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Image by Matthew Alexander

Education

About Alpacas

About alpacas

Like the camel and the llama, the alpaca belongs to the Camelid family. Alpacas are classified as livestock and there are two alpaca breeds in the US, Huacaya and Suri; of which the majority are huacayas.​

 

  • Huacaya (pronounced wah-Ki-ah) alpacas have a teddy bear appearance with their fluffy fleece.

  • Suri (pronounced SOO-ree) alpacas are more silky with draping pencil-locks.

There are 16 official colors of alpacas used when registering an alpaca, and there are an additional eight color classes.

 

Adult alpacas typically weigh between 100-200 lbs, which is about half the weight of an adult llama. Alpacas generally live for 15-20 years and the oldest documented alpaca lived for 27 years. 

Alpacas are a herd animal and need lots of alpaca friends. Alpacas do spit, but this is usually when another alpaca is encroaching on their food.

Alpacas are very quiet, docile animals that generally make a minimal amount of sound. They generally make only a pleasant humming sound as a means of communication or to express concern or stress. Occasionally you will hear a shrill sound, called an "alarm call," which usually means they are frightened or angry with another alpaca. Male alpacas also "serenade" females during breeding with a guttural, throaty sound called "orgling."

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Huacaya
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Suri
Alpaca History

A Little History About Alpacas

Vicuna

The story of the Alpaca begins in the highlands of Peru in Central America. Over 6000 years ago the wild Vicuna was mostly bred for meat and fiber.  It has been proven through genetic research that Alpacas are descendants of the Vicuna.

 

Andean herders began domesticating and breeding selectively to improve the fiber quality of this smaller ancestor.  The quality of fiber was better then than what has been achieved even now by today’s standards.  It was so fine and revered; it was only allowed to be worn by Incan royalty. Back then, the Andean people used cloth as currency with alpaca fiber being of the highest value.  The alpaca was an important part of the survival of the Incas. The population of these animals was thought to be around 50 million. Until the Spanish Invasion in 1532…

To subjugate the Incans, the Spaniards slaughtered nearly 90% of the alpacas. Some were able to escape to the Andean Plateau and be hidden and cared for  by Quetcha people. It would be several centuries before alpaca fiber would again be recognized for its quality.

 

An English mill owner, Sir Titus Salt stumbled upon a few bales of this luxurious fiber near the end of the Industrial Revolution in 1936 while in Liverpool.  Recognizing its value, he designed his mills to process this special fiber.  Alpaca clothing was again worn by Royals – English royals, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert even owned two alpacas.  The reputation of its high quality soon spread all over Europe.

To compete with the invention of synthetic fiber, the South American countries with many alpacas (Peru, Chili, Bolivia) agreed to allow them to be exported to the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Israel.  The US imported many alpacas from 1984-1998; mainly from Peru. They were issued a certificate that was used to be able to trace their lineage.  This documentation is called an ARI (Alpaca Registry, Inc) and includes birth dates, colors, and other information.  DNA is also required when registering an alpaca to verify its lineage on the certificate and to preserve the quality of alpacas in the US.

According to the Alpaca Owners Association (AOA), today there are 263,309 registered  alpacas in the U.S. with 82% being huacaya and 18% suri.  Michigan currently has 8311 registered alpacas with 71% being huacaya and 29% suri.

 

July 23, 2021

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Alpaca
Alpaca Lingo

Alpaca lingo

Agist

When an alpaca owner pays to have  their animal live at somebody else's farm, this is called boarding or agisting.

 

Alarm Call

A sound which alpacas make when they feel that the herd is threatened in some way. It sounds similar to an engine trying to start or a turkey call or some combination of the two.

Alpaca Talk

Bugling - The warning sound made by alpacas when they see trouble.

Clucking - The sound alpaca dams make when they talk to their crias.

Humming - The sound alpacas make when they are talking to one another.

Blanket

The part of an alpaca’s coat that extends from the nape of the neck at the withers along to the tail and down the flanks to the belly and haunches.  This is usually the softest, "Prime" fleece.

Carding

The process of combing and cleaning alpaca fiber.

Cria (cree-a)

The term for a young alpaca from birth until he/she is weaned.

 

Cush

How an alpaca sits.

 

Dam

The female parent of a alpaca.

Density

The number of fibers in a specific area of an alpaca’s body.

Drop Spinning

A method used to spin alpaca fiber into yarn.

Fiber 

The fleece, wool or fur of an alpaca.

Fleece

All the alpaca fiber from one alpaca after it is sheared.

Grazing

Alpacas eating grass in the pasture.

