Alpaca Facts

  • The wonderful alpacas are members of the camelid family native to South America.  They originated in the Andes Mountains.  Alpacas are relatives of the llama, vicuna, and guanaco.
  • The first import of alpacas into the United States began in 1983 from Chili and Bolivaia.  The first Peruvian imports arrived in the U.S. in 1993.  The ARI (Alpaca Registry, Inc.) was formed in 1995 and in 1998 the ARI closed to imports.
  • Alpacas come in a range of 22 natural colors and are known for their luxurious fleece. Their fleece is hypoallergenic and contains no lanolin.
  • There are two breeds/types of alpacas: Huacaya and Suri.  The Huacaya’s fleece is known for its natural crimp and grows perpendicular to the skin.  This is what gives them their “teddy bear” appearance.    The Suri’s fleece is known for its luster and lock structure.  Their fleece grows parallel to the skin and is long and silky, a dreadlock appearance.  There is nothing more beautiful than watching a suri’s fleece shining in the sun and blowing in the wind.  Maybe I’m just a bit partial.   
  • Alpacas are social animals and need to be a part of a herd.   While they can get along with other species, such as llamas, sheep, and goats, they will be happiest with other alpacas around.  This is why you need at least two for them to do well. 
  • An alpaca has two toenails on each foot and the bottom of their foot is a pad.  This aids them in not making such a big imprint on your pasture and makes them eco friendly. 
  • Alpacas are considered “pseudoruminants” because they have 3  stomachs, rather than 4 like cattle, sheep, and goats.  Their stomachs function like a cow’s however, providing efficient digestion of hay and pasture by the microorganisms (bacteria and protozoa) within their stomach.
  • Alpaca fencing needs to be sturdy to keep out predators.  Alpacas rarely challenge a fence or try to jump over, but good fencing is a must to prevent stray dogs, coyotes, or other wildlife from entering.  This is where Livestock Guardian dogs such as the Anatolian Shepherd or Great Pyrenees play an important role.  They patrol the fence and keep an eagle eye on the animals under their care, and will defend the herd from danger.
  • Alpacas are simply called male and female.  There are no specific sex-related terms such as mare or stallion or cow and bull.
  • Female alpacas are induced ovulators,  which means the act of mating causes the female to ovulate; this results in near constant fertility.  Alpacas are not seasonal breeders, so they can be bred at any time during the year.  A baby alpaca is known as a cria.  Females usually deliver one cria and then are usually ready to breed again in about 3 weeks. The gestation period is 11 ½ months.  A female that has not produced a cria is known as a maiden.  A maiden female is usually ready for her first breeding at 1 ½ to 2 ½ years of age.  A female is known  as proven after she has delivered a cria.  When starting your herd, it can be helpful to have some proven females and not just maidens in your herd. 
  • Males are usually ready to breed (settle) a female by 2-3 years of age.  The act of mating is unique in domestic livestock, in that they breed lying down or “kushed”, and take 20-50 minutes to breed.  Also, the male produces a near-continuous vocalization known as “orgling” throughout breeding.  
  • Adult males usually range from 150-200 pounds.  Females range from 130-170 pounds.  This can be compared to adult llamas that weigh in around 300-400 pounds.  The height at the withers for an adult alpaca is 35-36 inches.
  • Alpacas achieve their adult height and size by 2-3 years of age and full growth by 4-5 years of age.  Adulthood is also established by when all teeth have fully erupted which occurs around 5 years of age.
  • Alpacas are a unique animal in the fact they have no upper incisors, just a hard palate their lower teeth bite against.  Their baby teeth (lower incisors) fall out from 2-6 years of age, when the developing (or erupting) permanent tooth pushes the baby tooth out.  They have 6 fighting teeth altogether (4 canine teeth and 2 modified premolars) which the males use in dominance battles.  Fighting teeth are small or absent in females and early castrated males.  Alpacas have 4-5 molars (including premolars) on each jawbone, which is fewer than horses or people. 
Suris of the Sangres
Suris of the Sangres
Melissa Custer
1030 Lake View Rd
Westcliffe,  CO  81252-9796
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