The alpaca is a sturdy, intelligent and gentle animal. Alpacas are of two distinctive types - the suri alpaca and the huacaya alpaca, and alpaca fleece comes in over twenty natural colors.
Huacaya alpacas are recognized by their woolly appearance. The fleece of a huacaya alpaca tends to stand straight away from the alpacas hide, and a high quality fleece demonstrates crimp of a short frequency.
The fleece of a suri alpaca hangs from the alpaca in long, tight, curly locks. Suri alpacas are known for the high luster that their fleece exhibits. Suri alpaca fleece is highly prized for use in exclusive fabrics.
Alpacas bear one offspring (known as a cria) every year. Gestation is approximately 11 months, and the female alpaca (dam) can be re-bred within 2 weeks. Twins are extremely rare in alpacas. The low reproductive rate contributes to the relatively high value of the alpaca, since the herd growth rates remain low.
Female alpacas generally reach breeding age at between 1 and 2 years of age. Male alpacas become capable of reproduction between 2 and 3 years of age.
Alpacas average about 150 pounds and stand approximately 36 inches at the withers. Alpacas have a highly developed and efficient digestive system, and can be pastured with as many as ten alpacas per acre. A herd of alpacas will tend to create community manure piles, minimizing parasite problems and facilitating pasture cleanup. The feet of an alpaca are padded, resulting in minimal damage to the ground.
Alpacas are intelligent and easily train to lead on a halter. Alpacas exhibit a gentle disposition and a curious nature. Independent and standoffish, while being friendly and inquisitive, some have compared the personality of alpacas to that of cats. Alpacas and children have a natural affinity for each other.
Easy to care for, alpaca herd management consists of annual shearing, vaccinations and worming, occasional trimming of nails and teeth, and pasture maintenance. In some areas owners may provide a free choice mineral supplement. Feed consists of a good quality grass hay and a grain supplement.