Frequently Asked Questions
What is an alpaca and what are they used for?
Alpacas are members of the camelid family, along with llamas, vicunas, and guanacos. They come from the high plains of the Andes Mountains in South America. Alpacas have been used for centuries for their fine luxurious fibre. Their fleece is renowned for its fineness and durability. There are two breeds of alpacas, huacaya and suri. Their fibre type is the distinguishing factor. The huacaya is much more common, having a very crimpy fleece that gives them a fluffy appearance. The suri has a silky hair like fibre, which drapes down in tight spirals and locks. About 90% of the world's alpaca population is Huacaya and 10% is Suri. Adult alpacas stand approximately 3 feet tall at the shoulder and weigh 110 - 220 pounds.
How much land do I need to raise alpacas?
Depending on your pasture, you can generally raise 7 - 10 alpacas on 1 acre of land. You can keep a lot of alpacas on a small acreage if you want to supplement with hay and grain.
Do I have to own a farm to be involved with alpacas?
Not at all. Lots of alpaca owners live in the city or don't want to raise the animals themselves. Many alpaca owners are involved with alpacas strictly as an investment. These people keep their animals at an established farm where they are looked after and managed for them.
We manage a number of animals for other owners on our ranch. Visit our services page for information on breeding and boarding at White Frost farms.
Why are alpacas becoming so popular?
Alpacas are considered to be the aristocrat of all farm animals. Although, in North America we are still in a breeder's market, Alpaca fibre is in very high demand by the textile industry worldwide and therefore will remain very valuable in the longterm. Alpacas are shorn once a year yielding 5 - 8 pounds of exquisite fleece. The fibre, virtually grease free, can be hand spun directly off the animal. Alpacas are one of the easiest, gentle, intelligent, clean, earth friendly, and profitable animals to raise.
What does an alpaca eat?
Alpacas prefer to eat fresh grass. In the summer, if you have pasture you will only need to supplement them with feed pellets. During the winter you will feed them good grass hay and increase their supplement of pellets slightly to ensure that they receive adequate vitamins and minerals. For thousands of years, alpacas have lived where grass grows sparsely. They require low amounts of protein in their feed to produce a high quality, healthy fleece. Alpacas will not normally overeat. Unlike hoofed animals, their softly padded feet are extremely easy on pasture. Alpacas have two toes and a split upper lip, which allows them to cut grass as they graze. They browse pastures, and utilize community dung piles, making pasture and manure management easy.
What do I need for shelter?
Alpacas are a hardy animal and prefer to be outside, however they do require shade from the hot sun and enough cover and a windbreak to protect them from the cold and wind. It is a good idea to provide an enclosed barn for moms and crias (babies) during the winter.
What care does an alpaca require?
Alpacas are simple to care for. They require little beyond regular deworming and vaccinations, in addition to occasional trimming of their nails and teeth. Alpacas should be shorn annually.
What is the alpaca's life span and reproductive cycle?
Alpaca's live for 15 - 20 years. Females are induced ovulaters and therefore are ready to breed at most any time of the year. The female alpaca will ovulate in response to mating and will normally spit off an advancing male if she is pregnant. Gestation is approximately 330 to 350 days. Alpacas give birth to a single cria, weighing between 12 to 20 pounds. Females are bred again 18 to 20 days after giving birth. You can usually begin to breed females at 14 to 16 months of age. Pregnancies are normally confirmed with an ultrasound test. Alpacas usually give birth during daylight hours and do not normally require human intervention. It is rare for an alpaca to give birth at night or to have twins.
Can I start with just one alpaca?
Alpacas are very social animals and therefore you should plan on starting your herd with two or more animals. Two or three females are a great way to start because it gets your herd growing quicker. Visit our services page to see how White Frost farms can help protect your investment in alpacas.