2021/2022 Alpaca Owners Guide
Introductory Guide to the Alpaca Industry.
Introductory Guide to the Alpaca Industry
PLIE 6X CHAMPION
5 X CHAMPION JUDGE'S CHOICE
A NEW DAWN
5 X CHAMPION JUDGE'S CHOICE
kerr i@eagl eeyefarm.net dawn@eagl eeyefarm.net
Regional Directory WEST PACIFIC NORTHEAST MIDDLE ATLANTIC
NEWFOUNDLAND & LABRADOR
California.......................70 Oregon...........................71 Washington....................72 MOUNTAIN Arizona. .........................82 Colorado........................82 Idaho. ............................83 Montana........................83 Nevada...........................84 New Mexico...................84 Utah...............................84 Wyoming.......................84 MIDWEST WEST NORTH CENTRAL Iowa...............................90 Kansas............................90 Minnesota......................90 Missouri.........................91 Nebraska........................91 North Dakota. ...............91 EAST NORTH CENTRAL Illinois............................96 Indiana...........................96 Michigan........................97 Ohio..............................97 Wisconsin......................99
New Jersey. ..................104 New York.....................104 Pennsylvania.................105 NEW ENGLAND Connecticut.................114 Maine. .........................114 Massachusetts...............114 New Hampshire...........115 Vermont.......................115 SOUTH SOUTH ATLANTIC Delaware......................118 Florida. ........................118 Georgia........................118 Maryland. ....................118 North Carolina. ...........119 South Carolina.............119 Virginia........................119 West Virginia...............120 EAST SOUTH CENTRAL Alabama.......................124 Kentucky. ....................124 Mississippi. ..................124 Tennessee.....................124 WEST SOUTH CENTRAL Oklahoma....................128 Texas............................128
NY MIDDLE ATLANTIC
WEST NORTH CENTRAL
IL IN IL IN EAST NORTH CENTRAL
MS EAST SOUTH CENTR L
SC SOUTH ATLANTIC SC
WEST SOUTH CENTRAL
INTERNATIONAL Austria. ........................136 Canada.........................136 MARKETPLACE Celebrity Sales..............138 Choice Alpaca Products. ..........138 Classic Alpaca. .............138 Crossed Arrows Fiber Mill.....................138 Latin Collection LLC...138 Mazuri Animal Nutrition.........138 Norlander Sock Company / Alpacas Midwest. .........138
Prairie States Insurance Agency Inc...................138 Red Hill Fiber Mill & Alpaca Farm. ...............138 Stevens Llama Tique & Suri Alpacas.................138 The Alpaca Yarn Company.............138 AD INDEX. ...142 Only states with participating farms and ranches are listed.
Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA) a Colorado-based 501(c)5 Nonprofit Corporation ALPACA OWNERS GUIDE 2021/2022 Managing Editor | Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. Designer | Natalie Dettmer Advertising Manager | Jo Ashley HowTo Reach Us Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. • 8300 Cody Drive, Ste A • Lincoln, NE 68512 www.AlpacaInfo.com • 402-437-8484 Advertising Advertising inquiries should be directed to Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org • 402-437-8484 Editorial | Advertising Policies
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Opinions contained in articles and advertising are those of the contributing author(s) only, and are not necessarily the views of Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA); or AOA officials, staff, employees, or agents. Publication in Alpaca Owners Guide does not constitute an endorsement of the views, products, or services contained in said articles and advertisements. AOA does not warrant the accuracy of the material contained in any article or the quality or authenticity of goods or services contained in any advertisement. AOA reserves the right to edit or reject at its discretion any advertisement submitted for publication. While AOA consistently endeavors to publish on or ahead of printed release dates, we cannot be held responsible for publishing later than those anticipated release dates. We also assume no responsibility for circumstances beyond our control, such as untimely postal delivery, equipment failure, etc.
