The following are answers to frequently asked
questions about raising alpacas:
What is an alpaca?
The alpaca is a domesticated member of the Camelid
family and a cousin to the llama. Alpacas are
about thirty-six inches at the withers and weigh
about 150 pounds when fully grown. There are two
types of alpaca breeds: the Huacaya (pronounced
wah-ki-ya) and the Suri (pronounced surrey). The
Huacaya has a dense, crimpy fleece giving it a
woolly appearance and the Suri has a fine fiber,
defined in pencil-like locks. The alpaca provides
an excellent investment opportunity and luxurious
fiber comparable to cashmere. From this fine fiber,
beautiful yarn can be produced, either handspun
or by machine and made into exquisite garments.
Alpacas can live up to twenty-five years of age.
Because of their manageable size and calm dispositions,
they make wonderful companion animals. They are
very gentle with children.
Alpacas are intelligent, easily halter trained,
and obey simple commands well. Communication between
the alpacas is achieved through their body posture,
tail and ear movements. They make a variety of
sounds most often as a soft humming. They are
herd animals and need a companion alpaca with
them in order to thrive. A female alpaca normally
bears only one cria (pronounced cree-a) after
an 11 - 11.5 months gestation period. Twins are
Why do people raise alpacas?
Alpacas are raised for varied reasons:
· Investment Potential
· Full-time Business
· Fiber Production & Sales
· Retirement Option
· Change of Lifestyle
· Love of an Animal
How much land do they require?
Because of their small size and easy care, six
to eight alpacas can live comfortably on a single
acre. They eat selective pasture grasses and hay,
with many breeders supplementing the animals'
diet with pellet minerals and vitamins. Their
padded feet allow them to walk lightly on the
terrain; thereby, presenting no damage to pasture
as is found with other livestock. At the Grand
Alpaca Company Ranch, hay is grown on our acreage.
To insure good quality, we control each hay cutting,
the hay's fertilization, and storage of the bales
in our large hay barn.
How often do they need to be sheared?
Alpacas are usually shorn once a year for their
comfort and to prevent heat stress from their
dense fleece. An annual yield of fiber can range
from six to ten pounds per alpaca. The first clipping
from a young alpaca is very valuable due to the
fineness of the alpaca's luxurious fiber.
How much do alpacas cost?
There is a wide range of prices in the animals
due mainly to their quality and gender. Prices
range from $600 for a pet/companion alpaca to
many thousands of dollars for top quality breeding
males and females.
What care is needed for an alpaca?
Herd health care consists of occasional grooming,
trimming of toenails and teeth, annual shearing,
and scheduled routine worming and vaccinations.
Access to an open barn is adequate shelter from
the weather during adverse conditions. These shelters
also provide shade during warmer seasons. Adequate
exterior fencing is critical to their survival
to keep out predators.