What is a camelid?
Camelid (ca-mel-id) is a group term for alpacas, llamas, guanacos, vicunas and camels.

Are there different types of alpacas?
There are two recognized alpaca fleece types: that of the huacaya (wa-kye-ya) which has a fine, dense, crimpy wool-like structure with excellent insulating qualities and the suri (sir-ee) which has a longer, straighter, silky textured fiber with no crimp. Both are distinct and have excellent value. 90% of the alpacas in the world are huacayas and 10% are suris.

Peruvian, Bolivian and Chilean refer to the country of origin of an alpaca. In competitions this is not a factor — alpacas are judged and ranked on the correctness of their conformation and the quality of their fiber. Accoyo denotes an animal with lineage traced to the herd of Don Julio Barreda, a famous Peruvian breeder.

What are the average stats for alpacas — size, weight, life expectancy, breeding age, gestation period?

JuJu & Wakelee

Alpacas are small and easy to handle. They are about 36″ tall at the withers and weigh about 150 pounds. Female alpacas begin breeding around 18 months of age, while males begin breeding after two years of age. The females produce approximately one baby per year during a reproductive life of 15-20 years. Their gestation period averages 11.5 months.

What if you don’t want to breed alpacas but want them just as pets or to use their fiber?
If an alpaca does not have the characteristics necessary for breeding, it can be purchased very reasonably as a pet/fiber quality animal and would be registered as a non-breeder — reclassification to a breeding status must have the approval of the breeder from whom you originally purchased the animal. Many families and spinners own pet quality animals. It is important to note that alpacas are herd animals and need the company of another alpaca or llama. Therefore pet/fiber animals are often sold only in pairs to new owners.

What kind of people own alpacas?
Raising alpacas is a rewarding experience for families with children and also for couples approaching retirement who want to blend an income producing business with a peaceful, stress-free lifestyle. Spinners and weavers may own pet quality animals as a source of fiber for their hobby or home-based business.

Do you need a farm to own alpacas?
No, a breeding farm can be “your farm”. For a small daily fee, usually around $3, your alpacas can be agisted (boarded) and receive excellent daily care and professional vet services.

What type of facility is needed to raise alpacas?
Alpacas can be pastured at 5-10 per acre. They require minimal fencing, a supply of fresh water and shelter to provide shade in hot weather and protection from the elements in extremely cold winters. Because alpacas are gentle animals without any means of protecting themselves, owners often use electric fencing, guard llamas or a livestock guardian dog for protection against predators.

How often are alpacas sheared and what can be done with the fiber?
Alpacas are sheared once a year, usually in the spring before hot weather sets in. Each animal produces five to ten pounds of fleece a year. The fiber can be sold to cottage industries that revolve around hand spinning and weaving, selling for $2 to $4 an ounce to local artisans, or sent to a fiber co-op such the Alpaca Fiber Cooperative of North America (AFCNA).

Is a livestock or medical background necessary to raise alpacas?
No, with the help of an experienced breeder, a skilled vet and the desire to learn, you can do this. If you do not desire a “hands-on” alpaca experience, you can choose to agist (board) your alpacas on a breeding farm where they will receive excellent daily care and vet services.

How do you find a qualified vet?
Locating a vet is a process of asking other alpaca or llama owners in your area, checking with established camelid vets in your state, checking with your regional associations and interviewing candidates.

Is there a good support system for new owners and breeders?
Yes, excellent support is already in place through the national organization (AOBA), regional associations and established fiber co-ops. You can also expect a high level of support from the breeder you buy from, other owners and your vet.

Are there attractive tax advantages to raising alpacas?
Raising alpacas at your own ranch for profit can offer some attractive tax advantages — all the expenses attributable to the endeavor can be written off against your income. If you choose to agist (board) your animals, many advantages still apply. A helpful publication is the Farmers Tax Guide IRS Publication 225 which is available from the Cooperative Extension or online from the IRS.

Can you insure alpacas?
Yes, alpacas can be fully insured against loss which protects your investment.