It’s easy to make a personal connection with an alpaca. They are very curious and friendly once they get to know you. Alpacas can become accustomed to visitors and will nibble treats from your hand. Here are some basic facts about alpacas.
How long do they live?Where do alpacas come from?
• Native to South America in high altitude regions
• Found in Chile, Bolivia, Peru
• First imported into the US in 1983
• Early relatives of the alpaca originated in North America. Between 65 and 40 million years ago. Some migrated across a land bridge to the Middle East where they became camels. Others migrating to South America are the modern day llamas, alpacas, vicunas and guanacos.
• There are 2 distinct breeds – Huacaya and Suri. Our alpacas are huacayas and we have 2 llamas for livestock guards.
An average alpaca lifespan is between 14-20 yrs.
What do they eat?
They graze on pasture and eat orchard grass hay. Twice a day we feed them supplemental grain pellets that are blended with micro-nutrients to balance their nutritional intake. And they are provided ample water and orchard grass hay.
What is the size and weight of an alpaca?
The average weight of an adult alpaca is between 100- 175 lbs and will stand about 3 ft at the withers (measured over the front legs in the shoulder area).
What color is their fleece?
Alpacas are found in 22 defined natural colors – white, various fawns, browns, grays and black. Some are born with multi-colored, patterned fleece sometimes called tuxedo, pinto, or other named color pattern styles.
What about breeding?
We keep the girls and boys in separate pastures so we can selectively breed for specific fleece characteristics. Our breedings are planned so births occur during the warmer NW months of July – Sept. Gestation is approximately 11.5 months.
Alpaca babies are called cria. [ cree-uh] Normally they birth only one cria at a time. Twins are rare. Conveniently most births are during daylight hours without human assistance or interference. A cria averages 16 – 20 lbs at birth and is typically walking and nursing within an hour. Being herd animals, the other moms and aunties are quick to surround the newborn cria encouraging their first steps and protecting them from danger.
What is their temperament?
Alpacas are friendly and curious but may keep their distance until they feel comfortable with you. Once accustomed to being handled, they will greet visitors and nibble treats from your hand. If they feel threatened or frightened they will run and if they feel cornered they may kick. Quiet, calm behavior in the pasture will assure that both people and alpacas feel safe.
Do they spit?
That’s the number one, most often asked question. And yes, they do. But it’s just one form of communication between them. They rarely will spit intentionally at you. They are expressing annoyance with another alpaca or sending a message to stay away from their food or their space. Females will spit at a male if she is pregnant and he is making moves to breed.
What is the difference between an alpaca and a llama?
Visiting our farm you can see the different features of alpacas and llamas. The llama is larger in height and adult llamas weigh nearly twice an adult alpaca. The llamas distinctive banana shaped ears are a quick way to tell the difference. Their tails are set higher on the rump. Their legs are usually not as full of fiber as an alpaca. Their nose/face area tends to be longer and have much shorter fiber than an alpaca. You will see alpacas with some llama features as there has been some cross-breeding. Llamas are often used as pack animals or livestock guards; whereas, an alpaca is raised for its fleece.
Can you train an alpaca?
Absolutely. Alpacas and llamas can be halter-trained. Many of our males were in the 4H program. The 4H handlers, aged 9 – 19, work to gain the trust of their alpacas and can lead them through various obstacles, pick up their feet for grooming and load into vehicles for transporting. Each alpaca has a different personality and plays a unique role in the herd.