I. General Information
What is an alpaca?
Alpacas are camelids-cousins
to camels, llamas, guanacos, and vicunas. They are smaller
than llamas and guanacos, but larger than vicunas. Alpacas
are about half the size of llamas and have proportionally
smaller ears than their llama cousins. There are two different
kinds of alpacas. The suri alpaca is the very rare alpaca
and has very long, fine, dreadlock-type fiber. The huacaya
alpaca is the second type of alpaca and is the more common
of the two. The huacaya alpaca has thick, dense, crimpy
fiber and resembles a teddy bear when in full coat.
||15 to 25 years average
||36 inches at the withers
||100 to 175 pounds or about one-half to one-third
the size of a llama.
||Alpacas can become pregnant without waiting for
||Birth weight is normally around 15 to 17 pounds.
Babies (crias) can often stand and nurse within 30
to 60 minutes following birth.
||The alpaca comes in eight basic colors-natural white,
natural light fawn, natural fawn, natural light grey,
natural grey, natural rose grey, natural dark brown,
and black. There are approximately 22 recognized colors
with many variations and blends. Alpacas most often
come in 5 solid colors.
What is a suri alpaca?
The suri (pronounced
"sir' ee") is distinguished from the huacaya alpaca by
its unique fiber characteristics. The fiber grows parallel
to the body while hanging in long, separate, non-crimped
locks. Suri fiber locks are made up of high-luster fibers
and drapes down the sides of the body in a twisted or
flat form of various size. Suri fiber has excellent luster,
a slick hand, and extreme softness. Suris are adaptable
to both hot and cold climates and have extraordinary intelligence,
vigor, ease of pregnancy, delivery, breeding, and care.
The fashion industry, spinner,
and weavers covet suri fiber for its cashmere-like softness,
silky luster, warmth, lightness, and durability, which
far exceeds sheep's wool. Its fiber comes in many different
colors and can be dyed. Suri fiber can blend with wool,
silk, and other high-quality fibers and can be knitted,
crocheted, or woven.
Suri alpacas are extremely
rare. They represent only a very small percentage of the
world's alpaca population. In North America, their present
population is approximately ten percent of all North American
alpacas and will never increase beyond this percentage.
We believe that the suri alpaca is a safe investment because
of its rarity and inherent beauty.
The suri is a rare phenotype
of alpaca which had been declining in South America. They
appear to be making an extraordinary comeback in the "newer"
countries which are breeding them, such as the USA. Though
often white, increasing colors are being bred. One of
their charms is their extremely silky, soft fleece. There
is no crimp in their fiber, but their hair falls in pencil
locks, making these animals look like they have dreadlocks
or a wet perm.
What is a huacaya alpaca?
The huacaya alpaca is characterized by a
fiber that is dense, crimped, and wooly in appearance.
This abundant coverage gives the huacaya a soft and huggable
look and explains the overwhelming popularity the huacaya
enjoys worldwide. Ninety percent of the North American
alpaca herd consists of huacayas, and this plurality will
remain virtually unchanged in the decades that lie ahead.
Like the suri, the huacaya is a hardy and
healthy animal that produces a fine and highly-prized
fiber. The new and burgeoning alpaca fiber movement will
be literally built on the backs of these plush and puffy
little "teddy bears."
What are the native countries of the alpaca?
Alpacas are native to the high Andes Mountain
countries of Peru, Chile, and Bolivia.
What do you do with an alpaca and why should I want one?
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- An alpaca is a superior investment opportunity with
excellent tax write-offs and financial gain compounded
through the years as you enjoy your animals.
- The alpaca fleece is prized for its fineness, lightness
in weight, luster, and hypo-allergenic properties.
Alpaca clothing and home products are pure luxury.
- The huggable, lovable, curious, and fun disposition
of the alpaca provides many hours of enjoyment and
entertainment for their owners, friends, and family.
- Alpacas make excellent show animals with universal
appeal to both children and adults. Alpacas are easily
trained to lead and are gentle enough to be handled
by children. They are always fun to take to family
gatherings, parades, nursing homes, schools, and to
use as 4-H projects.
- Alpacas are becoming the elite pet to own for all
of the above reasons.
What are the different names associated with an alpaca?
a. Cria-an alpaca baby born after a gestation
of eleven months or 335 days. Crias usually weigh approximately
15 to 19 pounds at birth. After about 30 minutes to one
hour, crias can usually stand and nurse. They are born
during daylight hours. Infant mortality is very low and
birthing problems are few. Alpaca moms are almost always
devoted and protective.
b. Dam-an alpaca's mother.
c. Female-in Spanish, the females are known
d. Male-in Spanish, the males are known
e. Weanlings or tuis-an alpaca 6 to 12 months
f. Yearling-an alpaca 1 to 2 years old.
