Frequently Asked Questions
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I want my own alpaca herd. What should I begin with?
We recommend deciding on your goal and then plan a budget. Ask yourself – do you want alpacas as a beautiful add-on to your farm? Are you planning to shear wool or even breed them?
Then, collect all the information about alpacas – you can find a lot of it online. Look for special sources such as The Alpaca World Magazine. We strongly recommend visiting as many alpaca farms as you can and talking to people who breed them. You should also visit at least a couple of alpaca exhibitions.
You’ll need to find a trusted breeder who would be willing to assist you in the future.
You should also consider the infrastructure – alpacas will need shelter as well as an enclosure.
What’s the point of breeding alpacas?
Alpacas have been raised in South America for decades for wool and meat. In other regions these animals are usually bred only for wool or as a decoration, because they simply look nice 🙂
How many alpacas are there in the world?
An estimated 3.5 – 4 million alpacas are currently bred worldwide. Most of them live in Peru as it’s the largest exporter of alpaca wool.
How many alpacas I should own?
It is recommended to get at least two alpacas of the same gender. Three or more is even better. Alpacas are herd animals, so it won’t be happy and healthy if you grow a single animal. Raising a couple – male and female – is also not the best idea.
Whats the difference between alpaca and llama?
Actually, alpacas and llamas are relatives, although quite distant ones. They can even interbreed and such a hybrid is called a huarizo.
Generally, alpacas aren’t as large as llamas, their wool is curlier and alpaca’s ears are spear-shaped and shorter compared to llama’s banana-shaped ears.
What’s the color of alpaca?
Alpacas have probably the most distinctive variety of colors among all animals that are raised for wool. You can find anything between desert sand, brown and grey – there are more 20 different colors and its shades of alpaca fiber. You can even come across a multi-colored alpaca.
How much does an alpaca cost?
It depends on many aspects such as origin, gender, age, quality and color of the wool. Where you buy an alpaca from may also make a difference as the price varies from country to country. You can get a non noble castrated male alpaca for wool for a few hundred euros in Europe.
If you’re interested in breeding, an alpaca may cost up to €1,500-2,000. The price of a noble alpaca may exceed €10,000.
AlpacaSeller and similar selling platforms may help you get a better idea as it provides average prices of alpacas according to different features.
What do alpacas eat?
The main alpaca fodder is grass and hay. They also need special feed supplements as your local soil may significantly differ from the one that alpacas are used to in the South America highlands.
During winter, alpacas may requite some protein supplements.
And don’t forget to check if there are no toxic plants in the alpaca pasture!
How difficult it is to keep an alpaca?
It depends. But be ready to give them medication against endoparasitic infestation. To find out more about the amount of parasites, you’ll need to arrange a manure tes. However, before giving any type of medications to your alpacas, consult a vet who’ll administer the necessary tests and medications.. You’ll also have to trim toe nails and in some cases trim their teeth.
Will alpacas eat trees in my garden?
There are different opinions on that online. But from our personal experience alpacas don’t mind nibbling on some tree leaves. So it’s a good idea to put your young fruit-trees behind the fence. You should also plan your pasture further away from plants that are poisonous to alpacas, such as jasmine or lilacs.
What kind of hay do alpacas eat?
If you want your alpacas to be strong and healthy, give them high quality fine hay. If you are preparing the hay yourself, use fresh grass as it will be more nutritious. You should also avoid plants that are high in protein.
When do alpacas mate?
Females are ready to mate between 1 and 2 years of age, while males usually fully mate at 2 to 3 years. In some cases, male alpacas mate much earlier so it is common to separate them from the herd at the same time with weaning – at around their 6th month.
How many offspring can alpaca bare at once?
It’s almost always a single alpaca offspring. In a very rare case, twin alpacas might be born, but they are usually very weak and often don’t survive.
Do alpacas need human assistance to birth?
Usually they are fine without us, but they might need some help. 11 months after breeding you should pay more attention to the female and be ready to contact a vet. A few weeks or days before giving a birth the udder gets bigger, so you should check it constantly.
Alpacas usually bear in the mornings. Right before that they become anxious, poop more frequently and roll on the ground.
