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Alpaca FAQ's

What is an Alpaca?
The Alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated variety of the South American camelid. It has a strong resemblance to a Llama in its appearance, but is obviously smaller and has much softer, finer fleece. Alpacas come in a variety of colors, ranging from white to black, and from fawn to rose grey.

What do they eat? Grass is the main component of an alpaca’s diet. The preferred grass is Orchard grass. However, there are two types of grass that you should. Rye grass can cause drunkenness, and tall Fescue grass can cause poor milk production and can lead to abortions. We also supplement our alpacas with high-quality grain. This grain gives them additional vitamins and minerals that are used during gestation and lactation.

What is the behavior of an alpaca?
Generally alpacas are gentle animals. As herd animals, they should be kept in groups of at least two. They are elegant, social, inquisitive, and intelligent and are very observant. As animals of prey, they are nervous and cautious if they feel threatened. They may also make sharp noisy inhalations, scream, spit, or kick. We rarely see these behaviors on an alpaca farm. This is because we treat them gently and they feel safe in our presence. In fact, it is quite common for our alpacas to walk right up to us in the field.

What is the gestation period of an Alpaca? Alpaca pregnancies last 11 to 11.5 months and result in a single cria. The female alpaca can be re-bred just two weeks after giving birth.

How long does it take for a cria to be weaned from its mother? Crias can be weaned from their mother when they are about 6 months old, depending on the size of the cria and health of the mother.

How long does an alpaca live? Alpacas can live for more than 20 years. However, the reproductive life of an alpaca is about 14 to 18 years. Good health and proper care can extend this duration.

At what age do Alpacas usually starts to reproduce? Female alpacas usually reach maturity between 14 and 18 months. Breeding before that age is not advisable. A male alpaca, however, is usually not ready to reproduce until he is between 1½ and 3 years old.

What are a few of the advantages of Alpaca fiber? Alpaca fiber (called fleece) is similar to sheep’s wool. However, it is lighter in weight and silkier to touch. Because alpaca fiber does not contain lanolin, it does not itch, and is a wonderful alternative for those people who have allergies to sheep’s wool.

What are the characteristics of Alpacas fiber? One of the main reasons why alpacas are able to survive in the cold regions of Andes is the fiber in their coat. Throughout time, alpacas have developed a fine, water resistant fleece to protect them against harsh sun rays. Alpaca fiber contains microscopic airbags that make it possible to manufacture light textiles as well as different kinds of clothing.

What are the color variations of Alpacas? Alpacas come in many colors. Although white is the dominant color, alpacas also come in many different shades including black, brown, white, silver grey, and rose grey.

What are the benefits of owning Alpacas?
  • Alpaca fleece is the most luxurious fiber in the world. For thousands of years, it was the fiber of choice for ancient Incan royalty. It can be used by weavers to create high quality and durable garments such as blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, socks, coats and textiles. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors and can be sold at a high price.
  • High quality female alpacas can be sold for over $75,000. A typical female sells individually for $18,000 to $25,000.
  • Alpacas typically bring a 45% return on investment and most farms break even after 3 years.

Can I raise alpacas in my spare time? Can I become a full-time alpaca rancher? Alpaca businesses can be part time or full time, depending on the size of your farm or ranch. Alpacas are easy to manage. You can keep your day job and still run your alpaca business in the evening. However, many ranchers are choosing to go full-time due to the profitable nature of the business.

What are the first few steps that I need to make if I decide to become an alpaca breeder? If you possess a love for animals and you want to try out something different, and have a sense of adventure and the willingness to learn, then alpaca breeding is surely one of the best businesses you can start. With excellent returns, it is undoubtedly one of the more underestimated but extremely lucrative businesses to invest in. The first step is to learn more about the business by visiting knowledgeable alpaca farms. Then, as with any business, create a business plan. By then, you will know all of the possible outlays, as well as your initial investment. Pick a successful mentor farm that can and will help you create your business plan and pick the right alpacas for your farm.

How much does it cost to purchase an alpaca? A quality female alpaca can cost at least $18,000. However, if bred properly, her cria will usually sell at a higher price than she did. Moreover, female alpacas can often be purchased in packages at a lower rate. Purchasing two or more females will result in a 20 to 30% savings over the cost of a single female. As a result, you can start breeding alpacas with two quality females for about $30,000.

Will it be financial rewarding for me to become an alpaca breeder? You will see a 30% to 70% return on investment (ROI) after a year to a year and a half. This ROI is substantially higher than most other businesses, where a 10% margin is considered successful. And in 3 years time there will be a 100% return of investment. For more information on the financial aspects of alpaca ownership, read more on this article.

How much does it cost to take care of an alpaca? How much capital do I need to start up? It costs an average of $.50 per alpaca per day to care for an alpaca. Starting an alpaca ranch is not that expensive. For approximately $55,000 you set up an alpaca ranch complete with fencing, alpacas, and a quality 4-sided shelter. Alpaca businesses require much less capital than other businesses or franchises.

Can I deduct Alpacas from my taxes? Yes, alpaca purchases are tax deductible. In 2007, the first $112,000 in alpaca purchases can be deducted from your tax return. For more information, read more on this article.

What are the primary investments I will need to make when starting up an Alpaca business?

  • Unless you agist your alpacas at another farm, you will need land. You will be able to fit between 5 and 10 alpacas per acre of a land.
  • Alpacas - the cost of alpacas depends on the age, number, and sex of the individual animals.
  • Fencing - Alpacas are animals of prey. As such, they should be protected with fences from predators. They should also be kept away from poisonous plants.
  • Shelter - It is necessary for your farm to have a shelter where you can take care of the animals, and where they can be safe from wind, rain, and snow.

Are there any plants that are poisonous or dangerous to alpacas? The white sap of an Oleander can prove to be fatal to animals and also to people. Azaleas flowers possess a toxins called grayanotoxins. Grayanotoxins contain hallucinogens that can kill plant-nibbling animals. Laburnum plants are also dangerous. They can induce vomiting and convulsions and are very poisonous. Acorns are considered to be harmful along with arrow grass and black walnuts, black nightshade berries, buckwheat, pin and wild cherries and even wild cucumbers and wild plums. Flowers are also pose danger to alpacas because they contain poisonous substances and are harmful when ingested. These common plants and flowers include birds of paradise, calla lilies, buttercups, geraniums, irises, holly berries, red maples, laurels, morning glories, wisteria, poppies, and the deadly nightshade also known as hemlock. For more information, read more on this article.

Should I use chemical fertilizers and pesticides? You should take great care before administering chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Your alpacas should not come in close contact with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or weed killers. These chemicals are still dangerous to alpacas even if sprayed a month in advance. 2-4-D, a main ingredient in many pesticides, can be fatal to alpacas and should be avoided at all costs.


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