Alpacas are very social, intelligent creatures that tend to be docile and very sweet. They are true pack animals and always prefer to be around their pack. They get along very well with children and can be halter trained rather easily, and can be easily herded without a dog. They do spit (the most common question that we get!!) but unlike their cousins the camel, they mostly spit at each other or if feeling very threatened. Their only true way of protecting themselves from predators is by running.
Alpacas were domesticated from the Vicuna by the Incas of the Andes Mountains over 5000 years ago and are among the most ancient of the worlds domestic animals. Finer grades of Alpaca fiber were used by Inca nobility. They are considered to be the aristocrat of all farm animals providing a fiber that continues today to be sought after world-wide for its warmth and softness.
There are two breeds of Alpaca: Huacaya and Suri. You can tell the difference by the look and feel of their fiber; the Huacaya is fluffy and soft, the Suri has silky and long locks. The Suri is the rarer of the two breeds. Much of the attraction of this type of livestock is that Alpaca can absolutely be profitable without going to the slaughterhouse. After shearing once per year, which yields 5-10 pounds of fleece, the fiber can be handspun or sent to a fiber mill to be cleaned and processed to make into yarn. This fiber differs from wool as it is virtually grease free and therefore hypoallergenic. Many luxurious, warm and even sturdy items can be made from their wonderful fleece.
Some of our attraction to these wonderful animals is that they are one of the most environmentally friendly farm animals for many reasons:
- One Alpaca can produce enough fleece in a year to produce several skeins of yarn to use in the creation of all types of clothing and textiles.
- They do not pull up grass by the root but nibble on it so it is not pulled from the ground. Their padded feet leave the most delicate terrain undamaged.
- Three separate stomachs allow the Alpaca to convert grass and hay into energy very efficiently. One horse requires more hay than 50 Alpaca.
- Often called “Alpaca Gold”, Alpaca pooh is great for all gardens and can be used directly without composting with no worries about burning vegetation.
There are several more reasons to love these amazing animals on the ranch! Alpaca are small and easy to handle and 6-10 Alpaca can fit on one well maintained acre of land so they are ideal for small acreage farms and ranches. Additionally, Alpaca only require fencing to keep predators out – they don’t normally challenge fences. They are easy to maintain and transport.
The female Alpaca has a gestation period of about a year and their babies, called Cria, are born weighing between 12-20 pounds. Births can be simple requiring little human intervention, but many difficulties can occur, so it is wise to be prepared and ready to lend the new mother a hand if needed. (Please refer to our Birthing Services that we proudly offer here at the ranch!) But nothing is sweeter than to watch a new mother turn to her newborn and hum to them to induce nursing. Yes they hum to each other as one form of communication!
Please let us know anytime if you would like to learn more about these wonderful animals. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram and you can contact us anytime for more information!
Dana McIntosh and Susan Malcom