FAQ’s about Alpacas

Alpacas are South American Camelids closely related to the llama, and more distantly related to the camels of Asia and Africa. They are roughly half the size of a llama and have a docile temperament. Grasses and other forage make up their natural diet as they mostly free range in South America. Due to the relatively low quality of their natural food source, these animals have developed an extremely efficient digestive system. Alpacas were first imported into Canada in the early 1980’s.

Not really. Although they are so cute and soft that you just want to hug them, they are herd animals and do not do well outside of the herd.  They do not like to be touched, and have to be conditioned to accept being touched by humans.  They also require protection from many other animals, especially dogs, which see them as prey.

Alpacas graze on grasses and whatever else they can find. They do not pull up the grass roots so pastures renew if you can rotate your animals around. The alpaca’s digestive system is very efficient, but they do prefer clover and alfalfa because of the taste. High protein forage such as alfalfa or clover can be detrimental to animal health, but protein supplementation is important for Canadian alpacas during our extended winters when they must rely on lower protein hay.

The alpaca’s natural environment is the unforgiving habitat in the Andes mountains. They are very hardy animals with few medical needs. Yearly vaccinations and worming are generally all that is required.  It is a good idea to monitor the alpaca’s weight and check for body conditioning.  These provide a good indication of the animal’s health.  Ears are routinely checked for parasites.  The jaw/teeth can be susceptible to infections and should be routinely checked, as well.

How you shelter your animals will depend on where you are located and your own preferences. Our animals will be tucked into a barn if the weather is too cold.  On the flip side, summers are usually not too hot, and no cooling accommodations are required. Three sided shelters can provide shade on summer days. A good double perimeter fence is needed to protect the herd from predators, such as coyotes, large cats and wolves.

The lifespan is expected to be between 15 to 20 years.

Alpacas almost always deliver one baby called a cria. Twins are extremely rare.  Females over the age of 2 years can be bred once a year.

Gestation is approximately 11-1/2 months. This can vary by a month or more. Alpacas are induced ovulators, and the breedings are timed for delivery to occur when the weather is most favorable.

Crias are usually between 10 and 22 pounds. Full grown animals can range from 120 to 160 pounds.  The males are generally larger than the females.

Crias are usually between 10 and 22 pounds. Full grown animals can range from 120 to 160 pounds.  The males are generally larger than the females.

Alpacas are generally easy to handle. They can be easily herded, and a bucket of oats will lure them when they would otherwise prefer to go the other way.  It is best to handle the alpacas as little as possible and only handle them when necessary.  They don’t mind having humans around because that may mean it’s time for grain or a new bale of hay.  If need be, they can be lead with a halter.  Otherwise they prefer to be left alone.

Alpacas do spit, but unlike their llama cousins they will rarely spit at you. You can get caught in the crossfire if two animals have their eye on the same feed bucket.  They only spit at each other to keep another animal from getting their food.  New mothers will also sometimes spit to protect their babies.

No, alpacas come in over 130 distinct colors ranging from black to white, dark brown to cream, and several shades of gray. The ability to produce an almost limitless color pallet with no dye is a primary advantage of alpaca fiber. Still, the ability to dye the fiber is important and that is why white is the predominant color in most Canadian alpaca herds.

Alpacas only have teeth in the bottom jaw with a hard pallet on the top.  They do not bite anything that is not food.

Alpacas are valued for the exceptional fiber they produce. Generally speaking it is in the same class as cashmere but shares many of the properties found in sheep’s wool but Alpaca fiber is truly in a class by itself. Alpaca fiber is the strongest natural fiber known to man and has an insulating value from three to five times higher than sheep’s wool. These properties, when combined with exceptional softness and luster, make alpaca one of the most valuable textile fibers in the world today.h a hard pallet on the top.  They do not bite anything that is not food.

FAQ’s about Alpaca Fiber

Why is alpaca fiber hypoallergenic?

Alpaca fiber lacks barbs, scales and has a minimum amount of lanolin.  Lanolin is traditionally found in sheep’s wool and it can be irritating to sensitive skin.

What is alpaca fiber good for? Why isn’t everything made from alpaca?

Alpaca fiber is great.  It is soft, warm, hypoallergenic, and wicking.  But it does not have a lot of loft.  A small amount of sheep’s wool when combined with alpaca will give the yarn loft or yarn memory.  Some products are best made out of 100% alpaca yarn – like toques, scarves, wraps and baby blankets.  Items with heavier use, like socks, sweaters and mittens need stretch, durability.  Adding wool and sometimes nylon or other synthetics will help these items to last and perform better.

Does alpaca fiber wick moisture as well as wool?

Wool has air pockets which gives it a thermal capacity that can absorb up to 50% of its weight. It can sit on the skin without creating any irritations, blisters or odors.  Alpaca fiber is a hollow fiber, so it does not absorb moisture, but rather pushes water away from itself and toward the outside of the fiber, which means there is not a saturation point.  Your skin will stay dry as the moisture is wicked away.

What is the difference between alpaca’s fiber and sheep’s wool?

Alpaca fiber is stronger and warmer than sheep’s wool and holds a much greater wicking capacity.

“Alpaca fleece is as soft as cashmere, warmer than sheep’s wool, hypo-allergenic and almost completely waterproof.”

In a world growing weary of synthetic materials and enthusiastically turning toward eco-friendly choices, alpaca fiber offers an opportunity for consumers to wear soft, warm, durable, natural garments.

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