All About Alpacas at our California Alpaca Farm
Alpacas are gentle, rare animals that are exotic and raised
for their exquisite fur or "fleece." Their fleece
is shorn each Spring, causing no harm to the alpaca. This
fleece is extremely soft and strong and used for everything
from hand-spun yarn to the most expensive coats and garments.
It's all about the fleece...
Alpaca fleece is exquisite; that's what all the fuss is about,
alpaca yarn, alpaca blankets, hats, coats, toys, stuffed animals.
It's one of the softest natural fibers on earth. There are
22 recognized colors of alpaca fleece, and quality fleece
is the goal of every alpaca farmer. The value of the fleece
is in its comfort factorsoft, light and insulating.
A product that is a hand spinner's delight.
Where Do They Come From?
Alpacas originated in the Andes Mountains of South America,
in the countries of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. They have been
exported all over the world. Alpacas were first imported to
the United States in 1984. Later the US alpaca registry (ARI
or the Alpaca Registry, Inc.) closed to alpaca imports, thus
protecting the US market. This has kept the value of alpacas
Types of Alpacas
There are two types of alpacas: huacayas (pronounced wah-kai-yahs)
and suris (pronounced su-rees). Huacayas have crimpy, dense
fleece similar to a sheep and suris have fleece like hair
that hangs in twisted locks all over their bodies. Suris are
more rare than huacayas. We raise huacayas here at Alpacas
They both weigh generally between 100 to 150 pounds when
full grown, and their heads are about at eye level or slightly
below for most adults.
Alpacas Versus Llamas
Alpacas are related to llamas and vicunas. They are much smaller
than llamas. The easiest way to tell the difference between
the two is to look at their ears. Llamas have curved, banana-shaped
ears and alpacas have spear-shaped ears. Llamas have many
different types of fleece, single-coated, double-coated, many
with a great deal of guard hair. Alpacas have been raised
by the Incan Indians century upon century continually refining
their coats to achieve a blanket whose guard hair is almost
as fine as the fleece itself.
Do They Spit?
Yes, they DO! But usually they do so with each other over
food or to ward off an amorous male, when the female is not
receptive. Some alpacas spit more than others. Spitting is
a trait than can be removed from future generations through
breeding selections. Some breeders make breeding selections
that include a consideration of temperament which seems to
pass down from one generation to the next.
Organizations and Additional Information
There are many helpful alpaca organizations, two of the most
important ones are the national: Alpaca Owners and Breeders
Association (http://www.alpacainfo.com/) and the registry:
the Alpaca Registry, Inc. http://www.alpacaregistry.net/
Here are some books that will help you get familiarized with
Secrets of the Andean Alpaca by Maggie and Richard
The Complete Alpaca Book by Eric Hoffman
Caring For Llamas and Alpacas - A Health and Management
Guide by Claire Hoffman, DVM and Ingrid Asmus
Llama and Alpaca Neonatal Care by Smith, Timm and
The Color Chart with the different colored strands of alpaca
fiber can be purchased from the Alpaca Registry.
Tax Benefits and Lifestyle Benefits
You'll want to consult an accountant to get the exact details
of how you might benefit from investing in alpacas or operating
an alpaca farm. If you can establish within a period of years
that you are a for-profit farm and not a hobby farm, then
you can depreciate 100% of your alpaca purchases over a period
of six years and many other expenses are straight deductions
such as feed and veterinary care. If you are an investor and
you board alpacas at another farm, then your expenses can
be deducted from your alpaca income only and not from your
other income. Fencing, shelter and other property improvements
can also be deducted or depreciated. The American dream of
living on a profitable farm can be realized through raising
these gentle, magical creatures.
Setting up Your Farm
Alpacas need food, water, shelter, and fencing! There are
innumerable variations on how to provide these essentials
from providing a simple 3-sided run-in to a heated barn. Your
best bet is to visit as many alpaca farms as you can in order
to see some of the options. Some considerations to take into
account will be:
- Do you live in a place with bears, mountain lions, coyotes,
wild dogs or other wildlife to protect them from at night?
You might want a barn that you can enclose them in.
- How do you want to be able to catch them for veterinary
care? Every paddock should have a small "catch pen"
that they can be herded into. You might consider having
fields connected by a central enclosed area or a long corridor
leading into several different pens.
- How do you want to provide water? The nicest way is to
have automatic waterers that pipe in fresh water, refill
automatically and are heated to prevent freezing in winter.
- There are a variety of hay feeders ranging from rubber
tubs to large, covered stands. It would be a choice of preference
and how the hay can be protected from the elements with
your particular setup of shelters and fields.
Veterinary and Other Care
Alpacas need annual vaccinations and routine worming suited
to the area of the country that you live in. You can work
out a schedule with your veterinarian. You will need to trim
toenails and sometimes teeth, periodically. Once a year in
the springtime to prepare them for the heat of the summer,
they will need to have their fleece shorn off.
We have found them to be easy to raise, wonderful to care
for, and a delightful addition to our lives. To find out more
about alpacas, schedule a farm visit!