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Alpaca Facts

Since ancient times, the South American Andes Mountains have been the ancestral home to the prized alpaca. Their fleece was cherished by members of the Incan civilization (referred to as "The Fiber of the Gods"), and their graceful herds of alpaca roamed the lush foothills and mountainous pastures. In the 17th century, Spanish conquistadors killed a large part of both the Incan and alpaca populations, forcing the retreating survivors to seek refuge in the high mountain plains known as the Altiplano. The high altitude and harsh landscape ensured only the hardiest of these creatures survived, and these ancestors of today's best bloodlines have provided a gene pool producing hardy, agile animals with dense, high quality fiber.

Peru, Bolivia, and Chile are still home to the largest percentage of alpacas in the world, and are a member of the camelid family, which also includes dromedary and Bactrian camels, llamas, vicunas, and guanacos. They are a modified ruminant and chew their cud similar to a cow, although they have three stomachs rather than the true ruminant, which has four. Alpacas selectively graze, eating pasture grasses and hay, a fact that makes feeding alpacas relatively inexpensive.

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There are two different alpaca breeds, the suri and the huacaya. The suri has fiber that grows quite long and forms silky, pencil-like locks. The huacaya has a shorter, dense, crimpy fleece, giving it a very woolly appearance.

 

Alpacas have soft padded feet, making them gentle on their pastures, and they have no top teeth in the front. The average height of an alpaca is 90cm at the withers, and they weigh from 50 to 80 kgs. 

 

Alpacas have a life span of 15 to 20 years, so you can enjoy your alpaca for a long time. Not only do they have a long reproductive life, they will provide fleece for a lifetime, making your investment long-lived.

An alpaca's gestation period is 11 to 12 months, and they have single births (twins are extremely rare). A baby alpaca, called a cria, usually weighs between 6 and 10kgs.

Alpaca fibre comes in 22 colours that are recognized by the textile industry, and there are many blends in addition to that. Alpacas are shorn for their wonderful fleece each year, which will produce 2 to 5 kgs of soft, warm fiber that is turned into the most luxurious garments in the world.

Compared to most types of livestock, alpacas are very easy to raise and maintain. They require small acreage for grazing and are very easy keepers. Alpacas are ruminants with three stomachs and very efficiently convert hay and grass to energy. Their basic care includes shearing, worming and vaccinations.

They do require basic shelter to protect them from intense heat or extreme cold however these animals originate from the Andean Mountain ranges and are very hardy. One acre of land can accommodate 5 - 8 animals. This makes alpacas the livestock of choice for individuals or families who have only a few acres and still want the pleasure and investment potential of raising alpacas.

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