Alpacas are native to the Andes Mountains in South America. Although some think they are considered exotic, the alpaca is believed to be the oldest domesticated animal in the western hemisphere. Alpacas were found mostly in Chile, Bolivia and Peru—but today, they are found in many parts of the world and their fibre is sought after by the fashion centres of France, Italy, Britain and Japan—as well as our domestic markets. Currently, there are approximately 14,000 alpacas in Canada. Ninety percent are of the Huacaya variety, with the balance comprised of the Suri. Alpacas have adapted very well to Canadian winters, but they can encounter problems with humidity in the summer months.

Alpacas are extremely easy to raise as they require minimum shelter, less fencing than most animals, and are noted for their health. They eat very little since they have one of the highest turnovers of food-to-energy ratios in the animal world. They are clean and have very little odour (even share a common dung pile). They are child-friendly and do not bite. It is rare for an alpaca to spit at a human, but they will spit at each other to either ward off the advances of a male or to establish a pecking order while feeding. They are earth-friendly since they have padded feet with two toes, and do not damage the ground that they inhabit. Although timid, alpacas can be halter trained in a very short time. They can be easily transported—even in the back of a family van!

Many years ago, the alpaca fibre could only be worn by royalty and upper class citizens in their native country. Alpaca fibre is soft and luxurious and very similar to cashmere. It is non-allergenic, lightweight like cashmere, stronger than mohair, and warmer than wool! The alpaca life span is approximately 20 years. 5-10 alpacas can be raised per acre.

It is rare that an Alpaca mother will deliver more than one baby (called a Cria) each year. The birthing is generally unassisted and the Cria is most often able to run with the mother in as little as 1 1/2 hours following its birth. Unlike most farm animals, Cria are born during daylight hours between 7am and 3pm—in our farming experience (other farms may vary). They weigh between 14-20lbs at birth. The average gestation period is 11 1/2 months. Adults range from 145-175 lbs. Males mature between 2-3 years. Females can be bred as early as 18 months, as long as normal growth patterns are evident.