Warmer Than Wool
Alpacas are a gentle and intelligent breed. Alpacas produce one offspring a year. Alpacas are a social animal and do best when pastured with other alpacas. Fastidious in their habits, alpacas will tend to form communal manure piles, which assists in controlling their parasite load.
Alpacas have an affinity for children and house cats. Their intelligence means that alpacas are quick to train to a halter and lead. They are relatively easy to care for, and generally do well on a good quality grass hay where sufficient pasture is unavailable. It is possible to run as many as 10 alpacas per acre of pasture.
Alpacas are found in two distinct types. Huacaya alpacas produce a fleece that appears similar to sheep's wool but doesn't contain lanolin. It is tightly crimped and stands perpendicular to the alpacas' body. These alpacas are the more common type. Good quality huacaya alpacas will produce as much as 12 pounds of luxurious fleece every year.
Suri alpacas possess a fleece that hangs in long curly locks. Suri alpacas' fleece has the general appearance of an angora goat. Suri alpacas are known for the luster of their fleece, a highly desired trait in the commercial textile industry
Alpacas were first imported into the United States in the 1980's. There are currently around 200,000 alpacas in the US, being run on approximately 4000 farms. The alpacas slow reproductive rate means that the national herd size will remain relatively small for many years to come.
Supported by an active breed association, a state of the art registry and a growing fiber cooperative, the future of alpacas is indeed bright. There has been an added emphasis in the past several years to promote alpaca fiber and to develop the fiber aspect of this industry.