What is an Alpaca?
The Alpaca is a member of the Camelid family, making it a cousin to llamas, vicuna, guanacos and camels. Alpacas are browsers, grazing on grass. They lack upper teeth and “trim” the grass rather than pulling it out by the roots like some livestock. The alpaca has a two toed, padded foot that does not harm the pasture. Alpaca is a ruminant, meaning it has a three part stomach, thus alpaca “by products” make excellent fertilizer that need not be aged.
Where do Alpacas come from?
Alpacas are native to South American Andes Mountains, of Peru, Bolivia and Chili. There approximately 4 million Alpacas in South America, with Peru and Bolivia possessing 98% of the population. Peru holds 87% of the South American population, Bolivia 11% and the remaining 2% in Chili. There are currently approximately 40,000 alpaca in the United States. They have also been exported to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Italy, and most recently China.
What do you do with them?
In South America, the alpaca is an integral part of the life of the herdsmen, supplying fiber, meat and source of income. There are many religious celebration and festivals, centered around the alpaca. In the United States the Alpaca is breed for show, fiber, breeding stock, and pets. On any given weekend there is an alpaca show some where in the united states. These shows may also have fiber completions, for raw fiber and fiber arts. There are various co-ops established to increase the demand for this luxury fiber in the States. Due to the rarity of the alpaca in North America, breeding of these animals can be very lucrative. These beautiful animals also make wonderful pets, they have curious personalities, very expressive eyes, an extremely docile nature. The care of these animals is fairly easy, and because they are very “earth friendly’ they can be raised on relatively low acreage. For more information on alpacas and to find an alpaca near you contact the Alpaca owners and Breeders association (AOBA) at; www.alpacainfo.com