Can I get started with just one animal?
Please do not own just one alpaca! Alpacas
are herd animals. We have heard that they will sometimes
die in isolation. If you can afford it, buy pregnant females
because they can get your herd started faster. Many people
have asked for breeding pairs, but this is not a good
way to begin your new herd because stud males should not
be in constant contact with pregnant females and you should
keep strict control over breeding. Geldings are inexpensive
males and can be purchased to provide company for your
females or herdsires. Males under the age of six months
are okay to keep enclosed with your females, but you need
to separate them when they are older. Once the female
gives birth, she has her own companion and there is another
member of the herd. One typical starter package consists
of two males and two females to keep each other company.
Another popular plan involves purchasing two to three
bred females initially and the addition of a breeding
male in the following year.
Can I get started with alpacas even though I do not own
Breeders offer agistment (boarding) services
and some offer sharecropping. Sharecropping means that
you buy the animals but leave them on the farm where you
bought them just as you would if you were paying boarding
fees. However, when you sharecrop, there are no monthly
expenses. You do not need to worry about feed, insurance,
boarding fees, routine vet bills, etc. The farm pays all
expenses in return for half-interest in the offspring.
However, sharecropping applies only to females.
Who buys alpacas?
Alpacas are purchased by various types of
people for a wide range of reasons. Teachers, doctors,
pharmacists, psychologists, bankers, business managers,
accountants, real estate brokers, corporations, housewives,
the young, the middle-aged, and active investment-conscious
retired people are all purchasing alpacas. Some enjoy
the investment potential and see alpaca farming as an
exciting new vocational vehicle, some enjoy it as a second
and more relaxed career, and some just enjoy the animals
Do people in the United States eat alpacas?
I am happy to say that in the US, we do
not kill and eat these magnificent, treasured animals.
We do, however, shear their wool once per year and enjoy
the by-products of their wondrous wool.
II. Care of the Alpaca
1: How much acreage
does it take to raise alpacas successfully?
Alpacas generally need approximately one
acre per five animals. This, of course, depends on the
acreage. You can keep ten alpacas per acre, but you will
need to supplement the grass with hay and clean up more
often as well as rotate your pastures. The more grass
you have in your acreage, the less hay you will need.
How much time is needed per day to care for an alpaca?
This, of course, depends on many variables,
i.e., how many animals you have, how much help you have,
and the type of infrastructure (machinery, layout, etc.)
you are utilizing.
1. Feed them grass hay or grain (available
at most farm/feed stores specifically for alpacas) once
or twice a day.
2. Clean the pastures thoroughly at least
twice each week to keep the animals and their fiber clean.
Recommend once-a-day cleaning in small pastures or paddocks.
After a cria is born, extra attention is needed to maintain
the pasture in a clean and safe condition.
3. Keep water areas fresh and clean.
4. General monthly maintenance-worming,
nail-clipping, etc. if needed.
5. Schedule some stress-free leisure time
each day just to enjoy them.
What kind of special care does an alpaca require?
Alpaca husbandry and management is not difficult.
Occasional grooming, trimming of toenails, and sometimes
teeth along with annual shearing are the major areas.
Annual vaccinations for tetanus, clostridia organisms,
rabies, and lepto (in endemic areas), and control of parasites
is recommended. Please consult a vet knowledgeable about
How do you shelter an alpaca?
Alpacas much prefer open pastures to a barn,
shelter, or stall, but easily take to stables, barns,
and enclosed areas in the worst of harsh weather. They
are content with simple shelters in the cold winter months
and appreciate good ventilation, shade, and fans in hot
weather. Alpacas are "earth-friendly" and cause minimal
stress on their pastures. They have padded feet and graze
in an efficient and non-destructive manner. Free choice
of hay, fresh water, grain, and a three-sided shelter
will maintain them in comfort.
What is the best type of fence for safeguarding alpacas
Mesh fencing (2x4) or chain-link (coated
is great) should be placed around the perimeter of your
property to discourage predators. Alpacas do not challenge
fencing, but you need to keep them safe from other animals.
The larger mesh fencing or the board fencing places the
alpacas at risk when they try to nibble on the grass on
the other side and may allow predators to slip through
into your pasture/paddock areas.
Are alpacas difficult or easy to take care of?
