WHAT IS AN ALPACA?:
The alpaca is a domesticated member of the camelid family. Alpacas have large, expressive eyes, a short triangular muzzle, a sheep-dog mop of hair over the brow, and abundant fine fiber.
WHY SHOULD I BECOME AN ALPACA OWNER/BREEDER?:
Alpacas are the source of a luxurious fiber. The fleece, comparable to cashmere, is known for its fineness, light weight, and luster. Alpaca textile products are recognized world-wide. Because of the limited supply of fiber in North America, the current fiber market is based primarily on a cottage industry of hand-spinners, weavers, and fiber artists.
The "back to basics" lifestyle which is a part of living with alpacas is also very appealing to many people searching for a business opportunity that can be operated from home and will involve the entire family. Generous tax advantages for the hands on breeder and the chance to generate income, may be incentive enough for those desiring a change of life in the country.
Alpacas can be easily trained and are gentle enough for children to handle.
WHAT DO ALPACAS EAT?:
Alpacas are browsers and grazers. Because they are ruminants, which means they chew cud like a deer or cow, they are efficient utilizers of the available food and will do well on different kinds of low protein hay or pasture grass. Some breeders choose to feed a pelleted food especially formulated to give the appropriate balance of vitamins and minerals. A dependable source of clean, fresh water is essential.
ARE THEY EASY TO CARE FOR?:
Compared to other livestock, alpacas are considered by most people to be very easy to care for. They are relatively small and easy to handle. Their natural tendency to move in groups makes them easy to move from place to place as needed. A group of alpacas consolidates its feces in one or two spots in the pasture. This controls the spread of parasites, and makes it easy to collect and compost for fertilizer.
Alpacas are hardy and typically have few health care requirements. They need periodic worming and annual vaccinations.
The padded feet of the alpaca have two nails that can be trimmed with a common pruning shear. Dental care is minimal, however trimming of the front incisors may be necessary for some animals.
ARE ALPACAS DANGEROUS?:
Absolutely not! They are safe and pleasant to be around. They are very curious about people and seem most intrigued and drawn to children.
WHAT ABOUT ALPACA BABIES?:
The gestation period for alpacas is 11 to 11 1/2 months. Alpaca babies are called crias. Crias weigh from 12 to 23 pounds at birth and are usually up and nursing within an hour.
HOW DO ALPACAS COMMUNICATE?:
Alpacas communicate through body posture, tail and ear movements, and a variety of sounds. The sound heard most often is a soft, peaceful humming. Dams make a soft clucking sound to reassure and communicate with their cria. When an intruder is sighted nearby, a high pitched call is sounded to warn the herd. Males make a melodious, rhythmic sound called orgling when breeding.
WHY ARE ALPACAS SO VALUABLE?:
Alpacas are very rare in the United States. Only quality animals have been imported into the states. Today, breeders are now concentrating on perfecting their superior stock. The limited supply of this animal and its lustrous fiber are what makes the alpaca so valuable.