Frequently Asked Questions
What is an alpaca?
An alpaca is a member of the camelid family. Other camelids are llamas, vicunas, guanacos, and, of course, camels.
What do you do with alpacas?
Alpacas are valued for their fleece, which is processed into a luxury fiber used to make high-fashion garments, casual wear and home accessories.
Can they be used as pack animals?
Unlike llamas, alpacas are not pack animals, being too small to carry heavy loads.
Can you eat them?
In South America and other parts of the world, alpaca is on the menu. In the United States, however, most alpacas die after a long and happy life, as North Americans have not developed a taste for alpaca meat..
Is it hard to raise alpacas?
Alpacas are easy -- even fun -- to raise, especially compared to other livestock. They are easy to handle, do not require much land, and require less food than most other livestock.
How much land do they need?
Not much. The general rule-of-thumb is that an acre of land will support 5-10 alpacas, depending on the quality of available pasture.
What if I only want to raise one alpaca?
Alpacas are herd animals and thrive in the company of other alpacas. It is strongly recommended that anyone interested in raising alpacas plan on a minimum of two alpacas and preferably more.
Do they spit?
Yep. Fortunately, though, they usually spit only at each other -- typically to express annoyance or to discipline an errant youngster. Sometimes the "spit" is just a puff of air and sometimes it is chewed grass or hay.
What do they eat?
An alpaca's diet starts with forage, which can be pasture or hay. Pasture grasses can include alfalfa, brome, bermuda grass, blue grass, certain fescues and native varieties. Alfalfa, although a favorite of alpacas, should comprise no more than 20 percent (preferably closer to 10 percent) of their diet, due to its high protein content. Dietary supplements, which come in several forms, are often given in order to ensure that alpacas get the nutrition they need.
How much do alpacas cost?
Anywhere from zero to over $1 million! Some farms have alpacas that they are willing to sell for $100-200 or even give away to someone who will provide them a good home. On the other end of the scale, highly prized herdsires have sold for hundreds of thousands or even more than a million dollars. Most alpacas sell in the range of $5,000 to $25,000, with breeding females bringing higher prices than junior herdsires (herdsires who aren't proven, meaning they don't yet have any crias "on the ground").
Why are they so expensive?
Prices are high for high-end "seed stock" in any livestock industry, because those animals can be depended on to produce offspring with predictable and desirable traits. With alpacas, supply-and-demand also contributes to high prices. The supply of alpacas in the U.S. is limited, because South American importation is now closed, and also because it takes so long to increase the size of a herd through reproduction. The gestation period for alpacas is 11-1/2 months, and alpacas typically give birth to only one cria (baby) at a time. Meanwhile, demand is increasing as more and more people join the ranks of alpaca breeders,.
Can you make money raising alpacas?
Absolutely! Do your homework, set clear and achievable goals, and follow your dream. Many breeders realize a good return from their alpaca investment, and are further rewarded with a rich quality-of-life. Go for it!