Alpacas are very easy to maintain, especially
when compared to other types of livestock. We own horses,
exotic birds, cats, dogs, and have several types of fish
in our pond. The alpacas are easier to take care of than
all our animals, except, of course, the fish. Indeed they
are quite "user-friendly" regarding care, and they give
more than they receive.
1. Alpacas are extremely "earth-friendly."
In their pasture they graze the grass down evenly but
do not destroy the root system.
2. Alpacas consolidate their waste materials
in one area of their paddock, which allows for easy cleanup
and minimizes the spread of fecal parasites into their
3. They require basically the same type
of care as a dog or cat with regular worming and annual
4. You do not need to groom them regularly,
but shear them once a year in the spring to protect them
from the coming hot weather. Their fleece needs to be
picked if you plan on showing them, and that, of course,
requires some care before you show.
5. Alpacas require their owners to provide
them with fresh water daily and grass hay (if pasture
is insufficient for their feed). Specially formulated
grain is provided (approximately one-half pound per day
per adult animal) to supplement the necessary vitamins
and minerals needed which are not found in most pastures
in North America.
6. An owner must also make sure that in
hot weather there is adequate shade and ventilation, augmented
by fans, for the animals' safety and comfort.
7. Toenails need trimming on a regular basis.
At around one to two years of age teeth may need to be
filed and this may be done by a veterinarian.
How does an alpaca survive in the winter months?
Alpacas are not bothered by cold weather
and will often be found sleeping outside with snow and/or
frost on them. They should always, however, have access
How does an alpaca survive in the summer months?
Shearing is a must in the spring to help
keep alpacas comfortable in the summer months. Shade,
fans mounted close to the ground, and a soaker water hose
should be provided to help keep them cool.
What does an alpaca eat and how much does it cost to feed
one average alpaca?
This cost will vary throughout the year.
In the winter, you may need to supply the entire diet,
but in the summer, you only need to supplement the alpaca
diet. Fresh grass is always preferable to grass hay. We
feed each alpaca daily grain supplements year-round (one
to two cups), but give them (under vet advice) more in
the winter months, especially pregnant and nursing mothers.
Alpaca pellets are a mixture of grain and supplements
(vitamins and minerals) and can be found at many feed
stores. Use rodent-proof storage containers so you may
purchase in volume. Some ranchers mix this grain/pellets
with rolled corn and molasses. Check with your alpaca
vet for his/her recommendation. We own six dogs of various
sizes, and it costs us less to feed an alpaca than any
one of our dogs.
III. The Animal
1: Do alpacas make good
Most alpacas are gentle and cooperative
with humans. Pet-quality denotes the alpaca, usually a
gelded male, whose value derives from his fiber. Children
especially love these huggable little creatures, and the
feeling is mutual, for alpacas seem to exhibit a special
warmth in their reactions to human crias. They are usually
very tame and can be enjoyed in parades, as therapy animals
in nursing homes and hospitals, as 4-H projects, and in
their official role as farm mascots.
Are alpacas dangerous?
No. Alpacas are non-aggressive and tend
to move away when they feel threatened. They assert dominance
with other members of their herd, but are submissive and
non-threatening towards humans. Their feet are padded,
they do not bite, and they are small enough to be safe
even around small children.
Are alpacas intelligent?
Alpacas are intelligent, inquisitive, curious,
and highly adaptable. They tend to follow the lead of
the dominant members of their herd, but cooperate with
their handlers during halter training, loading for shipment,
and at other times when their individual responses are
more noticeable. They learn new tasks quickly and seem
to enjoy interacting with humans.
Do alpacas spit?
Alpacas will occasionally spit at each other.
This is usually exhibited during feeding and other times
when dominance is being asserted. This does not injure
the other alpacas and no member of the herd seems to take
the spitting too seriously. Alpacas, unlike llamas, do
not spit on people. They are much too well-bred for such
What is the gestation period for an alpaca?
Approximately 335 days.
How old must alpacas be before they are bred?
This varies, but generally a 15 to 18 month
old female and a 28 to 36 month old male will be ready
to begin breeding.
Can alpacas be successfully artificially inseminated or
have embryo transplants?
No. Alpacas breed through induced ovulation,
which requires physical copulation between male and female.
1: Can an alpaca pack
like a llama?
No. They can carry a small child or light
backpack, but for heavier loads, the larger llama is much
more appropriate. As our animals are treasures to us,
we do not tax or stress them in any way.
How do you transport alpacas?
