Reproduction and Registration of Alpacas
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How are alpacas different from llamas?
A: While both are members of the camel (or Camelid) family, they are
distinctly different animals. One way to explain the distinction is:
its like comparing a Clydesdale horse with a zebra -- both are members
of the equine family, but the horse and the zebra are very different
animals. So, too, are the llama and alpaca.
Q: Can you
pack with an alpaca?
A: Generally, no. The alpaca lacks the bone structure to support weights
much greater than their own natural body weight. A well-tempered alpaca
might tolerate a small daypack on its back for a short time, but this
might damage the animal's fiber. For backpacking, their much larger
cousin, the llama, would be much better suited.
Q: Are alpacas dangerous?
A: Absolutely not! They are safe and pleasant to be around. They do
not bite or butt, and do not have the teeth, horns, hooves, or claws
to do serious injury. Occasionally, an alpaca will kick with its hind
legs (especially if approached or touched from the rear), but the
soft padded feet usually do little more than just "get your attention."
Q: How do you
transport an alpaca?
A: If traveling for short distances, they can be transported in a
mini-van. The animals will usually "cush" (sit down) and
very rarely have "accidents" inside the vehicle. Longer
distances generally require transport in a horse trailer.
Q: So what do you DO with these animals?
A: Well, they have a couple of important uses. First of all, they
produce a soft and luxurious fleece, comparable to cashmere, that
is turned into a wide array of products from teddy bears to garments
to felt. The fleece itself is known globally for its fineness, softness,
light weight, durability, excellent thermal qualities, and luster.
Additionally, alpacas represent an excellent investment and income-generating
potential. Many alpaca breeders rely on the sale of their animals
and finished goods for a large part (or sole source) of their income.
Q: How much acreage does it take to raise alpacas?
A: Because the animals are so environmentally-friendly, you can usually
raise about 5 to 10 alpacas per acre, depending on terrain, rain/snowfall
amounts, availability of pasture, etc. They can also be raised on
dry lot, if desired.
Q: Are alpacas easy to care for?
A: They are small and easy livestock to maintain. They should have
basic shelter and protection from heat and foul weather. They do not
challenge fences. Being livestock, however, they do require certain
vaccinations and must be on an anti-parasitic control program. Additionally,
their toenails need to be trimmed every couple of months and their
fleeces sheared off once a year.
Q: What do alpacas eat?
A: The primary thing alpacas eat is just plain grass or hay. Alfalfa
is discouraged or fed only sparingly, as it has high protein content
that can be unhealthy for the alpacas. One to one-and-a-half, 60-pound
bales of hay will usually feed 20 to 25 alpacas each day. Most alpaca
owners give their animals some type of supplemental grain, especially
in the winter. Some owners also give their animals food pellets as
a nutritional supplement of training reward. Additionally, all alpacas
require access to free-choice salts and trace minerals.
Q: Do alpacas spit?
A: All members of the camel family use spitting as a means of communication.
The main time you'll see this is around the feeding trough, when animals
become very possessive about what they consider to be "their
food." It is also an aggressive behavior that you may observe
if two alpacas are fighting. But it is rare that an alpaca would spit
on a human on purpose (although humans sometimes get caught in the
Q: How long do they live?
A: Truth is, we're not really sure. In South America, they can live
for about 15-20 years. But the alpaca was only recently brought to
North America (significant numbers were first imported in 1984), so
we don't have enough data yet to know how long they will live under
the conditions found here. We hope they will live at least 20 years,
and perhaps significantly longer.