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Alpaca Information

Listed below are some answers to questions we are often asked about our alpacas. We are passionate about our animals, and are always happy to offer information about alpacas, and answer any questions you may have.

What do you do with them?

Alpacas are a versatile animal. Their fibre is prized for its unique traits, and has been highly valued for centuries. Alpacas in North America are often used as production animals for fibre, as well as for breeding purposes. Alpacas may be shown in conformation/fibre halter classes, and in some areas may even be shown in performance classes. Every part of the alpaca can be used, with the fibre being the most common commodity, in some areas their meat is a lean alternative to more traditional fare, and even their manure can be used directly as fertilizer in gardens. 

How do you get their fibre off?

Alpacas are shorn once a year by an alpaca shearer, in a manner not dissimilar to sheep. Depending on the farm, the alpaca will be restrained either standing up, on the ground, or using a tilt-table to keep both the animal and handlers calm and safe during this process. At this time, the shearer will use clippers to remove both the prime fleece and any remaining fibre that can interfere with the animals temperature regulation during the hot summer months. It is also common practice for other procedures, such as nail-clipping, tooth trimming, and vaccinations to be administered at this time. 

Do they spit?

Yes, alpacas do spit. However, contrary to popular internet videos, alpacas do not normally spit at people. Spitting is a way for alpacas to tell each other that they are upset or annoyed, and would like to be left alone. Most often, when a person is spat upon, it is because they were unwittingly standing in the crossfire between two annoyed alpacas who were spitting at each other. However, people who annoy alpacas by getting in their personal space without warning, and who scare the animals may end up covered in spit. This may be just a dry warning spit (just air), or a more serious wet spit containing vegetable matter from the animal's stomach.

Can you milk them?

Yes, you can milk an alpaca. No, you probably should not milk alpacas for dairy purposes, as they only produce a few ounces at a time. However, if you have a female who has temporarily rejected a cria, or who has developed mastitis, she may need to be milked for colostrum, or to help remove infection. 

How long are they pregnant for?

Alpacas can generally produce a single cria a year, as their gestation period is roughly 345 days. Depending on the female, she may be pregnant as short as 345 days, or even longer than 365.

They're like llamas, right?

Alpacas are a South American Camelid (SAC for short). As such, they are closely related to llamas, guanacos, and vicuña, and distantly related to both dromedary and bactrian camels. There are no wild alpacas, though they are most closely related to their wild cousin, the vicuña, which is also valued for their elite fibre. Llamas, the larger counterpart, are actually more closely related to their wild cousin, guanacos.  

Overall, alpacas are a smaller relative of the llama. They have been bred for their fleece, not for their working capabilities and meat like the llama. 

Where did you get the emus?

For some odd reason, alpacas are often mistaken for emus. While somewhat similar in appearance, with their elegant long necks and soulful eyes, alpacas and emus are two completely different species. Emus are a large, flightless bird that is very similar in appearance to ostriches, and are native to Australia.

What's their fibre worth?

Depending on the fineness of the fibre, and its colour (as some colours are more commercially versatile than others), alpaca fibre can command prices as much as $60+ per pound in grade 1 or 2 fleeces (the finest fleeces available), or in higher grade (coarser) fleeces, $15 per pound. These prices further fluctuate depending on whether it is raw, or has been processed.