They travel very well. A family minivan,
station wagon, utility vehicle, or trailer can be used
to transport alpacas. We use an air-conditioned, heated
two-passenger van with a divider between us and the alpacas
for traffic safety. Alpacas can be transported in planes
as well. Once they are in transport, they lie down and
relax. Generally they are more at ease when transported
in groups of two or more. Alpacas learn to jump in their
transport and will lie down, look out the window and enjoy
1: How often do you
Alpacas are shorn once per year in the spring
before it gets too hot.
After an alpaca is sheared, what do you do with its fiber?
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- Raw fiber can be sold directly to hand spinners
and other craft people.
- By joining the North American Alpaca Fiber Cooperative,
your fiber can be pooled with other North American
alpaca breeders and made into a variety of designer
- You can have your fiber processed by a commercial
mill and spun into yarn.
- Alpaca fleece is easy to work with. You can even
spin it yourself for a variety of apparel and craft
Why is alpaca fiber valuable?
Alpaca fiber is classified as a rare specialty
fiber. It is five times warmer than sheep wool fiber and
more luxurious than cashmere. There are more than 22 natural
colors of alpaca fleece. An infinite array of natural
colors can be produced by blending these fibers. Alpaca
fiber can also be easily dyed. Alpaca fiber is strong
and resilient and has more thermal capacity than almost
any other animal fiber. The fiber actually contains microscopic
air pockets that contribute to the creation of lightweight
apparel with very high insulation value. Alpaca fiber
does not itch as wool often does because it does not contain
lanolin and has a smooth cell structure.
What are the characteristics of alpaca fiber that are
used in judging overall fiber quality?
- Fiber type
- Tensile strength
The above characteristics may be altered
by husbandry, breeding, nutrition, and management procedures.
It is vital to have a consistent nutritional program during
the alpaca's growth period to ensure uniformity of fiber
What are the main body areas of the alpaca that are considered
[Diagram coming soon!]
When shearing only once per year, will I be able to make
enough profit on the sale of fleece to justify the cost
of an alpaca?
No! The sale of fleece will only help cover
annual expenses of maintaining the animal. Remember, the
alpaca business is a breeding-based industry. Profits
are made by breeding and selling the animals from your
farm. A fiber-based industry may develop in the future,
but experts in the field estimate that his will require
at least another 10 to 15 years.
What is AOBA?
AOBA (ah-oh-buh) stands for the Alpaca Owners
and Breeders Association. It is the organization that
provides information to members regarding alpaca events,
has an excellent library, and promotes the alpaca breeding
industry. It is a strong and active national breed association
with a growing number of regional affiliates and AOBA-sanctioned
national committees focused on addressing all aspects
of the alpaca industry. AOBA was formed in 1988 to:
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- Promote public awareness and membership.
- To educate its members on the care and breeding
of the alpaca.
- To promote the growth of the alpaca industry.
- To foster the establishment of the breed outside
of its origin and by encouraging husbandry and breeding
procedures based upon, but not limited to, herd health,
soundness, and wool production.
What is The Alpaca Registry?
The Alpaca Registry was established to help
ensure accurate records and has a state-of-the-art record-keeping
system to document bloodlines. Alpacas must be blood-typed
in order to be registered. Every alpaca in the US should
What is the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America
This fiber cooperative accepts fleece from
its members and turns the treasured textile into quality
alpaca garments and products. Members benefit from a ready
outlet for their fiber, and the cooperative works to increase
awareness of and demand for the luxurious clothing, yarn,
textiles, and home products.
VII. Costs and Investment
How much do alpacas cost?
Alpaca prices vary and depend on many factors.
