Alpacas are timeless treasures having been domesticated in South America for approximately 6000 years, making them, with their llama cousins the oldest domesticated livestock on the planet! They are a Camelid- cousin to camels in South America and Asia, and wild guinacos and vicunas in South America. Alpacas have never been wild, but rather developed from the vicuna (which grows some of the finest and most rare fibre in the world) by selective breeding practices of the ancient South American tribes, most notably the Incas. Alpacas are still raised for their fibre which is harvested annually mostly in Peru, but they are rapidly gaining popularity around the globe. There are approximately 30,554 alpacas registered in Canada (2015 CLAA statistics ). 3 million reside in Peru. As a comparison, 1,034,008,000 sheep live around the globe (United Nations FAO, 2002). Alpacas are very rare in comparison.
Alpacas bring smiles! They are intelligent, gentle and easily trained, making them excellent 4H animals. Listening to their gentle hum is a therapeutic start or relaxing end to a stressful day. Their inquisitive, playful nature is often evident at chore time as they nibble at your jacket or romp through the barn. The grace and agility of alpacas combined with personality and attitude have brought many smiles and happy giggles to our farm, family and friends who visit.
Alpacas are easy keepers. They are relatively small at 36 inches at the withers (where shoulders and neck meet) and weigh between 135 and 200 lbs when full grown. They are extremely efficient fibre factories, thriving on grass hay and 1/2 to 2 cups of mineral ration/grain per day. They cost approximately $1.00 to 1.50/day to feed, and are FUN to own. They need no special, housing, handling facilities or equipment to manage, just protective fence to keep coyotes and dogs out and a simple shelter from bad weather and hot sun. They need a good supply of fresh water unlike their camel cousins. They are hardy and can be successfully raised from Alaska to Texas & from the East coast to the west coast. The whole family can safely be involved in the herd care. As with any livestock a herd health program is recommended with regular deworming in the spring and fall, annual 8way vaccinations, toenail trimming every 2 to 5 months (depending on individual need). Teeth may occasionally need to be filed and fighting teeth in males removed. Alpacas need to be shorn once per year. All are safe and non threatening tasks.
Alpacas are unique. They have 3 stomachs and chew their cud. They produce one offspring (cria) per year after 11 and 1/2 months gestation. They almost always deliver in daylight between 9am and 4pm. The cria are usually up sucking within an hour. Alpacas are induced ovulators, which means they can be bred year round, but most breeders do not breed for winter babies. Males mature between 2 to 3 years of age, females are bred between 12 to 18 months. They are community animals. They use a community dung pile making clean up relatively easy. (Many breeders are establishing a market for alpaca pellets with gardeners.) Alpacas hum, females cluck to newborns, males orgal while mating , and all have a high-pitched musical, rhythmic alarm call.