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Alpacas originate in the high plateaus of the Andes Mountains in South America. They were first domesticated by the Inca peoples who used them for fiber, meat, and leather. Importation of the alpaca into the United States began in 1984, and ended in 1988.
Alpacas communicate by humming and live peacefully in herds. They are good natured and rarely spit. They get along well with other domestic livestock. They are related to the llama and camels. Alpacas are intelligent, easy to train, gentle, and safe for children to handle.
Alpacas are raised as breeding stock, pets, fiber producers and 4H animals.
There are two types of Alpacas: the Huacaya (wa ki ya) whose fleece has a crimp or wavy quality that makes them look like a teddy bear. The 2nd type is the Suri (sir ee) which has lustrous fine fiber that hangs in dreadlocks.
Alpaca fiber is considered one of the most luxurious fibers in the world. Their fiber is known for its fineness, light weight, softness and warmth. It comes in 22 natural colors and is easily dyed.
Alpacas are hardy and disease resistant. They require only annual vaccinations and worming medicine. Toenail trimming and annual shearing of their fleece are the primary husbandry tasks.
Alpacas that are not used for breeding purposes are sometimes referred to fiber alpacas, pet alpacas, pasture ornaments or companion pets. The fiber on these animals will vary and be sure to ask the owner about the particular animal you are interested in. Some alpacas have great fiber, but aren’t bred because of their body conformity (legs or neck are too long).
The national alpaca industry is very discriminating about the quality of the complete alpaca when building a breeding herd. Fiber quality and body conformation both play a large role. Magic Valley Alpacas stopped its breeding program a few years ago to focus just on the fiber produced by their herd. If an alpaca has coarse fiber, that fiber can be woven into exquisite and durable rugs. If an alpaca doesn’t have the crimp needed for the show ring, but is fine (as opposed to coarse), it is great for making into yarn to be used for garments. We have always used all the fiber the herd gives to us.