Among these are the animal's sex, quality (conformation,
fiber density, luster, etc.), and color. (See section
on "The Alpaca" for more information.) You may also view
The Alpaca Gallery®; for
specific pictures and prices of animals you may be interested
What do you think is better as an investment-a suri or
Look at both. Which do you enjoy looking
at most? There are fewer suri alpacas than huacaya alpacas
in the world and in the U.S. Alpaca.com®; L.L.C. sells both
suri and huacaya alpacas; however, we specialize in quality
animals to meet the specific needs of each prospective
buyer. Suri alpacas, for centuries, were bred to yield
only white fiber, and colored suri alpaca were culled
from the South American herds. In North America there
is at this time a focus on the colored suri and these
animals command premium prices. Whatever type of animal
you choose, select the best quality you can afford. Five
years from now, you will be glad you did, for you will
have hopefully developed an outstanding, high-quality
Do I need to buy super expensive alpacas to have a good
We recommend you buy the best alpacas that
you can afford. You can certainly get started with less
expensive alpacas; it will just take you longer to develop
the best quality animals. However, you can save money
by buying the lesser quality females and breeding up with
quality herdsires. If you are only interested in fiber,
then start with the less expensive neutered males. The
fiber from a gelding can be just as valuable, and you
can use it for your alpaca creations or sell it to weavers
What do I need to consider to insure a better return on
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- Quality. Buy quality foundation stock. All future
returns on your investment will depend on the quality
of your offspring. It stands to reason that high-quality
animals will sell for high prices, and poor-quality
animals sell for lower prices. It is most important
to purchase the very best foundation stock you can
- Quantity. If you can begin your herd with a purchase
of several pregnant females, you have increased your
chances of a faster return for your investment. Only
one pregnant female has a 50/50 chance of a female
birth. If your one female delivers a male, you can
only produce income if it becomes a herdsire, and
you must wait two to three years for the herdsire
- Age. How fast you receive a return on your investment
also depends on the age of the alpaca. If you buy
a five to six-month-old female, you must wait until
she is approximately 1 ½ years old to become pregnant,
and then an 11-month gestation after that until you
have a cria to sell, and then you must wait five to
six months before you sell it as a weanling. If you
purchase a pregnant female that is close to birthing,
you will have offspring to sell much sooner. View
Alpaca.com®;'s The Alpaca Gallery®; and/or Alpaca.com®;'s
Online Auction to select your investment or pet-quality
Why do alpacas command such high prices?
- They are pleasant, gentle, clean, do not smell,
and are earth-friendly.
- They are easy to take care of-low maintenance,
- They produce beautiful fiber that is in high demand
because of the low supply of these rare and beautiful
- There are tax advantages in a recognized and sanctioned
- They are very enjoyable to be around and make you
Today, it is a breeders' market, and this
will continue for some time. Years from now, the alpaca
will still be valuable because of the intrinsic value
of its remarkable fleece. The fiber production in this
country will increase until eventually there will be enough
volume to enter the mass market with domestic alpaca products.
Alpaca farmers can opt to send their fiber to the Fiber
Co-op. The Co-op also offers its members the opportunity
to purchase wholesale alpaca products to sell retail however
How much does insurance cost per year?
An alpaca can be insured so you are protected
from financial loss. The cost to insure is approximately
3.25 to 3.5 percent of its value per year. You do not
need to insure all your animals; it depends on your risk
tolerance whether you will want to insure the less valuable
ones as well. The cost of insurance can go down with each
year of ownership. Alpacas are depreciated over a five-year
period. For example, if you pay $20,000 for an alpaca,
you depreciate the animal at a rate of $4,000 per year
over a five-year period. The second year, you may reduce
your insurance by $4,000 and then eliminate insurance
after five years of ownership. Please seek the advice
of an accountant so you may take the best tax advantage
available to you.
How much should I expect to spend on medical bills per
year for each alpaca?
This cost depends on your level of experience
with animal care, local vet costs, personal luck, and
health of your animals as well as your need and level
of concern. As you become more experienced in the care
of your alpacas, you will be able to do many things yourself.
Seek the advice and help of a good alpaca veterinarian
and learn from him/her.
Will the price of animals fall when there are hundreds
of thousands of alpacas and the wool industry in the United
States is well established?
Yes. The price of quality breeding stock
will, however, remain high. Breeding-based businesses
are the same in that the best animals will always sell
for the highest dollars. The United States will eventually
have a commercial market for inexpensive alpacas used
only for their wool.
VIII. How Do I Get
1: What type of alpaca
does Alpaca.com®; Farm specialize in?
Alpaca.com®; L.L.C. specializes in finding
and brokering the sale of alpacas varying from pet quality
to the most elite breeding stock. Our personal herd consists
of high-quality suris. Our services work together and
are exclusive to Alpaca.com®; L.L.C. They include:
- The Alpaca Finder (selective search)
- The Alpaca Gallery®; (photos and video)
- The Alpaca.com®; Online Auction (reserve auction
with photos and video)
- The Alpaca.com®; free consultation service based
on honesty, integrity, and truly caring that you succeed.
This exclusive combination of services brings
alpacas to the world via the global community. Visitors
are most welcome to our website 24/7 and to our farm by
appointment. We truly enjoy helping others enjoy these
How do I get started?
Please call our farm office at 1 (866) ALPACAS
or 1 (734) 995 1500, and we can assist you in answering
any further questions and in getting you started in the
alpaca business as a pet owner or as an investment/business
owner. We try to make this process fun and exciting and
relieve you by taking care of burdensome details and guiding
you as you begin your new venture. You may also look through
The Alpaca Gallery®; or
The Alpaca.com®; Online Auction
to view the quality alpacas available for purchase.