Alpacas are a member of the camelid family and are close relatives to camels, llamas, vicunas, and guanacos. There are two types of alpacas: the Huacaya (wa-kai-a) which is the most common type of Alpaca with a dense and highly crimped fleece that stands straight off of the body much like a sheep and the Suri (sur-ry) which has a longer staple length and has fiber which is straighter with less crimp and is extremely soft and lustrous.
The weight range for alpacas is between 140 and 220 lb. with the average male being around 180 lb. with head height around 5 feet.
Like other ruminants, they chew their cud which is regurgitated or Partially digested food.
Yes, alpacas do spit as do all camelids when threatened or when their "space" is invaded by other alpacas.
The life span in South America is around 18 years but with a better diet in the US they are typically exceeding 20 years.
Alpacas have no teeth on top, instead they have a dental pad and do not bite.
They have soft padded, earth-friendly feet, a non-aggressive personality and can be easily transported.
Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984, but are no longer legally imported.
Alpacas are a herd animal and can not be kept by themselves, you must have at least two animals. They communicate by humming and with body posture. Generally they seem to humm more if they are for some reason uneasy or unsure about something, or when they are curious about something, like a new person, or animal on the farm.
Alpacas are a "prey" species meaning they have natural predators, such as wild dogs, big cats, coyotes, etc. Speed, agility and the fact that there is safety in numbers are the alpacas only defense against such predators, hence the strong herding instinct.
Most females, after reaching maturity at 18 months to 2 years will produce one cria a year throughout most of her life. Alpaca females tend to be extremely good and protective mothers. Twins are very rare.
Male alpacas reach sexual maturity at 2 1/2 to 3 years of age, and sometimes not until 4 years of age. Alpacas are induced ovulators and can be bred any time of the year.
Crias weigh between 13 and 22 lb.
Crias are typically weaned at around 6 months.
Because the alpaca's region of origin has limited forage, they are among the most efficient utilizers of food on earth.
Alpacas have soft padded feet making them gentle on your pastures.
An adult will consume around 2 1/2 lb. of forage a day In the US, most breeders will supplement forage with a grain and mineral mix.
Alpacas prefer outdoors to being cooped up in a barn so a three-sided shed is perfectly fine. It is most important that they have a source of shade and shelter from inclement weather, as well as clean water and fans during the dogs days of summer.
Alpacas share a communal dung pile, and it seems once one goes they all line up behind the other to take their turn on the bean pile. Cleaning up after your alpaca is very easy, due to their digestive efficiency, their solid waste looks like large rabbit pellets, or black beans, and is primarily composed of indigestible fiber. This means, unlike other livestock, they are relatively smell free and their beans make fantastic fertilizer.
There is no need to groom or bathe alpacas but they do need to have their toenails trimmed.
Alpacas should get their annual inoculations, and be de-wormed. The Meningeal worm is a problem for alpacas in most states (any where you see white tailed deer). There are several good dewormers (consult with your vet to see what is best in your area and to the frequency of recommended inoculations)
Alpacas are shorn once a year. You can expect to get any where from four to ten pounds of fleece from a single animal.