Park View Alpacas

Alpacas

Alpacas: Frequently Asked Questions about Alpacas

Answers To Frequently Asked Questions About Alpacas

Alpaca FAQs

Do you want to find out more about raising exotic livestock alpacas on your small acreage farm and creating fine handspun fiber crafts from your own alpacas' fiber?  Here are some frequently asked questions and their answers:

What is an alpaca?

Alpacas are members of the camelid family along with llamas, vicunas and even camels.  Alpacas originated in the Andean mountain range of South America and have been imported in the United States over a period of the last thirty years. Vicunas are the smallest, alpacas are the next largest, then llamas, and within this group, camels are the largest. Alpacas are about three feet tall at the withers and weigh around 150 pounds full grown.  Within the U.S., alpacas are rare and unusual enough to be considered exotic. 

There are two types of alpacas: huacayas and suris.  We raise both types of alpacas here at Park View Alpacas.  Huacayas and suris differ in their body styles and fiber characteristics.  Cross-breeding is not encouraged in the industry.  Huacayas have a more compact body style and their fiber is more crimpy and similar to sheep's wool (although not oily at all) while suris have a more lanky look with longer necks and legs.  Suri fiber hangs in locks and is physically more similar to hair.  Suri fiber widely known for its high luster or shine.


Huacaya Alpacas
(Almost 90% of U.S. Alpacas are huacayas)


Colorful Suri Alpacas
(About 10% of the U.S. alpaca population are suris.)

Lifespan: 20 years
Gestation: 
11.5 months 
Back to top.

How do alpacas compare to llamas?

Alpacas are smaller than llamas and have straight ears.  Llamas have curved, banana-shaped ears and larger, barrel-shaped bodies.  Llamas have coarser guard hairs interspersed throughout their coats, although these can be removed during processing.  Llamas are known to aggressively protect members of their herd (even alpaca herds) and are therefore frequently added to alpaca herds as "guard llamas."  Back to top.

Why do people raise alpacas?  

Alpacas are raised ultimately as a fiber animal, just as some sheep, goats, and rabbits are.  The fleece is sheared off annually in the spring and regrows throughout the summer and winter.  A sheared alpaca fleece generally weighs between three and eleven pounds.  A high fleece weight is one characteristic that alpaca breeders strive for (along with other health and fiber considerations).

They are not raised in this country for their meat. There are pet quality and breeding quality (show quality) animals.  Some fiber enthusiasts and spinners like to keep pet quality alpacas in order to hand-spin the fiber from their own animals.

While national organizations work to establish and stabilize the alpaca fiber market in this country, alpaca farmers earn significantly more money by breeding and selling alpacas rather then their fiber.

Breeder's Market

Alpaca prices have stayed high and remained high since alpacas were first imported into the U.S. beginning in 1983. Why?

  • The U.S. Alpaca market is protected by the national registry (Alpaca Registry, Inc., ARI) against a flood of imports lowering the prices. Only offspring of currently registered alpacas can be registered with ARI.

  • The unique and extremely desirable characteristics of their alpaca fiber is likely to keep them in high demand.

  • Your investment multiplies: A healthy, breeding female can have one cria (alpaca baby) each year for many years during adulthood. Healthy alpacas can live for up to 25 years.

Even if you don't have a farm, you can own alpacas and have them boarded (agistment) and still enjoy the benefits of a growing herd and tax deductions.

For more information on the financial and tax benefits, visit the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association Website at www.aoba.org/investments.htm 

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How much do alpacas cost?

There is a tremendous price range in the animals that has to do with the sex, pedigree, and physical characteristics.  Pet quality alpacas can be as little as several hundred dollars while award-winning herdsires have sold at auction for close to $200,000.  You will generally see prices for breeding quality female alpacas between $8,000 and $35,000. Back to top.

What is special about alpaca fiber? 

Alpaca fiber is of a very high quality, similar in fineness to that of angora rabbits and cashmere goats, but the fiber is hollow giving it insulating characteristics similar to the vacuum inside a thermos.  This makes the extremely light and fine fiber also very warm.  Unlike llama fiber, pure alpaca fiber is free from coarse guard hairs.  The entire blanket fleece is usable in making fine garments.  Back to top.

Are alpacas friendly to people?

Alpacas can learn to be very friendly to humans from close contact and training.  They can spit like llamas, but generally do not spit at people.  They spit more often at each other to establish leadership or when fussing over shared food.  Back to top.

How much land do they need to live on?

Alpacas can live comfortably with as many as five alpacas per acres.  They require less acreage than the same number of horses or cows, making an excellent animal for even very small farms.  Back to top.

How do you take care of an alpaca?

Alpacas should be put on a schedule of routine, periodic vaccinations and worming medications.  Most alpaca farmers provide a shelter from the winter storms and the summer sun.  They need hay year-round that is normally supplemented with a grain and salt minerals.  Back to top.

Recommended Reading List

If you want to learn more about alpacas, here are some books you might consider purchasing. Also, if you join the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, they have an reading library as well.

  • Secrets of the Andean Alpaca, The Field Guide: Assessing Fiber Characteristics and Conformation

    This is an excellent guide to selecting a high quality alpaca for purchase based on their body characteristics (called conformation) and their fleece characteristics. It's not available through Amazon.com but well worth the extra effort to get a copy and includes a buyer's assessment checklist, available on CD from the original author at http://www.saltspringer.com/ebook/orders/ or try Steven's Llamatique at http://www.stevenstique.com/ (send them an email) for their last one or two hard copies.

  • Alpacas Magazine (quarterly). Available in bookstores, just ask for them to stock a supply or order back issues from AOBA at 970-586-5357 or kenaoba@aol.com. A subscription to this magazine is also part of membership in AOBA, Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association.

I believe all of these are available through Amazon.com:

  • Caring for Llamas and Alpacas, A Health and Management Guide by Clare Hoffman, DVM and Ingrid Asmus. Short and full of excellent, practical basic care information.

  • Llama and Alpaca Neonatal Care by Bradford B. Smith, DVM, PhD, and two other authors. Essential reading to prepare for the birth of your first cria on the farm.

Once you get some animals on the farm, you might also want these:

  • The Alpaca Book by Hoffman/Fowler

  • Medicine and Surgery of South American Camelids by Dr. Murray Fowler

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Park View All American Alpacas
David, Nancy & Nick TenHulzen  
3001 SW Schaeffer Road
West Linn, Oregon 97068
1-888-4-ALPACAS   (888-425-7222)
Phone: 503-638-3692
Fax: 1-503-638-PACA (7222)
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