Alpacas were a cherished treasure of the ancient Incan civilization and played a central role in the Incan culture that was located on the high Andean Plateau and mountains of South America. Alpacas have been domesticated for over 5000 years.
Alpacas are clean and safe animals, and require very little care. The alpaca's padded feet make it an environmentally sound animal. This member of the South American Camelid family comes in 22 recognized colors.
Alpacas need shelter from the wind, rain, and the extreme cold. In most conditions a 3 sided shed is adequate, but a closed barn is preferred. Alpacas are easy to fence in, but effort must be made to fence out predators. Alpacas can graze 4 or more on a acre of improved pasture. They require a constant supply of fresh water, a small amount of grain daily, and quality mixed grass hay.
Alpacas are very hardy and require minimal veterinary care. Some vaccination, and routine worming for parasites may be required in certain areas. Alpacas can be transported in small stock trailers or in the bed of trucks with caps. The alpaca will lie down (cush) when riding and will remain very calm.
Alpacas are shorn once a year and yield 7-10 pounds of fiber. Alpacas produce one of the world's finest and most luxurious natural fibers. It is clipped from the animal without causing it injury. Soft as cashmere and warmer, lighter and stronger than wool, it comes in more colors than any other fiber producing animal. This cashmere-like fleece, once reserved for Incan royalty, is now enjoyed by spinners and weavers around the world. The fiber is used to make high quality garments, blankets, socks and scarves. The fiber can also be sold to hand spinners, weavers and knitters. Alpaca owners can also send their fiber to co-ops in return for products. Unlike Llamas, alpacas are not pack animals, they are primarily used for their fine fiber. Alpacas are very intelligent and can make very good pets. They do not bite.
Alpacas communicate by humming, but have a very distinct and loud alarm call.
Alpacas are a herd animal and need the companionship of other alpacas. They can run with sheep, goats and other animals that do not present a physical threat to them.
There are two types of alpacas the Huacaya and the Suri. The life span of the alpaca is about 20 years and gestation is 11.5 months. Alpacas eat grasses and chew a cud. Manure clean-up is easy since alpacas deposit in only a few places in the paddock. They are about 36 inches tall at the withers and weigh around 150 pounds. They are gentle and easy to handle.
Owning a small herd of alpacas yields impressive financial returns. Alpacas can provide a satisfying addition to one's investment portfolio with the added benefit of encouraging a healthy lifestyle and family cohesiveness. Alpacas have become a stress-free investment you can hug.