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presents the Alpaca Owners Guide
5 Welcome from Alpaca Owners Association 6 Alpaca Owners Association Overview 11 AOA Regional Affiliates 12 Alpacas in North America: A Short History 16 Frequently Asked Questions 22 Alpacas: A Labor of Love 26 The Environmental Friendliness of Alpacas By David E. Anderson, DVM 28 Recommended Practices in Caring for Alpacas and Llamas 36 Minimum Standards of Care for Alpacas 38 Alpaca Barns, Pens, and Pastures By Bill and Sherri Duey 42 Labor Saving Farm Gadgets By Beth Roy 44 Fiber as a Business 48 Making Money with Alpaca Products: Value Adding By Rachel Hendrickson 54 Agritourism on the Alpaca Ranch By Leslie Stoddard 58 An Introduction to Showing Alpacas 62 Insuring Your Alpaca: The Basics By Deb Gale 64 A Bright Future Lies Ahead for the North American Alpaca Industry 70 Regional Farm and Ranch Listings Cover photo courtesy of Marie Waltz, Bent Pine Alpaca Farm 2021 AOA Photo Contest Judge's Choice Winner
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elcome to the wonderful world of Alpacas! W
Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA) is committed to promoting and increasing public awareness of alpacas, alpaca products, and alpaca fleece. People are interested in alpacas for different reasons: fiber production, breeding, selling alpaca products, agritourism, and more. Whatever your reason, these amazing animals are a source of pleasure and potential profit for their owners. This publication will be helpful as you begin learning about alpacas. Within its pages, you’ll read the fascinating history of the alpaca. We’ll give you an overview of the North American alpaca industry, followed by answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. Finally, we will introduce you to many alpaca owners and breeders who invite you to visit their farms and ranches. Take a look at the affiliates section to locate a regional affiliate near you. Affiliates may have information on local shows and educational events in your area. Here you can meet other alpaca owners and breeders to help you learn about the industry. The best way to fully appreciate the overall appeal of this livestock is to visit them at the farms and ranches listed. The directory is organized by region and then by state or province. All of the information needed to schedule a visit is at your fingertips. Everyone you meet through this directory will share the excitement of alpaca ownership. Each owner will have different experiences and observations to share. We hope you will take this opportunity to visit as many alpaca operations as possible and learn as much as you can about alpacas. Call an alpaca owner now and make your appointment to meet these animals first hand!
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Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA)
T he North American alpaca industry formally began in 1988 with a small group of 87 members and an alpaca population of less than 400 animals. Since that time, the industry has expanded significantly. AOA itself has not been around very long, the result of merging the Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association into Alpaca Registry, Inc. in January, 2014, to create a single national breed association for alpacas. AOA represents the United States, as well as many alpaca owners in Canada. With over 4,000 active members and more than 275,000 registered alpacas, AOA is considered to have the world’s premier pedigree registry, show system, and judge
training system. Alpaca organizations around the world have used AOA as a guide in setting up and managing their own organizations, often sending their show judges to the United States to be trained. As the national breed association, AOA provides a variety of services and resources to the alpaca industry, including: Internationally recognized pedigree registry Internationally recognized judge training program Alpaca show system, which includes certification of alpaca shows and the publication of the Show System Handbook Annual AOA National Halter and Fleece Shows
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AOA SHOW SYSTEM With more than 65 show competitions each year, AOA has the largest alpaca show system in the world. It is responsible for developing the judge training curriculum and certification process as well as development and review of show rules, provided to exhibitors in the Show System Handbook. Additionally, the Show System manages the process for all shows requesting AOA certification. AOA REGISTRY
Production of the highly-acclaimed official industry publication, Alpacas Magazine Support and encouragement for both alpaca breeding and fleece/fiber programs National alpaca marketing efforts Marketing tools to assist AOA members with promoting farms, farm stores, alpacas, and alpaca products Tools for making breeding decisions based on valuable genetic information utilizing the Expected Progeny Differences (EPD) program Information and educational resources for those seeking to learn about alpacas A nine-member Board of Directors elected by the membership Committees working on government and industry relations, show rules, judge training, fleece and fiber, marketing, and other areas affecting the membership A national office located in Lincoln, Nebraska, where AOA staff provide support to the industry An online library of alpaca-related publications, videos, and documents Regional affiliate organizations providing local alpaca promotion and member involvement
AOA’s Alpaca Registry is the largest of its kind in the world. Using advanced DNA technology, AOA validates the parentage of alpacas
submitted for pedigree registration. Once an alpaca’s parentage has been validated, AOA issues a registration certificate that provides known lineage (back to point of importation) and assigns a unique number to each alpaca. Alpacas born to a registered sire and dam qualify for AOA registration. In 1998, members closed the registry to previously unregistered alpacas and their offspring.
Many alpaca breeders choose to show their best animals and fleeces at AOA's certified alpaca shows.
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Alpacas Magazine is a way for owners to keep up-to-date with industry trends.
read magazine is distributed to subscribers around the globe. AOA Business Members receive the magazine as part of their membership benefits, but it is also available through paid subscriptions. AOA COMMITTEES The Alternative Products Committee researches, investigates, and studies possible non-textile revenue sources from alpacas, including but not limited to non-textile uses of fleece, hides, pelts, leather products, manure, animal food products, food products for human consumption, and any other possible uses of alpacas and alpaca by-products. The Fiber and Fiber Products Committee works to build public awareness of alpaca fiber and fiber products by publishing articles and developing projects that promote alpaca fiber and finished products as revenue streams. They also develop, manage, and create awareness for the Student Design Competition; and review and recommend updates for the Spin-Off and Auxiliary Fiber competitions.
