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Scientific name: Vicugna pacos

The basics:
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

Alpaca Health Tip


From cmpaton Dec 1 2014 3:40PM


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