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Reproduction and Registration of Alpacas
Frequently Asked Questions
Alpaca Facts

Fast Facts

  • Part of the camelid family, alpacas are about 1/2 the size of a llama
  • Alpacas are native to the high Andes Mountains of South America
  • Alpacas are prized for their luxurious fiber, which is sheared once per year
  • An average alpaca will yield enough fiber per shearing to make 4-6 warm sweaters
  • Yield: 7-11 lbs. of wool each year
  • Lifespan: 15 to 25 years
  • Average height: 36" at the withers
  • Weight: 100-175 lbs.
  • Gestation period: around 335 days
  • Alpacas deliver offspring, called cria, once per year, never have twins, and birthweight is around 15-19 lbs.
  • Weaned: at around 5-6 months
  • Alpacas are sociable herd animals and will die if isolated from contact with other animals
  • Alpacas are intelligent, clean, very curious and often bond with their caretakers
  • Alpacas come in 22 basic colors with many variations, making them prized by spinners and weavers for this natural diversity of color. The fiber also takes dye well.
  • Females: are first bred at around 18 months
  • Males: begin working between 2 1/2 and 3 years
  • Alpacas are not to be used for packing
  • There are about 5,000 suri alpacas in the U.S. and 25,000 huacayas, mostly imported from Chile, Peru and Bolivia

Induced Ovulators
Alpacas can be bred at any time of the year. Births are always in daytime and the incidence of infant mortality and birthing problems are low. Alpaca mothers are devoted and protective. Bonding is easy.

Alpacas evolved and adapted to life in very harsh conditions. Fair grass pastures, good quality grass hay and a fresh water supply are basic requirements. Sweet feed and supplemental pellets can be added to diets in winter or in the last stages of pregnancy.

Alpacas prefer open pastures to a barn or stall but take calmly to shelter in the worst of winter weather. Normally, they are content with simple shelters in winter and shade in summer's heat. Lightweight panels or fencing are all it takes to corral or contain the gentle alpaca and you can comfortably stock around 10 to an acre. They load and travel very easily.

Low maintenance animals, alpacas are shorn annually and require occasional grooming, trimming of toenails and in a few instances tooth trimming. Annual vaccinations and drenching for parasite control are recommended. Handling and herding them is safe and simple.

Why keep alpacas?
Easy keepers and delightful companion, they produce one of the most sought after natural fibers in the world. The breeding based market for alpacas is as strong now as it was when they were introduced to the USA ten years ago. Few animals produce a better return on your investment.

Oh that wool!
The fleeces of both the Huacaya and Suri are generally free of guard hair. Ninety percent of all alpacas are Huacaya with fine, dense fleece. Suri fiber flows down the animal in long strands giving it an entirely different appearance. Both types of fiber are hollow, making them lightweight and providing excellent insulation.

Alpacas come arrayed in a natural rainbow of twenty-two hues and blends, making the super-fine fiber a much sought after treasure. Sweaters and other clothing made from Alpaca fiber are recognized the world over for their outstanding quality and timeless beauty.

Raising Alpacas
Alpacas are ruminants who utilize their food and water very efficiently, requiring less than most other farm animals. Grass pastures supply their basic needs with supplements of hay and the occasional treat of grain or alfalfa pellets. Shelter and fencing requirements are quite minimal since alpacas are very social animals that are content on only a small amount of acreage. They are among the cleanest of animals, as they confine their dung piles to just a few areas in the pasture. Males reach maturity in about two years and females are bred at 15-20 months of age. Like other camelids, alpacas can be bred at any time of the year. The average gestation period is about 335 days in which they produce a single cria which, incidentally, are usually delivered during daylight hours (how do they do it?).

Alpacas are generally disease free and very hardy, but basic care of yearly vaccinations, worming and toe trimming are recommended. Alpacas can be sheared every 12 months to harvest their exquisite fleece and provide better health management.