The Alpaca is indigenous to South America and is known for its incredibly soft wool. It is as soft as cashmere, and comes in as many as 22 different colors. The wool is sheared from the animal much like a sheep. While they are related to the llama they should not be confused with it as they are mainly used for carrying goods across mountain passes. Alpacas have been bred for over 5000 years specifically for their wool. They have been providing this luxurious commodity for thousands of years and were once highly prized by Incan royalty. In fact, only royalty were allowed to wear garments made from alpaca. They were even sacrificed the gods as offerings.
Llamas were also bred by the Inca for their specific use which is carrying loads on their much flatter back. They were bred to have the coarse guard hairs in their wool in order to protect their backs from heavy pack loads rubbing and irritating them. Llamas can carry loads as heavy as 100 pounds. Because they are intelligent they have been trained to pull carts. Llamas have even been known to be golf caddies!
Definitions aside, the alpaca is a sweet natured animal. They are easy to raise, require little fencing and can be grouped together in a pasture or paddock. They live to be about 20, stand three feet high and have no horns or claws. Much like the American Kennel Club (AKC) for dogs, alpacas are registered with the Alpaca Registry and bloodlines are strictly recorded.
Similarities and Differences Between Alpacas and Llamas
Here's an easy way to remember the difference between alpacas and llamas: the alpaca is referred to as the sheep of the Andes and the llama as the ship of the Andes. Some other things alpacas and llamas have in common:
Here are some differences between alpacas and llamas:
The alpaca is found in great numbers in Chile, Peru, Argentina and Bolivia. Alpaca have only been in North America since 1984 when they began importing them for farming the wool. In 1998, importation was halted in an effort to strengthen the American herd. There are over 3 million alpacas in the world and less than 1% exists outside of South America. However, they are becoming popular as a home based business in the United States.
Alpaca farming is considered an environmentally friendly farming enterprise as they carry few pathogens that can be transmitted to humans and are very clean animals. Farmers can market the wool from their farm at many outlets available to them, as it is fast becoming highly sought after by weavers. It is stronger and softer than traditional sheep's wool. The sale of breeding stock is also very profitable. Even the Alpaca manure can be sold to organic gardeners as fertilizer, when you compare this opportunity with other Home Based Business Opportunities you can see there are MANY ways to make a passive income by owning Alpacas.
Raising alpacas, aside from being a business, is a wonderful pastime. Alpacas are good companion animals. They are highly social herd animals and don't fare well alone. It is suggested that there are at least two or three in a group. You can safely house eight alpacas on one acre of pasture land. They will not require any extraordinary containment measures or costs. They don't jump or climb like goats, or push on fencing like horses or cows. However, precautions need to be taken with crias in the first few weeks so that they don't slip through or under fencing, The fencing you choose should be mainly to keep predators out, like dogs and coyotes. Barbed wire is not recommended.
Alpacas are relatively healthy animals and are fairly low maintenance. You will need to worm them once a month. Their toenails need to be clipped from time to time. They should be sheared in the spring after the cold weather but before the summer heat is upon them. They will need shelter from the sun and rain, but a simple three-sided shelter is sufficient.
While alpacas are almost half the size of llamas, they actually produce more wool. The reason for this is that llamas have two coats, a soft inner coat and a coarse outer one. Alpacas have only one very fine, soft coat. An adult male llama produces about four pounds of wool while an adult male alpaca can produce 13 pounds in the same amount of time.
There are two main breeds of alpaca, the huacaya and the suri. The suri is very rare, less than 2% of alpacas are suri. The differences between them are found mainly in their wool fiber. The huacaya fleece has a wave or “crimp,” which makes it appear fluffy. The fleece from a suri alpaca has little or no wave, so the individual fiber strands cling to themselves and hang down in locks, not unlike an afghan hound.
Both alpacas and llamas use a vocalization called “humming.” Mothers and crias constantly hum to each other in the first six months of life. If you visit an alpaca ranch this sound is unmistakable. Alpacas hum when they are content, curious, stressed, bored, afraid, or just being cautious.
While high quality alpacas can cost from $20,000-$50,000 each, a high quality llama is much less than that. The most highly prized llamas are priced between $5,000-$20,000.
Alpacas are related to camels are therefore need little water. They can and do spit, but not unless extremely provoked.