Alpacas… several years ago, I discovered Alpacas (Vicugna pacos) and became fascinated with them. A couple of years ago, we visited a local Alpaca farm and talked to the owners about raising them and profiting from them.
Though my fascination for them has continued, we have never been in a financial place to own any. They are quite costly upfront (it was estimated to cost up to 35k to start a small profitable herd several years ago), but in comparison to many other animals, their upkeep and care is minimal and their fiber is profitable every year!
|photo from Wikipedia|
They are part of the camelid family along with camels and llamas.
They resemble a llama, but are much more elegant, in my opinion.
When sheared, they remind me of a deer, actually.
They are bred and raised for their fiber (and meat, in some places), which is similar to wool and is used to make knitted and woven articles of clothing. From socks & sweaters to blankets & bedding, the fiber comes in 52 natural colors (as classified in Peru), including white, black, brown, and gray. Their fiber is a great substitute for those allergic to wool.
|photo from alpacas.com|
|photo from wikipedia.org|
They are native to South America and have been domesticated for thousands of years. There are no known wild Alpacas at this time.
Alpacas are quite small, averaging just 3ft tall at the withers (shoulders) and weighing between 106-185lbs full grown.
They have a gentle nature, but are skittish and easily scared. They desire to live in herds with an alpha male, his females, and their young. They are super clean animals and even have a “communal dung pile” away from where they graze, which makes cleaning up after them easy.
Alapacs have extremely efficient digestive systems, which means their manure does not need to be composted before being used on pastures or ornamental landscaping. Alpacas have a 3-chamber stomach and chew their cud. They eat about 1-2% of their body weight per day, which results in about 2 60-pound bales of hay per month per animal (if they do not have adequate grazing). Their digestive systems are very sensitive, though, and care must be taken to provide quality grasses for them to graze on, which is perhaps the most difficult part of raising them. They make a variety of noises ranging from high-pitch screams or screeches (when in danger) to friendly clucking and content humming sounds. Because of their easy care and cleanliness, you can raise up to 10 Alpacas per 1 acre of pasture!
Baby Alpacas are called crias and the gestation period lasts almost one whole year (about 345 days). Alpacas can live up to 20 years. In America, you can buy a castrated male Alpaca (gelding) for only $100 to have as a pet and also to be used for his fiber. But, prices can go as high as $500,000 for the best quality bred and fibrous Alpaca!
I think they are an interesting creature and raising them would create an enjoyable farming lifestyle. Something to dream about anyway!