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FAQs

What is an alpaca?
An alpaca is a member of the camelid family. It a descendent of camels and closely related to the llama.

What is the difference between a llama and an alpaca?
Llamas were raised as pack animals and alpacas were bred for fiber.

Where are alpacas from?
They are native to the Andes Mountains in South America and can be found most prominently in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.

What are alpacas used for?
They are used for fiber and in the United States they are bred for their potential as breeding stock.

Why use Alpaca fiber?
During processing no chemicals, dyes, or bleaches are used.  Alpaca fiber does not contain lanolin (like sheep’s wool). Each shaft of alpaca fiber is similar to that of a sheep, but the scales are closer to the shaft and have a rounded edge. It also has a medullated core, which can be partially or fully hollow. This deters dust mites which cause allergies. Therefore, alpaca fiber is considered hypoallergenic. 

An extra insulative component to this fiber is that it is porous which provides a consistent balance of temperature. Alpaca fiber keeps you dry by wicking away moisture.  It is also naturally fire retardant. 

How do you clean alpaca fiber?
No chemicals are needed. Place item in sunlight to clean and deodorize. You also can wash them and let them air dry naturally. 

What does alpaca fiber feel like?
It is softer than sheep’s wool.  Some say it has an almost cashmere feel.

How often are alpaca sheared?
Most are sheared once a year.

Does alpaca fiber itch like sheep’s wool?
No.  Because alpaca does not contain lanolin.  Lanolin holds dust and microscopic allergens which create the allergic reactions.

How many natural colors do alpacas come in?
There are 22 natural color variations. The main colors include: white, fawn,
brown, grey, and black; with many shades in between. Alpaca fiber dyes easily into other colors with natural (green) dyes.

Are alpacas killed for their fiber?
No.  They are sheared similar to sheep every year.

What is baby alpaca fiber?
It is the finest and most rare of the alpaca fiber classifications.  It is not necessarily fleece from a baby (cria). It is a measurement of fiber density.

Are there wild alpacas?
No.  For over 5000 years they have been a domesticated animal. They would not survive in the wild because they are unable to protect themselves from predators.

How many stomachs does an alpaca have?
Alpacas are ruminants with 3 stomachs. They convert grass to energy very efficiently eating less than other farm animals (as a percentage of its body weight).

What do alpacas eat?
They eat mostly grass and a mineral and vitamin supplement which includes selenium.

What do alpaca have for teeth?
Alpacas have baby teeth that fall out and are replaced by adult teeth. They only have one pair of incisors on top and further back in the mouth.  These are known as fighting teeth. They have 3 pairs of deciduous incisors on the bottom.

What are the toilet habits of an alpaca?
Alpacas relieve themselves in designated areas that are used by the whole herd.

What shelter and fencing do alpacas require?
They are native to a harsh environment which includes snow, freezing wind and bitter cold. They are hardy animals that need to be out of the wind and have a dry place to eat and lie down during a storm.  Gravel or dirt is better than cement for their floor. The important thing about fencing is to keep predators out rather than keeping the alpacas in. 

Do alpacas spit?
Yes, it is the only defense mechanism alpacas have.  It is quite rare for an alpaca to spit at a person unless it or its cria is threatened.

Do alpacas kick and bite?
It depends on the animal.  Alpacas tend to be sensitive around their hind legs and will kick if they feel threatened. The alpaca foot has a soft pad to help keep its footing on mountainous terrain.  Biting is very rare.  It can happen if the alpaca is a spoiled pet and is seeking attention.

Can I own just one alpaca?
No, they are herd animals. You need to have at least two. They only feel secure and content when they have other alpaca for company.

How long is gestation?
11˝ months to a year.

What is the name of a baby alpaca?
They are called a cria.

Do alpacas carry diseases?
Alpacas are mostly disease free.

Why use alpaca manure for fertilizer?
It is lower in organic matter than other farm animals, which means there is less risk of burning plants. Comparatively, it contains high levels of nitrogen and potassium which are major plant nutrients. It can go on direct and does not need to be composted. It also has less odor than most manures.

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