Alpaca Facts

Discussion Topic Created:
Sunday, April 26, 2015
Life Span: 15 - 20+ years - Height: 32"- 39" at the shoulder - Birth Weight: 10 - 17 pounds - Adult Weight: 100 - 190 pounds
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Reproduction, Birth & Babies

Male alpacas reach sexual maturity at about 2-1/2 years of age. Females are first bred at 16 - 20 months of age. Like other South American camelids, alpacas do not have a heat (estrus) cycle and can be bred any time of the year. Many breeders consider the weather and pasture conditions very carefully when planning their birthing schedules. An average gestation of 335 days produces a single baby (cria) which is usually delivered from a standing position during daylight hours. Alpacas are burdened with the fact that their crias are unusually large for the size of the mother. Alpaca mothers weighing between 120 and 140 pounds often give birth to babies weighing between 16 - 22 pounds. Not only are the babies big, they grow rapidly, so mothers need plenty of good nutrition in order to transfer enough to a growing cria that will usually weigh more than 100 pounds by the time it is a yearling. Crias are generally weaned at around six months of age.

Alpaca Health

While hardy and generally disease resistant, basic care includes yearly vaccinations, worming protocols, regular toenail trimming and occasional dental care. On the east coast, alpacas are shorn every 12 months to harvest their exquisite fleece and maintain their health. They also require basic shelter from the elements and in winter months many breeders provide bedding.

What are alpacas used for?

Alpacas are shorn for their valuable fleeces. Their compact size contributes to easy management and to a desirability as a companion animal. Alpacas easily learn to lead, jump in and out of vehicles, kush (sit down), and obey other simple commands taught all domestic members of the camelid family. They are popular show animals. Alpacas can also be seen at fairs and fiber fests throughout North America. No other animal which produces fiber for textile use has such an enormous variety of colors. As in ancient days, alpacas are important to Andean herders, providing luxury fiber and meat.

What do they eat?

Alpacas are modified ruminants. They rank high in digestive efficiency and do well on good quality forage and hays. Occasional supplemental feeds, vitamins, and minerals need to be provided as required. An alpaca costs far less to feed than most traditional domestic animals.

How do they communicate?

Alpacas express themselves with a soft hum, with other vocalizations, and with body language, such as neck posturing, ear and tail positioning, and head tilt. They have excellent eyesight and hearing, and will alert the herd and their human keepers with a staccato alarm call of perceived danger. Alpacas rarely spit at people unless frightened or abused, but will use this form of communication with each other to register a complaint.

Are they registered?

About 95% of North American alpacas are registered by The Alpaca Registry. DNA technology verifies lineages. Registration of alpacas is essential to all serious breeders but is not required if the purpose of raising alpacas does not include selling registered offspring.

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