The Alpaca Hacienda
Alpacas are a gentle, inquisitive member of the camelid family, originating from the high Andean Plateau and mountains of South America. They are closely related to the wild vicuna, and are also relatives to the llama. They are defenseless from predators, and find safety and comfort within their herd.
Adult alpacas weigh between 100 and 200 pounds, and are about 36 inches tall at the withers. Females begin reproducing at approximately age 2, and have one baby (called a cria) at a time. Gestation is between 11 and 12 months, with spring gestations typically running longer than fall gestations. Twins rarely occur, and when they do, it is highly likely that one or both will not survive. Alpacas can live for 20-plus years if well cared for.
There are two types of Alpacas, Huacaya (pronounced wah-KI'-ya) and Suri (pronounced Surrey). Huacaya alpacas represent approximately 80 percent of the aggregate US alpaca herd while suri alpacas represent the remainder. Suri alapcas have long lustrous locks of fiber or fleece that grow in "dreadlocks" giving the suri alpaca a unique appearance. Huacaya alpacas have long crimpy fiber that stands up from their skin that makes them look like cotton balls or teddy bears. Both suri and huacaya have the same properties of warmth, softness and strength which makes it a luxury textile.
Alpacas are gentle and easy to handle. They don't have incisors, horns, hooves or claws. Clean-up is easy since alpacas deposit droppings in only a few places in the paddock. They require minimal fencing and can be pastured at 5 to 10 per acre, however small acreage can support significantly more alpacas if given suitable quantities of quality grass hay and room to play and run.