Most people interested in alpacas have plenty of questions about the animals, their care and the industry. We can't answer all of them here, but we have included some of the most common. Click on a question to get the answer.
If you want more information, please give us a call at 859.734.0222 or e-mail us.
What is an Alpaca?
Alpacas (vicugña pacos) are modified ruminants and members of the camelid family, which includes camels, llamas, guanacos, and vicuñas. There are two breed types: huacaya (most common, what we raise) and suri. Adults stand between 32 and 39 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 120 and 220 pounds. They can live up to 20 years and have an 11 month gestation period.
Alpacas are native to the alto plano (high plains) of the Andes, and are the result of domestication and careful breeding beginning almost 6,000 years ago. Today there are about 3.5 million alpacas on the alto plano, and most of those are in Peru and Bolivia. Alpacas are gentle animals that produce an exquisite fiber coat, which is second only to cashmere in quality and softness. The alpaca fleece is also hypoallergenic as it contains less lanolin than other animal fibers and is not "scatchy" to the skin.
The animal's compact size contributes to easy management and to a desirability as a companion animal. Alpacas easily learn to lead, jump in and out of vehicles, cush, and obey other simple commands. They are popular show animals.
Alpacas are alert, curious, calm and predictable. They need the companionship of other alpacas, and will huddle together or move en masse when frightened or wary.
Alpacas express themselves with a soft hum, with other vocalizations, and with body language, such as neck, ear or tail posturing, and head tilt. They have excellent eyesight and hearing, and will alert the herd and their human keepers with a staccato alarm if they perceive danger. Alpacas sometimes spit at people if frightened or annoyed, and will use this form of communication with each other to register a complaint.
Alpacas in the U.S.
The alpaca in the United States began as little more more than a curiosity in zoos or as a pet at a handful of small farms. The importation of the animals on a larger scale began after an intrepid few saw the value of the animal and its fiber, and began a careful program of selecting the finest animals they could find on the alto plano. However, these early importers also saw the necessity of controlling the numbers of animals to maintain their exceptional genetics. As a result, importation of alpacas into the U.S. ceased entirely in the late 1990s. Today, anyone who wants to own registered alpacas must purchase from a breeder.
To protect alpaca buyers and sellers, alpacas are registered through the Alpaca Owners Association using DNA identification. We also microchip our animals, as do many other breeders. With some exceptions, alpacas purchased outside the U.S. cannot be registered.
Currently, there are nearly 250,000 registered alpacas in the U.S.