The registry itself is a tremendous asset to the entire alpaca community. Created in 1988, the registry’s scientific methodology and database are some of the most sophisticated and accurate of any livestock industry in the world. The vast majority of alpacas in North America are registered with AOA. The registry protects the existing gene pool and helps ensure each breeder’s investment is protected from cross-breeding with other camelids. It also precludes the registration of an alpaca if its parents were not AOA registered alpacas. AOA MARKETING PROGRAM AOA also boasts a strong national marketing campaign, with a goal of promoting and increasing public awareness of alpacas, alpaca products, and alpaca fleece. This program is managed by AOA staff with the assistance of volunteers throughout the membership, and is overseen by the Board of Directors. ALPACAS MAGAZINE Along with a number of educational and marketing materials, AOA also publishes a highly acclaimed magazine. Alpacas Magazine contains the latest information on alpaca health, genetics, husbandry, business tips, and marketing ideas. It is also a valuable resource with how-to articles relating to alpaca fleece, products, fiber artistry, spinning, and knitting. This must-
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The Government and Industry Relations Committee is tasked with maintaining contact with other industry organizations, interacting with regulatory agencies in order to comment on proposed laws and regulations, advocating on behalf of the alpaca industry, and maintaining an industry presence in the U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA). The committee promotes practices and regulations that support the health of our national alpaca herd, and assists members with information when action is needed at the local or state level. The Membership Committee reviews current membership levels to determine if they contain the appropriate services and researches potential newmembership types. This committee also develops ideas for adding value to paid memberships and incentivizing alpaca owners to become members of AOA. The Show Rules Committee works with the Show System Administrator in the planning, coordination, and guidance of aspects relating to the AOA Show System. Through the show system handbook, the committee ensures a system that rewards the quality of exhibited alpacas through a
balanced assessment according to standards established by industry members, promotes and
protects the health and well-being of the alpaca, and encourages wide participation of industry members in showing and judging by adhering to a code of fairness and highest ethics.
The Judge Training and Certification Committee works with the Show System Administrator to coordinate the judge certification program, including implementation of the certification process and providing assistance in the planning, organizing, and development of judge training clinics. The Judges Advisory Committee assists show committees and AOA through research and professional input regarding show rules and related show activities. AOA REGIONAL AFFILIATES In addition to being amember of AOA, another important part of the alpaca experience is membership in AOA Regional Affiliates. Located throughout the United States, affiliates sponsor regional AOA Certified Shows, run fiber pools, and offer educational seminars on a variety of topics. Membership in an affiliate also offers tremendous opportunities to build relationships with other alpaca owners in your geographic area. This support network is very important as you build your alpaca business.
The AOA Fiber and Fiber Products Committee encourages design students to work with alpaca through the Student Design Competition.
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www.AlpacaInfo.com 10 THINGS TO GET YOU STARTED 1 Learn about alpacas through online education.
2 Read stories from successful alpaca owners and breeders who have experience in the alpaca industry. Connect with them to learn more. 3 Search for a farm or ranch in your area to visit. 4 Search for upcoming events in your area. 5 Search for and attend an upcoming AOA Certified Show. 6 Find and network with your regional alpaca organization. 7 Subscribe to Alpacas Magazine . 8 Search registered alpacas that are available for sale or stud. 9 Read the latest news from AOA. 10 Join AOA, the most respected national alpaca organization in existence!
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AOA REGIONAL AFFILIATES
AAWW Alpaca Association of WesternWashington www.alpacawa.org
MAPACA Mid-Atlantic Alpaca Association www.mapaca.org
ABA Alpaca Breeders of Arizona www.alpacabreedersofaz.org ABR Alpaca Breeders of The Rockies www.alpacabreeders.org AROW Alpaca Ranchers of The Northwest www.arow.org
MOPACA Midwest Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association www.mopaca.org (page 91) NEAOBA New England Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association www.neaoba.org (page 115)
NJAC New Jersey Alpaca Community www.njacalpacas.org NSAA North Sound Alpaca Association www.northsoundalpacas.org PNAA Pacific Northwest Alpaca Association www.pnaa.org
A-OK Alpacas of Oklahoma
CALPACA California Alpaca Breeders Association www.calpaca.org CABO Carolina Alpaca Breeders and Owners www.carolinaalpacafarms.org CABA Columbia Alpaca Breeders Association www.columbiaalpacabreeder.com
PAOBA Pennsylvania Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association www.paoba.org
(page 109, 111)
EAA Empire Alpaca Association
SEAA Southeastern Alpaca Association www.sealpaca.org
www.empirealpacaassociation.com (page 107)
GAA Georgia Alpaca Association www.georgia-alpaca.org GLAA Great Lakes Alpaca Association www.greatlakesalpaca.com
SOJAA The State of Jefferson Alpaca Association www.sojaa.net
TAA Tennessee Alpaca Association www.tnalpaca.org
IAOBA Illinois Alpaca Owners and Breeders Association www.iaoba.com
TxOLAN Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, New Mexico Alpaca Association www.txolan.org (page 132)
IAA Indiana Alpaca Association www.indianaalpaca.org
TSN The Suri Network
IMPACA IntermountainWest Alpaca Association www.facebook.com/IMpaca
VAOBA Virginia Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association www.vaoba.info
KAA Kentucky Alpaca Association
WVAO West Virginia Alpaca Organization www.wvao.net
MABA Maryland Alpaca Breeders Association www.marylandalpacas.org
For more information, view this affiliate's advertisement in the following pages. ALPACA OWNERS GUIDE 2021/2022 | 11
A Short History Alpacas North America: in
