There are two breeds of alpacas - suris and huacayas. Huacayas comprise 90% of the registered alpacas in the US and have a soft, wooly look with crimpy fiber. Suris have a dreadlock look with silky fiber with no crimp.
Female alpacas are first bred at 18-24 months of age and males start breeding at 2-1/2 to 3 years old. Female alpacas are able to breed anytime of the year as they are induced ovulators. Gestation period is approximately 11 months with one cria (baby) per pregnancy usually. Births are normally trouble-free and unassisted and the female alpacas can be rebred 18-21 days following the birth of their cria.
Alpacas are the oldest domesticated animal (6,000 years) and originated from South America (Bolivia, Chile and Peru). Alpacas were first imported to the US in 1984 and the last import was in 1998. Alpacas are very adaptable and hardy herd animals that can survive in any environment.
Adult alpacas are 3' to 4' tall, weigh 100-175 lbs and live to approximately 15-20 years. Our oldest alpaca, Sajama, lived to be 17.5 years old!
Alpaca are very easy to handle and raise. Minimal care is required and consists of daily feed, annual vaccinations, de-worming treatment as required, occasional trimming of toe nails and shearing the fleece annually. Three-sided shelters are adequate with fencing to keep predators away. Adequate acreage for pasture grazing.
Alpacas fiber is stronger and warmer than wool, has no lanolin and minimal guard hair. Alpacas produce 22 different natural colors, more than any other animal. Alpacas are sheared annually with adults yielding approximately 4-8 lbs of fiber which sells for $2-$8/oz for raw fiber, rovings, batts and finished yarns. The fiber is in high demand and considered a luxury fiber by fiber artisits.