Alpacas are in the camelid family. Native to the Andes Mountains in South America, they are related to llamas, but much smaller in size. Alpacas stand about 3’ tall at the base of the neck; and about 5' at the tips of their ears. Females weigh 125 -175 pounds, while males are 150 – 200 pounds. In South America, alpacas are used for their long, warm, soft, beautiful fiber; while llamas are used as pack animals.
There are two breeds of alpaca: Huacaya ("wah-Ki-ah") and suri ("surrey"). Huacaya's
stunning fleece is soft and fluffy, like a teddy-bear. Suri fleece has beautiful pencil locks.
There are an estimated 3 million alpacas in the world. Most are in the South American
countries of Peru, Chile and Bolivia. North American alpaca industry began in 1984,
when a careful selection of the best, (purist bloodline animals), were imported from
award-winning alpaca ranches. Import selection is highly controlled; there have only been a few groups of imported alpacas. Careful North American breeding has increased the United States’ number to about 100,000.
North American alpacas are raised exclusively for their soft and luxurious fiber, not food. Their fleece is among the world's finest natural fibers. It is softer than cashmere, stronger and warmer than wool; and it comes in an amazing 22 vibrant, natural colors. Demand for this rare alpaca fleece is steadily increasing. Annual fiber yields vary in fineness and weight depending on genetics and size of each animal. Normal fleece weight range is 5 to 10 pounds
Alpacas' feet have soft pads and toenails that may require periodic trimming. Their light weight and
soft feet causes little compaction or damage to their terrain, unlike other forms of livestock.
Adult alpacas eat about 6 - 12 ounces of pellet feed per day plus grazing and/or hay. Two 60 pound
bales of hay will generally feed one alpaca for a month in the winter when no grazing is available.
Alpacas are ruminants. They have one stomach with 3-compartments; they produce rumen and
chew cud, enabling them to use food very efficiently. Alpacas only have bottom teeth and an upper
gum, they nibble grass to about 1/4 inch above the ground.
Female alpaca gestation period is about 11-1/2 months. They rarely have multiple births; human intervention is seldom required. Newborns are called cria ("kree'-ah"); they weigh 10-25+ pounds; and delivery almost always in daylight hours. Mothers re-breed 2 to 3 weeks after birth. They self ovulate making breeding programs manageable. Newborn cria usually stand and nurse within 90 minutes of birth. Alpacas are virtually odorless, generally healthy and tend to be disease free; they easily adapt to most environments and require minimum care. Like dogs, they require periodic worming, nail clipping; and an annual immunization booster shot to ward off infectious diseases and parasites.
Good hygiene also makes healthy animals. Alpacas naturally don’t eat where they potty; and
all animals share the same places . . . usually 3 or 4 piles in a medium size field. This makes
clean-up easy for the rancher. Alpaca dung is considered better plant fertilizer than any other
animal on earth! Your flower garden or vegetable garden will be unbelievably healthy, vibrant
Alpacas are usually raised in herds of five to ten alpacas per acre; this depends on fencing, layout, terrain, rainfall, and availability of pastureland. They are intelligent and make wonderful pets; they can even be trained to navigate obstacle courses or go for walks on a leash guided by children.
Alpacas are naturally curious, inquisitive animals. They are a pleasure to work with and they provide endless hours of enjoyment. If there is a downside to this benevolent creature, it might be this; since alpacas are herd animals, you must have at least two or they can become stressed, which could lead to ulcers or even death.
Alpaca prices will vary with age, health, fiber quality, size, color, conformation and reproductive
history (or pedigree). Bred females are about $10,000 to $45,000 while breeding males are about
5,000 to $50,000. Pet quality males (gelded males) are about $1,000, which is a great investment
for children and 4-H projects.
Big benefits of raising alpacas are tax write-offs. If you raise alpacas for profit, you qualify for the
onderful tax advantages the government allows cattle ranchers. (Disclaimer note: It is important
that you consult your own tax advisor for benefit details). An alpaca can typically be depreciated
over five-years or 20% per year. Additionally, Section 179 of the tax code currently allows for the
deduction of a capital asset up to $100,000 in the first year the asset is acquired. Capital gains are made on the sale of breeding animals and their offspring.
Other tangible property such as barns, fences, trailers, etc are also depreciable assets and can legally shelter current cash flow from taxation. Many other expenses are also tax deductible such as feed, veterinarian care, supplies, etc.
Add to all of this . . . alpacas are 100% insurable!