All About Alpacas
Want to learn all about alpacas? You've come to the right place! We appreciate the TN Alpaca Association for providing some wonderful insight into these interesting creatures!
WHAT IS AN ALPACA?
The alpaca is a docile, long-necked, fur-bearing creature raised for its highly desirable and luxurious fleece. Sheared once a year, alpacas produce fiber that is soft, lustrous and warm. Alpacas are relatively easy to care for, making them one of the best small-acreage livestock available. The alpaca is one of the oldest domesticated animals known to man. They are a herd animal, preferring to live together with other alpacas for their common defense and comfort. Often acting as a group, alpacas will feed together, play together, sleep together, and guard each other against predators. Alpacas are ruminants, chewing their cud as cows do, and making very efficient use of all the food they eat. Members of the camelid family, alpacas are biologically grouped with other South American camels, such as llamas, guanacos, and vicunas. As camelids, alpacas share similar skeletal construction, facial characteristics and unique two-toed padded feet with other camel types.
HUACAYA VS. SURI
Alpacas come in two distinct flavors, distinguished primarily by the characteristics of their fleece.The Huacaya (pronounced "wha-KAI-uh") is the most common style of alpaca. Huacayas have dense, soft, curly fleece that gives them a somewhat fluffy teddy- bear-like appearance. The Suri (pronounced "SIR-ree") are much less common, making up only 10% of the alpaca population worldwide. Suri fleece hangs down in long,dangling, pencil-thin locks that give the Suri alpaca a sort of Rastafarian dreadlock look. Because of the differences in their fleece, alpaca shows judge huacayas and suris separately.
WHAT DO ALPACAS EAT?
Alpacas are herbavores that primarily consume grass, hay and grain. Many farmers supplement their alpacas with daily grain, usually in pellet form. These pellets are usually made from COB: That is, corn, oats, and barley.
Alpacas are an excellent small-acreage livestock and are relatively easy to care for. The three main elements needed are feed, water and shelter. Alpacas do fine in the cold of winter as they have built-in warm coats, but extra care must be taken in the summer to guard them against heat-stress. Shelter from the sun is an absolute requirement year-round, but especially in the heat of summer. So is water, which in the summer can include additional buckets of electrolytes to help them deal with the heat. Alpaca farmers will run fans in the barns 24 hours a day during the hottest parts of the year, and alpacas will often park themselves right in front of them to enjoy the breeze. Belly-baths are also used to keep the alpacas cool during the hot months. These consist of spraying the undersides of the alpacas to soak them where their sweat glands are. The alpacas love the water, and will come running when they see the hose in order to get in on the action.