Alpacas are members of the camelid family which also includes llamas, camels, guanacos and vicunas. They are native to South America, specifically the Andes regions of Peru and Chile. Their average height is 36 inches at the withers. Their weight ranges from 100 to 175 pounds. Their average life span is 15-25 years.
A baby alpaca (cria) is normally delivered without human assistance during morning daylight hours, weighing 15-19 pounds. Twinning is extremely rare. Crias are up and nursing within 90 minutes and are weaned at 6 months.
Females are first bred when they are 18-24 months old. Gestation lasts 11 months. Males begin to work when they are between 2- and 3-years-old, achieving full maturity around the age of 3.
There are 16 different natural colors of alpaca fiber ranging from true non-fading black to brilliant white, with roans, pintos, browns, reds, fawns, rose grays, charcoal grays and others in between.
Adult alpacas produce about four to eight pounds of fleece a year. Fleece sells for $3 to $6 per ounce. Shearing occurs once a year.
Who buys the fiber?
Handspinners, yarn shops and weavers are the major market for clean alpaca fiber.
What are alpacas used for?
They are used for breeding stock, fiber production, pets, therapy and investments.
What do they eat?
Alpacas are ruminants with three-compartment stomachs. They chew their cud like cattle and sheep. They are very efficient and only eat two to three bales of grass hay per month. In most cases, they also require mineral supplements.
What about their personalities?
Alpacas are very gentle and curious. Alpacas will occasionally spit at each other when they are competing for food or trying to establish a pecking order.
What sounds do they make?
Alpacas communicate with a series of ear and tail positions and body postures as well as a humming sound and a shrill alarm call when threatened by predators.