The Alpaca

I recently met an alpaca at a petting zoo. His name was Ned, and he was utterly delightful. I must admit I’ve been a bit obsessed with the idea of adding one of these fascinating animals to my menagerie ever since, though I doubt my condo homeowner’s association would approve. So, instead, I decided to get to know more about the alpaca.

Alpacas come in two types, the suri and the huacaya. The fleece of suri alpacas grows into long, silky locks. Huacaya alpacas have shorter, denser fleece that is woolly in appearance. The average height of both types is 36-inches at the withers when fully grown. They may weigh from 100 to 175 pounds and have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. Baby alpacas, called crias, weigh between 15 and 20 pounds. Their gestation period is 12 months.

Alpaca fleece or fiber comes in 22 colors and additional blends. This fleece makes owning alpacas a fantastic investment. Shorn each year, a single animal will produce from five to ten pounds of fiber that is in high demand within the textile industry. They weave alpaca fleece into some of the softest, most luxurious garments in the world.

Purchasing an alpaca for alpaca farming is not inexpensive. Breeding females may cost $10,000 to $40,000. High quality males range from $5,000 to $35,000. However, many alpaca breeders offer financing. It has also been said that they are inexpensive to raise and require only a small amount of land – though unfortunately more than the patio attached to my condo.

Have you owned a beautiful, gentle alpaca, or met one on a farm? Tell us your story in the comments.

About Julie Perkins

A self-professed "crazy cat lady" and slave to three furry masters, Julie loves all things fuzzy. Throughout her life, she has been owned by cats, dogs, rabbits, gerbils, hamsters, fish and even a hermit crab. A freelance writer who has perfected the fine art of typing with one hand (because there is a cat on top of the other one), she lives in Colorado with her husband and a menagerie of critters.

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