Grooming

Cleaning the alpaca with a brush.

Halter

A special strap that alpaca owners put on their alpaca's head in order to guide their alpaca.

Herd

A group of alpacas.

Herd Sire

A male alpaca used for breeding.

Huacaya Alpaca

A breed of alpaca with a teddy bear appearance with fluffy fleece.

Paddock

A small fenced area for holding alpacas when they're not on pasture, also known as a drylot.

Pasture

Where alpacas live and eat grass.

Pronk

A movement made by alpacas lifting all four feet off the ground, springing high into the air.

Shearer

The person who cuts fleece off alpacas.

Shearing

Removing fleece  from an alpaca.

Spinner

A person who makes alpaca fiber into yarn.

Spinning Wheel

A machine used by the spinner to make yarn.

Suri Alpaca

A breed of alpaca with long straight fiber that hangs in ringlets down at its sides.

 

 

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Alpaca vs Llama
Image by Manuel Keller

Differences between alpacas and llamas

Alpacas

 

  • Weigh 100-200 lbs

  • Stand 36" at withers
    (neck/back area)

  • Raised for their fleece

Llamas

 

  • Weigh 250-450 lbs

  • Twice the size of an alpaca

  • Raised for packing or guarding

Alpaca Colors

Natural Alpaca Colors

Alpaca owners will register their new alpacas so they are able to enter them in alpaca shows and use them for breeding. When registering an alpaca with AOA (Alpaca Owners Association), a blood sample is required on a DNA card. The DNA is verified to make sure the parents (Sire & Dam) listed are correct. This process ensures true lineage in the alpaca community. The color chart below with 16 colors is used to help determine the correct color for registration. Alpacas can also be more than one color.
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100 WH  White
201  BG  Beige
202  LF  Light Fawn
204  MF Medium Fawn
205  DF  Dark Fawn
209  LB  Light Brown
301  MB Medium Brown
410  DB  Dark Brown
360  BB  Bay Black
500  TB  True Black
401  LSG  Light Silver Grey
402  MSG  Medium Silver Grey
404  DSG  Dark Silver Grey
408  Light Rose Grey
211  Medium Rose Grey
306  Dark Rose Grey

 
LGD

Great Pyrenees

Known as Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGD’s), the Great Pyrenees go back hundreds of years to the Pyrenees Mountains in southern France where they were used by shepherds to protect goats and sheep against animal predators.

Today, with domestic dogs being the number one livestock killer in the US, and coyotes being the second most common predator, the LGD’s are one of the most efficient means of predator control. Other livestock guard animals are donkeys and llamas. Other LGD breeds include the Komondor, Anatolian Shepherd and Akbash.

These livestock guardians live full time with their animals and have the natural ability to determine for themselves if two or four legged intruders are friend or foe.  This is what makes them different from ‘guard’ dogs. Guard dogs generally guard against human beings and are trained to follow orders to attack by human command.

 The guardian dog makes the decision to attack; and they, not you make the decision to stop attacking.  Any barking heard through the night is a sign that the dogs are on the job. Being independent thinkers, they accept others as a threat or non-threat and there is no middle ground. The LGD will fight to the death to protect their stock.

 

Another difference between guard and guardians is that the guardian also nurtures its animals, especially kids or lambs. They have been known to assist a first time mom clean and dry her kids when her instincts may not have yet began, or if abandoned by a mom, the Pyrenees will stay with the young one to keep it safe and warm until help arrives.

Some do’s and don’ts to remember when visiting a farm with these ‘working dogs’:

You may see an LGD behind a fence with their stock. The dog(s) will likely bark and may rush up to the fence, especially if you have a companion dog with you.

  • Don’t attempt to reach through the fence, pet, or feed the dogs. LGDs are naturally aloof to people they do not know and they do not want to make friends with you. Their owners strongly prefer that people not feed their dogs. Ignore the dog and continue on with your business.

  • Don’t throw things at the dogs or verbally harass them in a threatening manner. This is also important if you have a working LGD in your neighborhood. Antagonizing or yelling at working or barking LGDs will not make them stop.

  • Absolutely don’t open gates or enter the area without the owners’ presence and permission.

  • Look for signs announcing the presence of an LGD at work.

  • If you drive up to a house or barn and a dog comes up to your car, wait for the owner to control the dog or introduce you.

  • Avoid bringing your pet dogs to a farm with a working LGD. Do not let a pet dog out of your vehicle without permission.

Great Pyrenees
Great Pyrenees
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Komondor
Komondor
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Anatolian Shepherd
Anatolian Shepherd
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Akbash
Akbash
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