About Alpacas

Alpacas in the Peruvian Altiplano

The alpaca has been bred by the people of the Andes for thousands of years for its luxurious fiber. There are similarities in fiber and teeth pointing to a close relationship between the alpaca and the wild vicuña.

  • Lifespan:  15-25 years
  • Adult Size:  4-5 feet at the head, 30-38” at the shoulder, weighing 105-185 pounds.
  • Reproduction: After gestation of 11 months, a single cria is born, weighing 10-17 pounds.
  • Fleece Types:  Huacaya fleece is characterized by crimp in the individual fibers.  The fibers in the Suri fleece are straight and smooth, for silky and lustrous product.
  • Colors:  22 recognized colors, from white to black, with many shades of brown and grey.

Alpacas are among the easiest of domestic animals to care for. Their diet consists of pasture or good quality grass hay and forage, possibly supplemented with vitamins and minerals. Occasional trimming of toenails and teeth may be required.

Alpaca fleece is harvested every year by shearing. Depending on weight, quality, and cleanliness, an alpaca fleece commands between $200 and $400, which is more than enough to cover basic care and feeding costs for each animal. Alpaca fiber is prized for its “prickle-free” handle and lightweight insulating characteristics.

© Gordon Muirhead 2013