WHAT ARE ALPACAS?
Alpacas are part of the South American Camelid family, which includes Alpacas, Llamas, Guanacos, Vicunas & Camels. Alpacas were originally bred for their luxurious wool, which is hypoallergenic, waterproof, flame resistant & eight times warmer than sheeps wool! Pretty good right?!
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ALPACA & A LLAMA?
Alpacas are very often confused with Llamas, and despite them both being in the same family, they are in fact very different. Llamas are much bigger, have much longer noses, have a tendency to spit a lot more than Alpacas & are much more confident. Llamas have big banana shaped ears & Alpacas have cute little pointy ears
WHY KEEP ALPACAS?
Despite them being originally bred for their wool, there are also many other benefits of keeping Alpacas. For example, many people keep Alpacas as guard animals for other livestock (chickens, ducks, lambs etc) to help keep the foxes away. Some people simply have them as ‘walking’ lawn mowers to keep the grass down and other people (like us) simply have them as pets! Yes… they make excellent (and addictive!) pets.
WHAT DO ALPACAS EAT?
Alpacas are herbivores and only eat vegetation. They eat mostly grass, but their diets can also include leaves wood, bark or stems. Like other ruminants, alpacas have a three-chambered stomach that digests the roughage efficiently. Unlike other grazers, alpacas don’t eat much. We like to give our Alpacas treats such as Apples, Carrots & Grapes, but not too many! Carrots can be very fattening for Alpacas.
HOW LONG DO ALPACAS LIVE?
The lifespan of an Alpaca is usually between 15-20 years, although they have been known to live in there mid-late 20’s too. Our oldest Alpaca on the farm is now 19 years old and she’s doing just fine and is in-fact very healthy.
HOW MUCH DOES AN AVERAGE ALPACA WEIGH?
An average fully grown Alpaca weights between 60-90kg & the babies (Crias) usually weigh between 6-8kg at birth.
The gestation period for the females is usually around 11.5 months, however, it is not unusual for them to go slightly over. Our Alpaca, Cookie, was pregnant for over a year! They usually only have 1 baby (Cria) a year, however, twins is possible too but rare. The actual term for when they’re giving birth is called ‘unpacking’. Alpacas usually only ‘unpack’ on a dry day and first thing in a morning. We have had some girls in the past that didn’t quite read the book though!
Alpacas must be sheared once a year to avoid heat stress, matting & skin problems. Here at Cheshire Alpacas, we are lucky enough to have an ‘in house’ shearer, Jamie Meakin of Shear Alpacas. Jamie is also available to shear outside herds so get in touch if you’re looking to get your Alpacas annual haircut booked!
BREEDS OF ALPACAS
There are two breeds of Alpacas. The most popular breed is the Huacaya Alpaca (pronounced wa-kai-ya). Huacaya Alpacas are those that have the big, fluffy ‘teddy bear’ like fleece. The other breed is called a ‘suri’ Alpaca (pronounced Surrey). Suri Alpacas have very long, ‘dread-locky’ style fleece. A little bit like a mop head on legs!