencing mesh should be no larger than 4x4” to prevent injury.
To shelter Alpacas from extreme or harsh weather, a sturdy, three-sided, open shelter or shed is recommended. The size of the shelter depends on the size of the herd. If Alpacas are housed in a barn, the structure must have good ventilation and adequate airflow.
Alpacas are content to graze on a pasture of fresh, non-fertilized grass. Low-protein hay is also an important part of their diet. The hay needs to be kept dry and accessible. To round out their nutrition, they should be given mineral supplements, which are often available in commercial grain designed specifically for Alpacas. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
luxurious fiber, multipurpose type pets, good natured, fleece revenue, Spinners, 4H projects
Aberrant Behavior Syndrome, slow reproducers, high humidity, meningeal disease, purchase price
clicker training, communal dung pile, Minimal fence, great tax incentives, pack animals
Vince or Vinca?
We had a pair of alpaca, and in due course, there was a baby. The birthing process could not have gone better, mama was pretty stable tempered and it helped. She was named Vinca, and we were all quite happy to have a new girl around. She was so happy, in fact, that one day balls dropped-we definitely made a mistake there, so he gained the dubious honor of a quick name change to Vince..
From Valentina May 26 2014 2:19AM
Over a year ago, my husband and I purchased seven suri alpaca. I spent about five years researching raising alpacas and visiting alpaca breeders. For some of these breeders, alpacas are their main income. This income comes from selling the animals to other breeders, but there is also money you can make from selling the fleece or fiber raw to hand spinners. You can also sell the fleece as already spun yarn, or as finished products such as alpaca socks.
Both breeds of alpaca, huacaya and suri are sheared once a year. Alpaca only have one baby, or cria per year. The only difference between suri and huacaya alpaca is their fleece also referred to as fiber (not fur). Huacaya fiber is shorter and has crimp (sometimes called the “teddy bear” look). Suri fiber is long and flowing; hanging in pencil-like locks. The suri is the rarer breed of alpaca.
We now, through more purchases and a couple of births, have 24 alpaca on our 70 acre ranch, “Bijou Alpacas.” In general, alpaca are easy keepers. For tax purposes, and maintaining an agricultural land status, they are also classified as livestock. Alpaca are smaller than llamas, their camelid family cousins. We are always asked if alpaca spit. They do spit at other alpaca, but for the most part, do not spit at people except at shearing time. Most alpaca do not like their soft fleece petted, nor do they like to cuddle. This can be frustrating for owners who bought them for their cuteness factor alone. If you handle the cria from birth, they are more likely to accept human closeness and touch. However, alpaca are, in general, easy to handle and move from place to place. You can extend your arms wide to corral them, or halter train them. Alpaca are also curious animals and are fun to watch interact with each other and people. They have gentle temperaments, and are herd animals that need at least one other alpaca to feel safe and happy. Because they are also prey animals, if you have coyotes nearby, you will want to have livestock guard dogs, a guard llama, or donkeys for protection.
Alpaca eat orchard hay, or graze on pasture, and enjoy supplemental pellets and minerals. They have a welcome habit of pooping in a communal poop pile, making daily scooping manageable. Their urine does have a strong odor, so be sure to visit some alpaca farms to know if this is something you can live with. You will want to keep one pair of boots only for alpaca clean-up duty. Veterinary care includes yearly vaccinations, tooth and nail trimming, and ultrasounds for bred females. The two births that we have had at the ranch this year were trouble-free. We did not need to help, and the cria were up and nursing within a few hours.
We do love our alpaca. They are beautiful to watch grazing outside of our windows. We have been to two alpaca shows and have won six ribbons and one championship. We also have full-time corporate jobs with long commutes, among other duties. Because of this, we have a ranch hand that now does the majority of the alpaca daily feeding and clean up. While alpaca care is perhaps less work than horse ownership, there are still twice daily duties that come, rain, snow, or shine. When considering owning alpaca you should be realistic about the long-term commitment..
From cmpaton Dec 1 2014 3:40PM
Alpaca's (and how much I dislike them)
I really don't like these animals. Unfortunately, I have to work with ten of them on a daily basis. I am in charge of feeding them, cleaning their enclosure, shearing them, and helping the vet do bi-monthly health checks and hoof trimmings.
Unfortunately. Very unfortunately.
They are not friendly animals. They don't want to be handled and don't want to be looked at. They most certainly don't want to be sheared - and ours aren't trained for shearing tables, as my rescue doesn't own any. Rather, we use our old-fashioned vet approved method of flipping, dropping, and sitting on them as we shear them.
It takes all three members of the equine department to get a single alpaca sheared - a shame, as they're only roughly 200 lbs.
Like birds, their bones are hollow and their immune system isn't very strong. They aren't meant for the heat of Florida, and can very easily become heat stressed. Parasites are also a major problem with them, and they can share many diseases with goats.
Originally, many Florida farms purchased alpaca's to sell their wool. However, there were so many purchased that the industry bottomed out. That's how we recieved most of our alpaca's.
Did I mention they spit? And that their spitting out fermented grass, so it has a horrible smell? Because they do..
From paintedzipper May 15 2014 6:59PM