Alpaca Care & Alpaca Information
Learn all the main aspects of alpaca care including shearing, teeth trimming, birth & neonatal care, worming, toenail trimming etc. from our new Alpaca Care DVD! This DVD gives you the opportunity to watch a birth from a few days before labor, through labor, delivery of the cria & placenta and on to nursing and neonatal care. You will also be able to watch shearing and see shearing equipment being assembled and adjusted close up with detailed narration provided. This is a great product for anyone thinking of going into alpacas as well as the perfect gift for your new buyers.
There are many differences between alpacas and llamas. Both alpacas and llamas were domesticated by the Andean peoples over 5000 years ago. The Incas raised the selective breeding of alpacas and llamas to an art. They bred alpacas as a producer of luxury fiber. They worked to create the greatest density of soft, warm fiber per alpaca possible. They also bred out the coarse guard hair in the "blanket" area of the alpacas. The llama was bred as a pack animal. For this reason, llamas are much larger animals than alpacas, with far less density of fiber per animal and with the coarse guard hairs left in place to protect the llama's back against the rubbing of the pack.
Llamas are, on average, roughly twice as large as alpacas. While adult, male alpacas can produce up to 13 lbs. of fiber each, adult male llamas can produce up to 4 lbs. The llama also has a different look to the face, ears and body. Llamas and alpacas can interbreed and produce fertile offspring but the resulting "intermediate" animal does not have the quality of fiber of an alpaca nor the strength of a llama. In recent years, some llama breeders have begun the slow process of trying to breed their animals for better fiber quality and less guard hair. I have seen some gorgeous llama fiber but it is usually more slick like suri fiber, not crimpy like huacaya fiber. Check out this photo of a llama and alpacas together if you want to see the difference.
There are two breeds of alpaca, the Suri and the Huacaya. The link to the left will take you to a page with photos and descriptions of both types.
The female alpaca has only one cria per year as it takes 11 whole months, sometimes longer, to gestate one offspring. Twins are extremely rare. But the good news is that alpacas are "induced ovulators." That means that you do not need to wait for them to go into heat or map out their estrus cycle like you would with, say, a horse. If you expose a mature female to a male and she is not already pregnant, she will usually ovulate and breed right then and there. If she is already pregnant, she will refuse to breed with the male and "spit him off." Not fun for him, but useful for us.
One question I am asked a lot is: Do you like it? The answer is Yes! I love being with my alpacas. They are cute and funny and sweet. They come tearing up to me when I go out into their fields and eat out of my hand. The babies are so adorable that I can hardly believe they are real. The way the babies and mothers fuss over and love each other is wonderful to see. Seeing a new life come into this world is a magical experience that changes the person who is lucky enough to witness it. I could obsess on this some more, but I think you get the point.