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WHAT IS AN ALPACA? Alpacas are members of the camelid family. The camels with which most people are familiar are the ones with humps: the dromedary of Northern Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia, and the Bactrian camel of China and Tibet. However, there are four non-humped camelids that are indigenous to South America. Two of them, llamas and alpacas, have been domesticated for thousands of years, whereas the other two varieties, guanacos and vicuñas, continue to roam in wild herds today. People often confuse alpacas with llamas. While closely related, there are some major differences. Llamas are about twice the size of alpacas and are used primarily for packing, while alpacas are primarily raised for their fine fiber. The alpaca comes in two breed types: huacaya (pronounced wuh‑KAI‑ya) and suri (SUR‑ee). Huacayas, the more common type, account for about 85-90% of all alpacas. The two breed types vary primarily in terms of their fiber. Huacaya fleece is crimpy while suri fleece is silky and lustrous with pencil-locks. HISTORY OF THE ALPACA The Ancient Days Fossil records indicate there was an alpaca-like animal that once lived in North America. Those ancient North American animals are extinct, so today the alpaca is found indigenously only in South America. The largest populations are in the countries of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile, with smaller numbers in Ecuador and Paraguay. The heaviest concentration of alpacas is near Lake Titicaca, on the border between Bolivia and Peru. The alpaca has been domesticated for a very long time, probably for thousands of years. Two native cultural groups, the Quechuas and Aymaras, are credited with first domesticating these animals. They consumed their meat, spun their fiber
Photo by Island Alpaca Company
Photo by Healing Springs Suris LLC
into clothing, and burned their manure for fuel. A l t hough l i t t l e i s known about how the Quechuas and Aymaras cared for the alpacas in those ancient times, we do know from archeological
The alpaca comes in two breed types: huacaya (top), and suri.
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discoveries the alpaca played a significant role in everyday life, much like the bison did for the native people of North America. Time of the Incas The story of the alpaca becomes much clearer beginning in the early 1400s with the formation of the Incan Empire. The Incas conquered virtually the entire western half of South America, from what are now Columbia and Ecuador in the north to Chile in the south, and to Argentina in the east. They were noted for their incredible architectural feats, evidenced by such marvels as Machu Picchu, and for their advancements in the fiber arts—accomplished primarily during a period of less than one hundred years. The Incas bestowed special religious significance on the alpaca, sacrificing alpacas to appease their gods. Primarily because of this special religious significance, the Incas sep- arated their alpacas from llamas and other forms of livestock and segregated the herds by color. After several generations of careful husbandry by the Incas, alpacas produced more
than 22 distinguishable fleece colors. So revered were these animals that only specially-designated couturiers were permit- ted to spin and weave alpaca fiber. Clothing made from alpaca was reserved exclusively for members of the royal family and highest government officials. Devastation Under the Spaniards Unfortunately, the alpaca population was decimated during the period following the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores in the early 1500’s. The Spaniards brought with them their European live- stock —horses, goats, chickens, and sheep—particularly fine-fleeced Merino sheep. Those animals competed for scarce pasture lands and damaged the fragile terrain along the coastal and mountainous regions of Peru. European livestock also car- ried diseases to which the alpacas were not immune, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of alpacas.
Photo courtesy of Lizz Giordano
Preparing the offering to the Pachamama with coca leaves in Ipsaycocha. This ritual is performed before the first shearing of young alpacas.
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The Spanish conquest of the Incan empire was swift. Motivated by their quest for silver and gold and by religious intolerance, the Conquistadors subjugated the native Incas and seized their land. They recognized the significant role the alpaca played in the lives of the native people. Not only did the alpaca hold great sociological and religious significance for the natives, but the alpaca sustained them as it was their primary source of food, clothing, and fuel, especially in the rural areas. The Spaniards reasoned if they could deprive the native people of their alpacas, it would be a simple matter to gain control. They slaughtered the alpacas by the millions. Peru- vian historians estimate that as much as 90% of the world’s alpaca population was killed during the 1500’s. At the same time, about 80% of the native population in the rural areas also died from disease and starvation, due to the slaughter of their life-sustaining alpacas. The native people who survived fled with the remnants of their alpaca herds to the harsh and remote area of the Andes called the Altiplano, a high mountain desert, ranging in eleva- tion from approximately 10,000 to 16,000 feet (3,500–5,000m). There, in this very dry, windy, forbidding place, they were able to take refuge with their alpacas. Europeans Discover Alpaca Fleece The Spanish colonists, so determined to eradicate the alpaca as a symbol of idolatry, were never able to appreciate the
to suits and coats. Alpaca is regarded today by many fashion designers as a preeminent fiber with which to work, whether used by itself, or in combination with other luxury fibers such as angora, mohair, silk, or cashmere. The Recent Struggle for Survival In the more recent past, the alpaca population again suffered enormous losses at the hands of men. Shifting economic forces in Latin America, years of drought, and fifteen years of systematic alpaca slaughter by terrorists known as Sendero Luminoso (the “Shining Path”) wreaked havoc on both the human and alpaca populations in prime alpaca growing regions. Like the Conquistadors five centuries earlier, Sendero Luminoso targeted the alpacas as the means by which they could capture and retain control over rural areas and the people who lived there. In Peru, the alpaca population may have decreased by as much as 50% in some regions from 1967 to 1992. Against this devastating economic backdrop, the govern- ments of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru eased their restrictions against exporting alpacas to provide a source of income for the rural farmers. Breeders and importers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United States, England, and Israel were among the first to go to South America to select a few animals for importation into their countries. Not only did this present an opportunity to save the alpaca from an uncertain future in its native lands, but it also presented tremendous economic possibilities for those involved with establishing new herds in other parts of the world. When the alpacas were exported from their native lands, they were carefully screened to ensure that only healthy, vig- orous, and conformationally sound animals were selected. They were transported either by ship or by plane, and kept in quarantine for several months to make sure no diseases were transmitted to existing livestock. Importations into the U.S. began on a commercial basis in 1984 and ended by a vote of industry members in 1998. Qualified animals imported during that period were issued a pedigree registration, and the North American alpaca breeding industry began.
