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More About Alpacas

Alpacas are Herd Animals

Alpacas are herd animals. They should never be kept as singles. Some people keep a few alpacas as pets just because they are so cute.  Most Alpacas, more than 90%, are Huacayas. The remaining are Suri.

The difference between Huacayas and Suri is in the fleece. The full, dense, puffy fleece of Huacayas is has shorter fibre which exhibits crimp or crinkle throughout the fleece and looks “teddy bear like”. Suri have longer silky, shiny, slightly curly, “pencil like” locks which hang down in “dreadlocks”.

Do alpacas spit? Yes and No. Alpacas don’t spit like llamas. They spit on each other whenever they are very angry, but they rarely spit on humans. They don’t like to be touched, especially not on their head. But, they may come and approach you by pushing their nose against you.

Alpacas communicate by a deep humming sound. If they feel seriously angry or in case they feel any danger they give an alarm call.

Mating males give a deep sound, which is called “orgling”. Other than that alpacas are very quiet. Alpacas are environmental friendly. By grazing they don’t destroy the pasture by plucking the roots. Rather, they bite the grass which allows it to grow again. Also, they have very soft feet and don’t destroy the grass when moving around. Alpacas are amazingly clean. They even have a “toilet”, one place on their pasture where they  leave their excrements. So it is easy for us to keep their pasture clean. It is also a perfect fertiliser for the garden.

Alpacas Live Outdoor

Alpacas live outdoor, even in winter. Cold  temperatures are no problem. They got used to it in their natural environment, where they lived in altitudes up to 4,000 meters. So they do not need to be kept in a barn, but they like a shelter or trees to protect them from
rain and sun. They prefer to lay down in the shadow.

What do Alpacas eat? Well, usually they live on their pasture and graze like their “cousins” in the Anden mountains. In addition hay may be offered. They eat three to five pounds of grass per day and need sufficient fresh water, two to three gallons a day. Additional feed can be added to improve the health and fleece quality. The diet significantly affects the fleece. If the content of protein is too high the fleece quality will decrease. It is easy to understand that pregnant females, young mothers feeding their babies and babies (called crias) require different nutritional content.

The grass in Canada, America, Australia, Europe, is growing faster compared to the grass in high altitudes in the Andes Mountains and it stores less minerals, like selenium and magnesium. So it might be necessary to provide supplements. In the wintertime when snow makes it difficult to get enough grass, we feed hay. We are careful to feed the right hay again to preserve the health of our alpacas and fleece quality. Usually it is quite easy to keep alpacas healthy, but they need some vaccinations.

Breeding Alpacas

 

Male alpacas are mature to breed at the age of 3-4 years. At the age of 14-18 months most female alpacas are mature and can be mated. The fertility rate of Alpacas is very low, which makes it so difficult to increase the amount of fleece available. Pregnancy lasts for about 11.5 months. The birth of siblings is unusual.

Crias (baby alpacas) are usually born during the daytime. This very soon after birth helps to keep them warm in the Andes mountains for the first hours of their live. Mother Aalpaca is not able to lick their new-born cria. A healthy cria usually weights up to 20 pounds. They will stand and start suckling. Alpacas are used to give birth without human help. They can be weaned after 6-8 months. On average 50% of the offspring will be male and of course the other 50% female. Two to six weeks after giving birth the female alpaca may become pregnant again.

Before the summer starts, usually in April or May, Alpaca need to be shorn every year. Otherwise their fleece would lead to unhealthy high body temperatures – hyperthermia. So sheering helps the Alpaca, but helps the breeder as well, because now we can get the so much awaited fleece. Read more about the fleece here.  It is very imported to us to talk a little bit more about the amazing personalities of Alpacas.

Shearing alpacas

Every year before the summer starts, usually in April or May, alpacas need to be shorn. Otherwise their fleece would lead to unhealthy, high body temperatures and could result in hyperthermia. Shearing not only helps the alpaca, but the breeder as well. Now we can get the so much awaited fleece.  Their annual fleece weight ranges from five to ten pounds depending on the age – crias and yearlings can be less.