Alpacas are part of the camelid family that live in herds and are domesticated animals. Although Alpacas originated from South America, they have adapted well to the European climate. Alpacas are resistant to cold and change of temperatures, therefore, it is not difficult to breed them in any climate although during harsh wet and windy conditions they should have access to shelter. Alpacas are herbivores that eat grass neatly, without trampling or soiling it. Alpacas have soft padded feet therefore preventing compaction to the land.
Alpacas are bred for wool, many types of people have alpacas either for your small holding or a large commercial farm. Alpaca wool is considered to be a luxury product, as it is soft, strong and hypo allergic. Alpaca wool is warmer than sheep wool and it comes in 22 shades of colors. Alpacas are sheared only once per year, with the output of 3-4 kg of fleece. Due to the high quality, items made from alpaca fiber are highly appreciated in the world.
Interesting facts about alpacas:
- The height of an adult alpaca varies between 81 and 99 cm.
- They usually weigh between 48 and 84 kg.
- Their lifespan is 15-20 years.
- Alpaca fibre does not contain lanolin, is hypo allergic and thus perfect for people that suffer from using other wool products.
- Alpacas have become popular in Europe as more understanding and appreciation of the fibre and gentic improvement has become known.
- Alpacas cannot be kept alone a minimum of 3 alpacas can live in one area.
- Alpacas use communal dung piles, therefore, they can be bred and raised in the yards of private houses.
- Since alpacas are clever and friendly animals, it is possible to teach them various commands.
- Even though the main alpaca food is grass, it is advisable not to overfeed them.
- There are 2 breeds of alpacas the most common is the Huacaya and the other one is the Suri which has a dread lock structure to the fibre. The 2 breeds are easy to differentiate.
- Alpaca males are fertile at around 3 years of age although some do start at a younger age.
- Alpacas have a gestation period of 11.5 months and only produce 1 cria per year. Very rarely twins occur however this is about 1 in a 1000 alpacas.
- Alpacas make very good Guard animals and are commonly used to protect chickens or lambs from foxes or other predators.