wonders of alpaca fiber. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Sir Titus Salt, an Englishman, made an accidental discovery in a warehouse in England. He found a bundle of alpaca fiber in a shipment of imported sheep’s wool and processed it into cloth. From this chance beginning grew a
Sir Titus Salt
new commercial enterprise. Sir Titus Salt saw in alpaca fiber the potential for making soft yarns and garments, and set about the task of modifying the equipment at his mill to accommodate the fiber. He was soon supplying luxurious alpaca cloth to the British royal family and later to the aristocracy of continental Europe. Thanks to Sir Titus, the modern world now enjoys the luxury of a wide range of alpaca products, from sweaters and scarves
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: How are alpacas different from llamas? A: While both are members of the camel (or camelid) family, llamas and alpacas are distinctly different animals. Llamas are much larger, about twice the size of an alpaca, with a weight range of 250 to 450 pounds. Alpacas weigh between 120 to 200 pounds. Llamas are primarily used for packing or for guarding herds of sheep or alpacas, whereas alpacas are primarily raised for their soft and luxurious fleece. Q: Are alpacas easy to care for? A: They are a small and relatively easy livestock to maintain. They stand about 36' high at the withers (where the neck and spine come together) and weigh between 120 to 200 pounds. Alpacas need basic shelter and protection from heat and foul weather, just like other types of livestock. Good nutrition is essential for healthy animals. Hay, minerals, and fresh clean water should be available at all times. Many alpaca owners also provide a nutritional
supplement for their alpacas. Under a veterinarian’s direction they require vaccinations, preventive medication, and deworming. Alpacas also require yearly shearing to keep them cool in the summer Alpacas do not have hooves; instead they have two toes, with hard toenails on top and a soft pad on the bottom of their feet. Their padded feet minimize the effect on the pasture. Their toenails need to be trimmed on an as-needed basis to ensure proper foot alignment and comfort. Q: What do alpacas eat? A: Alpacas ma inl y eat gr ass or hay, and not much—approximately two pounds per 125 pounds of body weight per day or approximately 1.5% of the animal’s body weight daily in hay or fresh pasture. Grass hay is recommended, and alfalfa can be fed sparingly. Many owners feed higher rates of alfalfa to alpacas that are skinny as well as in very cold temperatures.
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Alpacas are pseudo-ruminants, with a single stomach divided into three compartments. They produce rumen and chew cud, thus they are able to process this modest amount of food very efficiently. Many alpacas (especially pregnant and lactating females) will benefit from nutritional and mineral supplements, depending on local conditions. There are several manufactured alpaca and llama feeds and mineral mixes readily available; consult with your local veterinarian to ensure you are feeding the appropriate diet for your area. Alpacas also require access to plenty of fresh water to drink. Alpacas have two sets of teeth for processing food. They have molars in the back of the jaw for chewing cud. But in the front, the alpaca has teeth only on the bottom and a hard gum (known as a dental pad) on the top for crushing grain, grass, or hay. Unlike goats and sheep that have long tongues which they sometimes use to rip plants out of the ground, alpacas have short tongues and nibble only the tops of grasses and other plants, resulting in less disturbance of the vegetation. However, alpacas are also browsers and will often eat shrubs or the leaves from trees if given the opportunity. This requires monitoring to ensure they do not consume harmful products. Q: Howmuch space does it take to raise an alpaca? A: Alpacas are environmentally friendly and require less pasture and food compared to other livestock. Stocking density impacts the health of the animal, so owners are encouraged to carefully assess their space. Vegetation, access to food and water, and shelter are some factors that influence the amount of space needed. Consult with your local agriculture authorities and breeders for specific recommendations for your area. Q: What do I need by way of shelter and fencing? A: Shelter requirements vary depending on the weather and predators in the area. As a rule, alpacas need at least a three-sided, open shelter, where they can escape from the heat of the sun in summer and from icy wind and snow in winter. Alpacas appreciate good ventilation and owners have found that large overhangs outside of the shelter are used more often than an enclosed barn. In general, fencing construction and design is dictated by the threat of local
predators. Also, fence openings need to be the correct size for alpacas to prevent injury from entangling their neck and limbs.