When alpaca starts birthing, the progress should happen every 15 minutes. If you can see the baby alpaca’s head and front feet, the worst has already passed. However, if you can see only one thing – a head or feet – you should call the vet. We strongly recommend not to interfere in the bearing process without consulting a vet as it may cause serious injuries to the baby alpaca.
Half an hour later the alpaca baby should stand on its feet and begin to suck the milk.
How long is alpaca pregnant?
An average alpaca gestation period is 11.5 months – it can be as short as 11 months or last for the whole year and even longer.
How to know if an alpaca dam is pregnant?
As gestation takes quite a long time, you might be unable to notice it for a while. But sometimes you can tell it from a female’s reaction towards males. A conceived alpaca usually avoids them.
It’s also a good idea to perform a sonography procedure 1 or 2 months after the breeding to check if it succeeded. Progesterone testing could also be an option.
Since none of these will give you a hundred percent answer, try combining them both.
Which season is the best for newborns?
As for a breeding, alpacas don’t mind the season, but for you it’s better if a cria arrives in spring or summer – it will be easier to provide a sufficient amount of food. And, of course, baby alpacas will prefer warm and sunny days rather than rainy or even snowy everlasting evenings.
Will alpaca’s baby inherit their parents’ wool color?
If both parents are of the same color, it’s very likely that their offspring will turn out to be the same color. But it’s not always the case.
Alpaca wool color inheritance is quite complicated and you need to know the color of both parents’ ancestors in order to predict their offspring color.
You should also have in mind that light color genes are stronger, so breeding a light colored alpaca with a darker one will more likely result in a lighter cria.
If you are interested, you can find some online scripts predicting alpacas’ wool color.
How long does alpaca dam feed its cria?
Crias are usually weaned at 6 months’ age. A dam is already receptive to breeding again at that time, so it needs a break to get stronger and prepare for another offspring.
Is alpaca meat edible?
Yes, you can try it in South America as it is quite common to eat alpaca meat. But in Europe finding a restaurant serving alpaca might be a challenge.
How much wool does one alpaca produce per year?
It depends on the age of the animal. The fiber is usually not of equal quality, even if you’re shearing a single animal. However, the highest quality fiber is harvested from the back and the sides as the fiber on the legs, neck and chest is coarser.
On average, a single alpaca produces 1-3 kilos (2.2 – 6.6 pounds) of high quality fiber. Bigger males may produce even more.
Where can I test out the quality of my alpaca fiber?
How do you evaluate the quality of alpaca fiber?
Fine, lustrous, dense fiber that doesn’t change much in quality throughout the years is the main goal of alpaca breeders. This also influences the price of the animal.
The quality of wool is also dependent on genetics and nutrition. To avoid making the fiber too coarse, it’s important to not overfeed the animals, especially to not give too much of protein-rich fodder.
Where can I buy alpaca wool or yarn?
How big the pasture for alpacas should be?
Alpacas don’t require too much space if you provide them with high quality hay. A hectare (100 square meters) is enough for 10 – 20 alpacas. Just don’t let them graze in the whole territory at once – split it into several parts. It will be easier to control parasites and the grass will recover faster, which might be handy during droughts.
How to spin alpacas’ yarn?
It’s not easy to find a spinning house for alpaca fiber, as high quality alpaca yarn requires specific tools. You might need to look for an old fashioned craftsmen or do the job yourself.
Do alpacas really spit?
Yes, an angry alpaca might regurgitate its stomach contents and spit it out. But it rarely aims at the human – usually they spit on another alpaca. That’s how they usually warn a potential aggressor away.
Can I make a living breeding alpacas?
Yes, but you might need to own quite a big herd of noble alpacas. Most of alpaca breeders do it as a hobby or as a way to earn some extra income.
Is it OK to keep both an alpaca male and female in a single pasture?
It’s not a very good idea. To maintain order and peace, females and males should be separated, and meet on partnering dates. This is a common practice in the majority of other countries. When you buy the first few animals, start with either a few females or males.
How often are alpacas shorn in a year?
Alpacas are shorn once a year, in spring.
What should I use to clip alpaca toenails?
To properly clip alpaca toenails, use a small, sharp pruning shearers.