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Reproduction and Registration of Alpacas
Frequently Asked Questions
Alpaca Facts

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 crossfire!).

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.