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Alpacas are distant cousins of camels. They are in the same family called camelids. When most people hear about alpacas they think of Llamas. That's because Llamas are also camelids. Alpacas are originally from the Andes mountains in South America . There are two types of alpacas. The most common type of alpaca is Huacaya (Wah-kuy-ah). Huacayas have soft, crimpy fleece and look a little like a cuddly teddy bear. The other type of alpaca is Suri (Sir-ee). Suris have long, lustrous, pencil fine locks which hang straight down from the body. Alpacas come in 22 natural colors. Their fleece is used to make luxurious clothing.
Alpacas eat grass, hay, grain, and minerals. Alpacas like hay with little or no alfalfa in it to stay happy and healthy. One alpaca can eat three pounds of hay per day. Although alpacas love to chew on grass, they don't like fescue grass because it is poisonous to them. There are many types of grain mixes fed to alpacas in the US. The important thing to remember when selecting grain for your alpacas is that they have nutritional needs just like humans. The combination of hay, grains, and minerals you feed to your alpacas should meet those daily requirements. Additional minerals can be given to your alpacas to keep them strong. They can be left out for the alpacas to eat when they need them.
Alpacas are ideal for small acreages. Up to eight alpacas can graze on one acre of land. Since alpacas normally don't challenge fences, the purpose of a fence around an alpaca pasture is to keep predators out. Fences should be dog proof and four- to five-feet high. As far as a home for your alpaca, three sided shelters are all that are needed in moderate climates. Generally, alpacas need shade and a cool spot to relax in in the summer and a place to get in out of the cold in the winter.
Alpacas require little care in comparison to other livestock. On a daily basis you need to feed and water your alpacas and check for their overall health and happiness. Occasionally, the alpacas need a pedicure to keep their toe nails short and comfortable. Alpacas also need shots to prevent parasites depending on where you live. And, every year in the Spring, alpacas need to be shorn to keep them from overheating in the summer. So, not only will you have fine alpaca fleece to spin or make into garments, but your alpacas will thank you for it.
You can breed, show, and fleece alpacas. Alpacas have babies called cria. A cria must stay with its mom (dam) for about six months to ensure it grows up healthy and strong. Once a dam has a baby she can be rebred in approximately a month to produce another cria 11 months later. When you take your alpaca to a show close to home, you can load him or her into your minivan with the rest of the family. Alpacas can be shown in many shows throughout the US. To find a show near you, visit the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association Calendar of Events. The fleece of an alpaca is called wool. Unlike sheep's wool, alpaca fiber doesn't itch and many people who are allergic to sheep's wool find that they aren't allergic to alpaca fiber. To learn more about the clothes that alpaca fiber can make, visit the America's Alpaca Web site.
Alpacas provide an excellent investment opportunity. They are easy to care for, provide hours of enjoyment, and a source of valuable fleece. Alpacas make excellent companion animals. They are easily trained and are generally quite friendly. Alpacas are curious animals that can keep you laughing with their playful antics. Simply put, alpacas are the most lovable investment in the world.
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You can find more information all over the Internet. The best place to start is the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association, Inc. (AOBA).
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