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Alpacas produce a superior fibre that is recognized as a luxury fibre throughout the world. Alpaca fibre is a natural product that comes naturally in more colours than any other fibre producing animal. It is as soft as cashmere, and warmer, lighter, and stronger than wool. And, unlike wool, alpaca fleece does not contain lanolin and has little guard hair making cleaning and processing easy.

 
     
  Huacaya   Suri    
  Huacaya Fleece  

There are two types of alpaca: the huacaya and the suri. The difference between the two lies in their fleece characteristics. The huacaya fleece is crimpy and grows straight out from their body. Suri fleece hangs down from the animals body in long pencil locks. Suris are still quite rare, though mills can process both types of fibre.

  Suri Fleece    
   

Alpacas are a small and easy livestock to maintain. The average adult alpaca weighs between 100 and 200 lbs. and the average lifespan is 20 years. Alpacas consume minimal amounts of grass hay and are generally supplemented with grain. Minerals are also required free-choice. Alpaca management is not difficult or time consuming. Alpacas are virtually odorless and because they all go to the bathroom in the same place, pasture clean up is simple. They must be shorn once a year and toenail trimming, deworming, and vaccinations must be done three to four times per year. Five to ten alpacas can happily live on one acre with basic shelter and non-climb fencing. Non-climb fencing is crucial as every region has predators.

 
   
 

The alpaca industry is primarily focused on producing breeding stock right now. Female alpacas are able to be bred year round and usually give birth during daylight hours. They rarely require human assistance and the cria is almost always standing and nursing within an hour. Gestation is 11-12 months and the female may be rebred 2-3 week after delivery. The mothers generally wean their cria on their own at five to six months of age. As the industry matures, fibre production will take on a more dominant role. There will, however, always be a demand for high quality alpacas.

 

Prices for quality breeding stock will remain high for years to come due to lack of supply. Also, importation is no longer possible because registries (CLAA and ARI) are closed. Alpacas are curious, gentle creatures and are easy to handle and halter train. They are, however herd animals and should always be in the company of at least one other alpaca.

   
       
                                     
Last Updated ( Friday, 04 July 2008 06:45 )