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About Alpacas

Alpacas are ruminant animals that are prized throughout the world for their very soft, fine fleece that can be made into high-end products. Alpacas are part of the Camelid family which includes camels, llamas, guanacos, alpacas and vicunas in descending order of size. To give you an idea of the size of alpacas, they are often described as the “smaller cousin of the llama” - they grow to be about three feet at the shoulder, weighing an average of 140lbs. Many people find that alpacas are just small enough to be handled with ease as the average alpaca can look you right in the eye!

There are two different varieties of alpacas. These are defined primarily by differences in their fleece. The more common type of alpaca is known as Huacaya. Huacaya fleece has quite a bit of volume to it, standing out from the body similar to the way a poodle’s coverage looks. The other type of alpaca is called Suri. Suri alpacas have fleece that grows down from their bodies and twists into locks that move in a way that is reminiscent of a fringe. Alpacas also come in sixteen different colors and endless types of patterns. The average lifespan of an alpaca is twenty years. Females begin breeding at sixteen to eighteen months of age and continue to produce until about fifteen years of age! The average female produces about 12 cria in her lifespan. Males can begin breeding at 24 months but often begin around at 36 months of age. Spitting is a camelid trait that alpacas practice, but mostly at each other. On the rare occasion a person gets a “hit” it is usually because she or he is in the crossfire between two animals having a disagreement. The most common spitting incidents range from disputes over food or a female letting a male know that they are not interested in breeding.

The facilities that support alpacas take many forms – governed by budget, space and existing facilities. At a minimum a three sided shelter, a source of clean fresh water, and room to forage and exercise. Abenaki Acres is happy to discuss farm set up, supplies, and other aspects of raising alpacas. Every new owner that receives extensive support in this area from Abenaki Acres Farm. All alpaca owners learn a new vocabulary; orgling, cria, dams, herdsires, kush, are just some of the words that will become part of your every day conversation around alpacas.

Updated January 24, 2014