Q: Can alpacas thrive in locations with very hot or very cold climates? A: Generally, yes. Alpacas are amazingly
resilient animals and have adapted successfully to the extremes of both very hot and very cold climates. In hot, humid climates, alpaca owners need to take extra precautions to make sure that the alpacas do not suffer from heat stress. These include shearing fleeces early in the year, providing fans and ventilation in the barn, and offering cool fresh water for drinking. Q: Are alpacas easy to train? A: Alpacas are very smart animals and are fairly easy to train. It is best to start training them when they are young so that they will accept a halter and learn to follow on a lead. Many owners also enjoy
Photo courtesy of Glenn Kerns
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Photo by TerBest Alpaca and Fiber Farm
While the impact of an alpaca kick is not on par with a horse, it can create a bruise. Also, there is potential for toenails to cut skin. As with all livestock, owners and visitors should always use common sense and a degree of caution when working around alpacas. People working with alpacas should wear shoes or boots that cover the whole foot and are not slippery and long pants. Proper handling of alpacas, as well as all camelids, requires their gaining human trust by using a calm voice and light restraint. Novice alpaca owners can be mentored by experienced alpaca owners as well as experts in learning how to best handle them for herd husbandry. Q: Are alpacas clean animals? A: Yes, they are much cleaner than most livestock. Alpacas have a minimal aroma and tend to attract fewer flies in the summertime than other forms of livestock. Alpacas often defecate in communal dung piles. There may be three or four of these areas in a pasture, spread throughout about 10% to 20% of the pasture. This makes for easy clean- up, reduced opportunity for parasites, and better overall hygiene in the herd. Q: Do alpacas make noise? A: Alpacas are very quiet, docile animals that make a minimal amount of sound. They generally make only a pleasant humming sound as a means of communication or to express concern or stress. Most communications between alpacas is nonverbal. Occasionally you will hear a shrill sound, called an "alarm call," which usually means they have spotted something of concern nearby, and they are warning others in the herd. The concern may be a predator, or may be something they are not familiar with, like a cow or horse in a neighboring field. Male alpacas also "serenade" females during breeding with a guttural, throaty sound called "orgling." Q: Do alpacas spit? A: All members of the camel family use spitting as a means of negative communication. They do get possessive around food, and thus may express annoyance by spitting at other
training them to walk through obstacles. Some even compete with their alpacas at shows where they walk over, through, and around objects and also jump over small hurdles. It is helpful to train alpacas to ride in a trailer or van if they ever need to be transported to a show or another farm. Alpacas are easy to transport, as they normally cush (lay down with their legs folded under them) when traveling. Be aware that alpacas should not be tied up when traveling. Q: Are alpacas dangerous? A: No. Alpacas are pleasant to be around and generally easy to handle. Alpacas do not head butt. They do not have horns or hooves like other livestock. They move gracefully and adroitly
about the field and are therefore unlikely to run into or over anyone intentionally. Males develop sharp fighting teeth at about three years of age which can cause injury to both humans as well as other alpacas. Alpacas will reflexively kick with a hind leg, particularly if surprised from b e h i n d .
