Alpaca Types

The Suri

There are two different types of alpacas, the suri and the huacaya. The Suri has a distinctive fleece that grows parallel to the body in long, silky ringlet-like locks. The lustre of Suri fleece is quite unique however there is limited commercial demand, due to manufacturing difficulties.

Fleece

Alpaca fibre has a low scratch factor, is more thermal and has a higher tensile strength than sheep’s wool.  It is very soft and warm. An alpaca will produce 2kg – 5kg of soft, warm fibre every year. Clean fleece retails for premium prices. Alpaca fibre comes in 22 colors that are recognized by the textile industry,  producing high quality fabric in high demand in the fashion industry worldwide.

The Huacaya

The Huacaya is more numerous than the Suri, being distinguished by a thick, dense fleece, growing vertically from the body, giving it a very soft, woolly appearance. Huacaya fleece can be manufacturered into either textiles or yarn. Internationally, huacaya fibre is in high demand as it is a recognised high quality product.  Because the alpaca industry is in its infancy, alpaca fibre needs to be marketed proactively by suppliers – however, we have sold all our annual clip since 2004, and are happy to supply information to our customers on the options for dealing with huacaya alpaca fibre.

Physical characteristics

  • Alpacas have soft padded feet, making them gentle on their pastures.
  • They have two toenails on each foot which require periodic trimming.
  • There are no top teeth in the front. They have a hard plate on the roof of their mouth to provide bite.
  • Life Span: 15- 20+ years
  • Height: 32"- 39" at the shoulder
  • Birth Weight: 10 - 17 pounds
  • Adult Weight: 100 - 190 pounds

Gestation

  • An alpaca’s gestation period is 11 to 12 months, about 340 days
  • They have single births (twins are extremely rare occurring once in about every 2000 births).
  • Cria are normally born without assistance between 10am and 4pm on warm, fine days.
  • A baby alpaca is called a cria, usually weighs between 6-8kg at birth

Life span

  • Alpacas have a life span of 15-20 years or more

Alpacas

The average weight of an Alpaca is between 110 lbs and 220 lbs, depending on the sex of the animal. The average height of an alpaca at the withers is approximately 36 inches. The lifespan of the Alpaca is about 20 years. Because of their size, Alpacas are easy to handle and great for small acreages.

Alpacas are induced ovulators, with an average gestation period of between 330 and 350 days. Females can be bred when they are approximately 12 months of age. They give birth easily, are excellent mothers, and usually produce a single offspring, referred to as a "cria". Breeding age of the males begins anywhere between two to three years of age. Most crias are born between May and August, arriving early morning to late afternoon and do not usually require human intervention. It is rare for an alpaca to give birth at night or to have twins. The female can be bred again 18 - 20 days after giving birth.

Alpacas are highly adaptable feeders. They graze the natural grasses in the summer and eat hay in the winter, averaging 1 1/2 bales per month per animal. Pellets, vitamins and minerals are added to their diet as supplements. Alpaca fleece is a soft, luxurious, natural fibre that is warmer, stronger and lighter than wool. The alpaca industry is striving to produce animals with fine dense fibre, satisfying the need for both quality and quantity, ensuring commercial viability for the future. Alpacas are generally sheared every year, yielding 5 - 8 pounds of fleece per animal.