Here are some of most frequently asked questions about raising alpacas and their answers:
What is an alpaca?
Alpacas are rare, exotic animals imported from countries in South America and raised primarily for their fiber. Alpacas generally produce from two to twelve pounds of fine alpaca fiber each year. Their fleece is exquisite, comparable to angora and cashmere. Alpaca farms breed alpacas to profit from the sale of their offspring and for their fiber. They are related to llamas, but they are smaller, and generally produce more fleece. Alpacas have straight ears, while llamas have very distinctively curved, banana-shaped ears.
Are alpacas friendly? (Do they SPIT?)
Alpacas can learn to be very friendly to humans from close contact and training. They can spit like llamas, but generally do not spit at people. They spit at each other when fussing over shared food.
Why raise alpacas?
An alpaca herd has a bit of the exotic magic and appeal of the Incas and the Peruvian Andes mountains. And among the fiber-producing animals, alpacas are some of the most profitable to breed.
How much do alpacas cost?
Registered, breeding-quality alpacas generally cost from $1,000 to $30,000 dollars each. Remember that their offspring sell for that much, too. That's why breeding them can be so profitable. The price range varies due to a wide range of factors including:
- the quality of the alpaca's fiber (based on fiber uniformity, fineness, staple length, luster or brightness, crimp, density, shear weights, and sometimes color),
- the alpaca's physical characteristics (proportion of body/neck/legs, angle of the teeth, angle of the legs),
- genetic heritage (such as lineage from award-winning or famous alpacas who have produced other top-quality or show-winning alpacas),
- show results (the alpaca's physical and fleece characteristics as assessed by a judge in a show ring), and
- whether or not they are breeding quality or pet quality alpacas.
How much land do they need to live on?
Alpacas consume much less hay than the same number of horses and cows; they are much smaller. The number of alpacas that can be comfortably raised per acre of land varies with herd management practices. Dozens of alpacas can live on one or two acres if their poop piles are frequently cleaned up, they have regular worming medication, and plenty of access to clean water and shelter. Be sure to check with your local government agencies to be sure that there are no laws preventing your ability to raise livestock on the land in question. Some areas have limitations on the number of livestock per acre.
How do you raise an alpaca (raising alpacas)?
Check with your local veterinarian to establish a schedule of periodic vaccinations and worming medications appropriate for your area. Most alpaca farmers provide a shelter from the winter storms and the summer sun. They need hay or access to grazing year-round. This is normally supplemented with a grain (from your local feed store) and salt minerals. Here is an excellent article on the details of exactly what and how much to feed: What do Alpacas Eat?
There are several books available on all aspects of caring for alpacas from neonatal care to veterinary practices to setting up your farm. There are many informational organizations and web sites. Refer to the list of resources posted to the right.
Alpaca Farming Resources
Here are some resources that you might find helpful as a new alpaca breeder.
Alpaca & Farming Equipment
All manner of supplies including vaccination and worming medication,
halters and leads, books and videos on care and training,
You can find these books at Amazon.com, Useful Llama
Items, or Quality
Llama Products, Inc. The following books are a sample of what's available;
the first three can get you started by helping you identify the characteristics
to look at in animals you are purchasing, basic health care and basic
neonatal care (for those pregnant dams).
- Secrets of the Andean Alpaca by Maggie and Richard Krieger
- 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 Long, DVMs
- Alpaca Field Manual, Second Edition - Dr. C. Norman Evans,
- The Complete Alpaca Book by Eric Hoffman
- Llama and Alpaca Husbandry and Medical Care - Robert Pollard,
DVM and Suzi Pollard
- The Camelid Companion by Marty McGee Bennett (on training)
- The Color Chart of the officially recognized colors can be purchased
from the Alpaca
For training alpacas and their owners:
Schedule your farm visit today!
A Goode View Alpaca Farm, LLC, James and Lisa Beck, 1473 Heathwood Drive, Goode, Virginia 24556
Farm: 540-586-4732 Lisa: 610-220-0701 Jim: 215-416-2932