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Photo by True Vine Farm
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alpacas that they perceive are encroaching on "their" food. Also, they often spit at one another during squabbles within the herd (usually involving two or more males). From time to time alpacas do spit at people on purpose, but it is more common that humans get caught in the crossfire between alpacas, so it’s best to study their behavior and learn to avoid the most vulnerable situations. Q: How does alpaca reproduct ion di f fer from other livestock? A: The courtship ritual of the alpaca is very unique. The females are induced ovulators, meaning there are no “heat” cycles with visible discharge, so it is a bit of a challenge to detect the internal ovulation cycles. This also means they can breed and conceive any time of the year. To maintain control over the breeding process, most alpaca breeders maintain separate male and female herds. By keeping the animals segregated, owners can decide which animals to breed, and when. For example, many breeders avoid late term pregnancies and births during the coldest winter months
and the hottest summer months. Induced ovulation means it is the physical act of breeding itself that causes ovulation, therefore making artificial insemination (AI) somewhat difficult. There are two basic breeding methods available: pen breeding and pasture breeding. Pen (or “hand”) breeding involves introducing the male to the female in a small enclosed area for mating. If the female is not already pregnant, she generally will be receptive to the male’s attentions. After the initial breeding has taken place, the breeder typically will then re-introduce the male/ female pair to each other a few days later. If the female has ovulated and conceived, she will reject the male by “spitting-off,” and will not permit him to breed with her. Although not conclusive proof of pregnancy, the female’s rejection of the male is oftentimes the first indication to a breeder that conception has occurred. Follow-up with an ultrasound examination a few weeks later will confirm the pregnancy. Pasture (or “field”) breeding is another method of herd management. Under this system, an alpaca rancher pastures a single male with one or more females for several days or weeks. This method is not recommended as a general practice, as it is difficult to determine when conception occurred and to predict the delivery date with any precision. However, pasture breeding can be useful in certain instances where a female is having difficulty becoming pregnant. Q: How long is the gestation period? A: The gestation period is generally 11 months (about 340 days), but can last as long as 12 or 12-1/2 months. After birthing, females are typically rebred within three to four weeks. Q: Howmany offspring do alpacas have at one time? A: Females nearly always give birth to a single cria (KREE’-ah), although twin births also do occur on rare occasions. Q: Does the birthing require human assistance? A: In most cases, crias are born without intervention, and usually during daylight hours. A cria normally weighs between 15 and 19 pounds and is usually standing and nursing within 90 minutes of birth. The cria continues to nurse for about six months until it is weaned. New owners
Photo by Kings Landing
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Photo by Tuckahoe Treasures Alpaca Farm
are encouraged to prepare for cria births by reading about the process and having needed supplies on hand. Q: How long do alpacas live? A: Generally, around 15 to 20 years. The longest documented lifespan of an alpaca is over 28 years. Q: Are alpacas an “exotic species,” or are they considered simply “livestock?” A: Alpacas have been raised as domestic livestock for thousands of years and since the end-product of alpacas is their fleece, like sheep, they are classified as livestock by both the United States and Canadian federal governments. Q: So what do you DO with these animals? A: Alpacas are raised for their soft and luxurious fleece (fiber). Each shearing produces roughly five to ten pounds of fleece per animal, per year. This fleece, often compared to cashmere, can be turned into a wide array of products from yarn and apparel to tapestries and blankets. The fleece itself is recognized globally for its fineness, softness, light-weight, durability, excellent thermal qualities, and luster. There are a number of business models that alpaca farmers have developed: • Breeding and selling seedstock: This requires excellent genetics and sound breeding programs that will result
in breeding quality animals that can then be sold to new and existing alpaca farms. • Fiber-focused breeding programs: This model focuses on breeding and raising alpacas that can produce high quality fleece that can then be sold or processed into end product. • Artisans: Some alpaca farmers use the fleece to produce products by hand, through spinning, weaving, or knitting. They may sell this work either on their farm, in retail stores, or online. • Agritourism: Various forms of agritourism have been successful for alpaca farmers, including overnight stays, day trips and tours, and special event venues. Most include an educational component to teach visitors about alpacas, their fiber, and potential for alpaca farming. Alpaca owners are encouraged to develop a business plan and revise it regularly. Q: What is the long termoutlook for themarket for alpaca fleece? A: Alpaca fiber is valued worldwide as a luxury fiber. This fiber is converted into clothing and accessories that consumers equate with superior quality. Combine this with a well- defined marketing program for all aspects of the alpaca industry, and you get a stable and robust industry.
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Alpacas: A Labor of Love
Photo by Eric Lorince, Chris Barty
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T he best way to learn about the joy of owning alpacas is to visit the farms and ranches of people who are already in the business. Alpaca owners are friendly folks who enjoy sharing their alpacas with the public. You will find that each breeder has his or her own individual style and method of operation. You can learn a little from each breeder and decide how you personally would like to participate in the alpaca industry and at what level. Certainly, an important first step is to join Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA). There are several levels of membership available to
tecting the health and well-being of alpacas. Attending these shows can prove to be a highly educational, exciting, and enjoyable experience. These shows also offer unmatchable networking opportunities, where alpaca business owners and individuals interested in this livestock come together from across the country—and the globe—to discuss their alpaca business, ex- periences, successes and failures. Upcoming educational events and shows can be found online at www.alpacainfo.com. Purchasing Your Alpacas Let’s say you decide to give raising alpacas a try. How many should you start with? Well, the
Research is the most important step when
considering starting any
fit your needs. The most basic level of paid membership with AOA will allow you to research alpacas and verify the current indicated owner(s) before purchasing. For the latest in indus- try-related news, be sure to subscribe to Alpacas Magazine. Deciding to Own Alpacas Whether the focus is breeding stock or fleece, alpaca business owners understand and embrace the work that goes into run- ning their alpaca business. With the industry steadily growing in North American for more than 30 years, successful alpaca business owners did not go into this venture expecting to "get rich quick." Many have, indeed, made a successful living in this industry but, as with any business, research and hard work are necessary. Research is the most important step when considering starting any livestock business, and a prospective owner must understand the basic information necessary to care for these animals. Every livestock species has its special requirements and visiting alpaca farms is an excellent place to begin the inves- tigative process. A listing of local alpaca farms can be found online at www.alpacainfo.com. Another great way to learn about the industry is to at- tend alpaca shows and events. The alpaca industry features a world-class show system developed to promote positive public awareness of the unique qualities of alpacas. They provide owners the opportunity to learn how to improve the breed and enhance their marketability while promoting and pro-
answer to this question depends upon your long term goals. If you are interested in acquiring a few fiber animals, your in- vestment will be minimal. However, if you decide you want to breed alpacas as a business, it is a good idea to think of how many animals you would like to have in five or ten years. Then buy the number of animals you can afford to help reach your goal. As a rule of thumb, the more animals you purchase in the beginning, the sooner you should be able to recoup your initial investment and start to see a profit. However, quality is as important as the quantity of animals you purchase. Select your foundation herd judiciously, as they are going to be the basis for your future progeny and sales.
