Alpacas are animals domesticated in the high altitudes of South America thousands of years ago for their luxurious fleece. They are members of the camelid family, which also includes camels, llamas, vicunas and guanacos. Alpacas have been in the U.S. since 1984 and are being raised for their fleece as well as for the sale of their offspring. Alpacas are disease resistant easy keepers and are gentle on the land. People who have no former experience with livestock are successfully raising alpacas all over the U.S.
There are two types of alpacas - suri and huacaya. The fleece of the suri hangs in pencil locks, while huacaya fleece is more like sheep's fleece without the lanolin.
The life span of an alpaca is 20 to 25 years. Females can be bred when they weigh 95 pounds, which generally occurs between 14 and 18 months of age. Males usually begin breeding when they are two years old, although a six month variation in age is not uncommon. Females are induced ovulators, which means they can be bred year around. Following an 11 ½ month gestation, they give birth to a single cria that weighs between 15 and 22 pounds.
Adult alpacas usually weigh between 125 and 200 pounds and yield 5 to 8 pounds of fleece annually. Shearing is done in the spring to keep the alpaca comfortable during the summer months. Fleece grows 3 to 6 inches per year.
Alpacas come in 16 different colors ranging from white to black, beige to dark brown. The fleece is prized by spinners for its softness and is warmer and lighter weight than wool. People who are allergic to wool can often wear garments made of alpaca, which is as soft as cashmere.
Alpaca Products:Alpaca fiber is lighter weight and warmer than wool, and has no lanolin. If you are allergic to wool, you can probably wear alpaca..
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