Alpaca FAQs                                                      

Alpaca FAQs 

  • Alpacas are herd animals and do not like to be alone without other alpacas around. Given that they are prey animals, their best chances for survival is always within the herd.

  • There are two breeds of alpacas:

    • Huacaya, pronounced Hwa-KI-ah

      • They have dense, curly fleece

      • Look like a teddy-bear

      • Evoke the response, “They’re so cute”

    • Suri, pronounced SOO-ree

      • They have silky, lustrous fleece

      • Fleece hangs like dreadlocks

  • Alpaca lifespan is 15-20 years

  • Alpacas have been raised as livestock for thousands of years in South America.

  • Alpacas are members of the Camelidae family which includes alpacas, llamas, vicuñas, guanacos, and camels.

  • All camelids have the ability to spit, including the “cute and cuddly looking” alpaca. They use spitting as a way to express themselves within the herd, and sometimes as a warning to human handlers.

  • Alpacas kick their back legs as a reflex when their hind quarters touched, which they do not like.

  • Each alpaca has its own personality, with a disposition similar to domestic cats. Some do not mind being touched, but more often they can be aloof. As they get to know you they may become more approachable. 

  • Alpacas eat grass or hay, along with feeds and mineral mixes that are available through local feed stores. 

  • Alpacas often defecate in communal dung piles, making cleanup easier than for most livestock.

  • Alpacas are smart and inquisitive animals that can be trained to accept a halter and walk on a leash.

  • Alpaca fleece is referred to as “fleece“ or “fiber,” or occasionally as “alpaca wool.”

  • Alpaca fleece has a variety of natural colors: White, beige, shades of fawn, black, brown, grey. In these, there are 16 official colors. 

  • Alpaca fleece is noted for its softness, fineness and luster. It is lightweight and durable, and has excellent thermal qualities. And because it does not contain lanolin, unlike sheep’s wool, it does not irritate the skin.

  • If you think you would like to have an alpaca as a pet, you will need to think in terms of having at least two alpacas as companions to each other. One alpaca, by itself, is a very lonely creature without the herd.

 

Alpacas are not llamas

People often confuse alpacas with llamas, but there are differences:

  • Alpacas weigh 100-200 pounds; llamas weigh 250-450 pounds.
  • Alpacas stand about 34-36 inches high at the withers (shoulders); llamas stand about 42-46 inches high at the withers.

  • Alpaca ears are short and spear like; llama ears are longer and banana shaped.

  • Alpacas are herd animals and can be skittish; llamas tend to be more independent. 

  • Alpacas are bred for their fiber, however, in South America they are also raised for their meat. Llamas are bred primarily as pack animals, and in some places also for their meat

  • Alpaca back structure lacks the bone and muscle structure for carrying a pack, whereas the llama back is longer in length and stronger in bone and muscle so is able to be used as a pack animal.

Breeding Alpacas

  • Alpacas do not ovulate cyclically or during a particular season, but rather by “induced ovulation” which occurs in the female alpaca (dam) due to an external stimulus, such as meeting a male alpaca (sire), or during the physical act of stimulation or coitus.

  • The average gestation for alpacas is 11.5 months.

  • A dam can carry only one baby per pregnancy. Twins are rare since most die due to miscarriage or other complications.

  • The baby alpaca (cria) typically weighs 12-18 pounds when born, and is usually walking within 15 minutes of birth.

  • Most alpacas are weaned at four to seven months of age.