Frequently Asked Questions
What is an alpaca? Alpacas are camelids - cousins to camels, llamas, guanacos, and vicunas. The alpaca is smaller than camels, llamas, and guanacos, but larger than vicunas. They are about half the size of llamas.
Are there different kins of alpacas? There are 2 types of alpacas -- the Huacaya (pronounced wah-KI'-ya) and the Suri (pronounced sir'ee). The Huacaya fleece is crimped and very dense giving them a fuzzy, "Teddy Bear" appearance. Huacayas account for approximately 90% of alpacas in the U.S. The Suri is the alpaca with dreadlocks. In full coat, these long, non-crimped, lustrous "pencils" grow downward, creating a layered and majestic appearance.
Can you own only one? Alpacas are herd animals and don't do well when left alone. If you buy only one you should agist (board) where it can be among a herd. Or buy a pet/PR/fiber alpaca as a companion.
What colors are they? Alpacas come in approximately 22 basic colors with many variations and blends.
Where do they come from? The alpaca is found indigenously only in South America -- especially along the west-central part of the continent -- the countries of Peru, Chili, and Bolivia.
How long do they live? The lifespan of the alpaca is about 20 years.
How big do they get? Adult alpacas are about 36" tall at the withers (the point where the neck and spine come together) and generally weight between 100 and 200 pounds.
How often do they have babies, how many, and how big are the babies? Gestation is 11.5 months. They have one cria (baby) each year. Twins are very rare. Cria weight between 10-25 pounds when born.
What are alpacas used for? Alpacas produce one of the world's finest and most luxurious natural fibers. The fleece is clipped from the animal annually without causing it injury. The fleece is soft as cashmere and warmer, lighter, and stronger than sheep's wool.
What do they eat and how much? The main thing alpacas eat is grass and hay. They eat and chew a cud. Alpacas eat approximately 2 pounds of grass or hay per 125 pounds of body weight per day. Additionally, an alpaca pellet or chow is usually fed at the rate of 1 to 1-1/2 cups per alpaca per day. Free-choice minerals and plenty of fresh water to drink should be available at all times.
Are they friendly? Alpacas are livestock and as such are not naturally friendly towards humans. However, they are gentle and easy to handle and train.
Do they kick, spit or bite? Alpacas don't have incisors, horns, hooves or claws. They don't usually kick, spit, bite or butt humans. You will see kicking, spitting, biting or butting occurring between alpacas to establish positions within the herd.
How do you care for alpacas? Alpacas are small and relatively easy livestock to maintain. You can pasture 5-10 alpacas per acre. Alpacas are clean, safe, quiet, intelligent, highly adaptable, and disease resistant. Alpacas need basic nutrition, fencing to protect them from predators, shelter and protection from heat and foul weather, and being livestock, they do require certain vaccinations and anti-parasitic medicines. Additionally, their toe nails need to be trimmed every couple of months and the fleece sheared off once a year.
Can you raise alpacas in the southern U.S.? Yes, you can! I won't say that alpacas thrive in our climate, but they do well as long as you provide them ample protection from our heat and humidity.
What is the concept of compounding for herd growth? Savings accounts earn interest, which if left in the account, adds to the principal. The increased principal earns additional interest, thereby compounding the investor's return. Alpacas reproduce almost every year, and about 40% of the cria are females. When you retain the offspring in your herd, they begin producing cria. This is "Alpaca Compounding."
What is an alpaca's reproductive lifespan? The reproductive lifespan of a female is 12 to 14 years, from 2 to 17 years of age approximately. The reproductive lifespan of a herd sire is 10 to 12 years, from 3 to 16 years of age approximately. Prime years are 5 to 10 years of age.
What markets are available and what drives them? At present, the major market is in selling alpaca livestock, but the industry is moving to establish an alpaca fiber market.
What do you do with alpaca fleece? An alpaca fleece grows 5 to 6 inches and produces 5 to 10 pounds of fiber per year. Current prices paid for clean, high-quality alpaca fleece range from $3 to $5 an ounce. Selling an alpaca's fleece each year should be sufficient to cover annual feed costs and other maintenance expenses for that animal. Yarn, clothing, and household goods can be made from the fleece.
How do you transport alpacas? Alpacas can be transported in specially designed small livestock trailers, stock trailers, horse trailers, vans, or SUV's.
Can you ride, pack or pull a cart with alpacas? I wouldn't because of their small size. Llamas are better suited for packing and pulling carts. Alpacas in full fleece are deceiving . . . . they look much bigger that they really are.
How much do they cost? Alpaca livestock prices are holding well in today's uncertain market. A junior herd sire or a maiden female sells for $5,000 and up. A productive male or female can sell for $10,000 and up. Geldings sell for $500 and up. Stud fees range from $500 to $5,000. Alpacas are expensive because there aren't that many of them, they take 2 years to reach breeding maturity, and they reproduce slowly (1 cria per year).
Is investing in alpacas risky? It is important to recognize that there are inherent risks to alpaca ownership just like in any other livestock or financial investment. Illness, injury, and death are sometimes unavoidable and unexpected.
Can you insure alpacas? Yes, 100%
What tax opportunities are available? The major tax advantages are the use of depreciation, capital gains treatment, and, for active owners, sheltering income from other sources by expensing farm related business items.