Alpacas

Alpacas are native to the Altaplano region of South America, located above 10,000 feet in the Andes Mountains of Chile, Bolivia and Peru. The alpaca, a cousin of the familiar llama, and the wild guanaco and vicuna, is raised for its luxurious fleece. Alpacas weigh about 150 pounds and stand about thirty-six inches at the withers. Alpacas come in over twenty natural colors, the most of any fiber producing animal. Alpaca fleece can be found in colors ranging from black to brown to pure white, with a myriad of shades between, including deep maroons and striking silver grays

Alpacas are found in two forms. The huacaya alpaca has very crimpy, fluffy fleece, similar in appearance to sheep’s wool. The suri alpaca has a fleece that hangs in long curly locks, similar to that seen on an angora goat.

Alpacas give birth to one baby (known as a cria) each year. An alpaca’s gestation is approximately 11 months, and they are ready to breed again within two weeks. A female alpaca (known as a dam) generally reaches breeding age at 12 to 18 months, and may remain reproductively active until twenty years of age. Male alpacas (referred to as a sire) attain sexual maturity between 18 and 36 months. The cria is ready to wean by 6 months of age.

Alpacas are ruminants. They eat grass and chew a cud. An alpaca’s feet are padded, which makes them very easy on the ground. Alpacas are much gentler on a pasture than hoofed animals such as cattle or horses. Alpacas tend to create community manure piles, inhibiting the spread of parasites and facilitating pasture clean up.

99 % of the worlds alpacas are located in South America. The total population is believed to be around 3 million.

Alpacas are intelligent and gentle creatures. Alpacas are naturally curious, observant and quick to learn. They readily adapt to being led by a halter. Children and alpacas seem to have a natural affinity for one another.