Larry & Norma
5497 Hummer Lake Road
Oxford MI 48371
All About Alpacas. . . What are Alpacas?
Alpacas are animals that were domesticated in the high altitudes of Peru and Chile
in South America thousands of years ago, prized for their luxurious fleece.
They are members of the camelid family which includes camels, llamas, vicunas
and guanacos. Alpacas were imported into the United States in 1984 and are being successfully raised for the sale of their fleece and their offspring (crias). The importation of alpacas has been closed to protect the development of an American alpaca industry.
Alpacas are disease resistant, easy keepers that are gentle on the land. Owners with no prior livestock experience are successfully raising, showing and selling alpacas.
There are two types of alpacas – Huacaya and Suri. Huacaya are the most popular.
Their fleece is quite dense and soft and is more like the look of sheep wool on the
animal only the fleece is lanolin free. The Suri is distinguished by long pencil
locks of fleece. Both animals produce extremely fine, luxurious fleece
that is used to make beautiful, soft material for garments and weavings.
The life span of an alpaca is about 20 to 25 years.
Most owners start breeding their females at age 18 months.
Females are induced ovulators, which mean they can be bred year around.
The gestation for a pregnant female averages 11 ½ months.
The birth weight of the newborn, called crias normally ranges from 15-22 pounds.
Male alpacas generally are ready for breeding at age 2 years although
some variation does exist depending on the maturity level of the male. The male makes sounds, called orgoling,
during the breeding process. This sound induces the female to ovulate for a successful breeding.
Adult alpacas generally weigh between 125 and 200 pounds and
some adult males will exceed 200 pounds.
They are sheared in early spring before the hot weather sets in.
Removing their hot blanket of fleece
makes them more comfortable and able to tolerate the higher
summer time temperatures. The alpacas
yield about 5 to 8 pounds of fleece per year. The staple length of
the fiber ranges from 3-6 inches.
Alpacas come in a variety of colors ranging from white to black, light fawn to dark
brown, grey or, even maroon. They can be a solid color or have spots of color or
different markings. The fleece is prized by spinners for its softness and it is warmer and lighter weight than is wool. Alpaca fleece is naturally non-allergenic.
Garments made from alpaca fleece are as soft as cashmere.