The number of alpacas you start with, of course, will also depend on howmuch capital you have, what your tax situation is, how much acreage you have, time and available ranch help, and a host of other factors. Adequate Planning
No endeavor will succeed without a plan. Thomas and Connie Betts of Cascade Alpacas of Oregon in Hood River, Oregon, attest to the fact that creating a well thought
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out, detailed business plan has helped them to succeed in the industry. "People who expect to succeed
in this livestock industry must run it like the business that it is," said Connie. "Keep focused on your goals and pay attention to cash flow and expenses. It is important to not go into debt in case things don't turn out. From the beginning, we were prepared for "worst case scenarios." The Betts have been running their alpaca business for more than 10 years. They earned their return on in- vestment within two years, and now have increased their revenue every year except one during the recession when revenue was flat. "From the beginning, we knew our focus would be on fiber and other revenue streams, such as boarding alpacas, and not as much on the selling of alpacas," said Connie, "and we focused our business plan on that. Because of our focus and ability to stay on track with our mission, we are now known for the fineness of our fiber, and we often run out of yarn before our season ends in October!" The alpacas, including alpacas boarded at their ranch by other individuals, and their yarn shop are full-time jobs for the Thomases. Be prepared for change. Beth Osborne ofThe Alpaca Haci-
Photo by A & R Alpaca Farm and Gift Shop
board at her ranch, which provides additional income. "I have built a family of boarders and we gather at the farm for felting days, where we create items to sell in the store," said Osborne. "We've begun making nuno scarves, which shop- pers have come to expect. Around the holidays, they sell like hotcakes!" Becoming Part of an Agricultural Community Joining organizations focused on the alpaca and livestock in- dustry offers countless resources to help ensure a successful alpaca ownership. Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. (AOA), re- gional affiliates, FFA, 4-H, State Farm Bureaus, County and State Visitors Associations, and County Agricultural Extension offices can provide access to local resources. Check your state for your own associations. Everything about the care of any livestock is easier when you have help and support to guide you in the proper direction instead of reinventing the wheel on your own. AOA, headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, serves as the national livestock association for alpacas in North America. As the largest alpaca association in the world, AOA facilitates the expansion of a strong and sustainable alpaca industry through the tracking of bloodlines, registration and transfer of alpacas, Expected Progeny Differences (EPD) program, national educa-
enda in Temecula, California, originally entered the alpaca industry concentrating solely on the breeding of high-end breed stock. Osborne's focus today is to be an asset to her community by providing jobs, hosting community events and tours, and providing com- munity service hours to high school students. Osborne also concentrates on her farm store where she sells handcrafted al- paca fiber products. She also cares for alpacas other owners
People who expect to succeed in this livestock industry must run it like the business that it is. Connie Betts, Oregon alpaca breeder
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tional outreach, the national show system, marketing, public relations, and its highly respected judges training program. A Labor of Love While many alpaca business owners do, indeed, enjoy their morning cup of coffee while watching their herd in the field, this is just a small portion of their day. Just like any livestock owner, alpaca owners put a lot of labor into their business. Stacie Chavez arranged for Seed2Need, a local organiza- tion that grows food for people in need, to pick up manure every other week. Alpaca manure is a rich soil conditioner that improves soil quality and its ability to retain water. Now, Seed2Need sells composted alpaca manure to help fund their efforts. Ensuring proper shelter, solid fencing, general health checks and regular vetting, and assisting in the birth of crias (baby al-
pacas) are just some of the other day-to-day tasks a successful alpaca business owner faces. The common element you will find with all successful alpaca business owners is that they enjoy what they do. And there are so many things about this livestock to enjoy. The alpaca industry is, in many cases, 100 percent American-made from start to finish. Employees are being hired to work on farms, creating jobs for Americans. The alpaca industry receives no government subsidies or other similar support. Alpacas are environmentally friendly. When compared to other livestock, alpacas are a safe animal for children to work with, and the entire family can get involved. For more information about the alpaca industry, to locate a farm near you, or to view a calendar of upcoming shows and events, visit www.alpacainfo.com.
Photo by True Vine Farm
Everything about the care of any livestock is easier when you have help and support to guide you.
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