But really, the main reason to own and breed alpacas are the alpacas themselves... they will steel your heart ! We fell in love with these gentle creatures and the peacefull life they bring.
Come meet our alpacas, you'll also be hooked !!!
Why become an alpaca breeder?
The main objective of the alpaca industry is the fiber. Unfortunately, the market is not developped enough for us to live from income generated by the fiber. The Canadian and American COOP are actively working on developping the market and getting people to know alpaca, but there's still work to be done. The north-american production is not large enough to sustain a big product line that could be widely commertialized.
Currently, breeders a living from the income of the animal sales. A double registered female in Canada will be worth around $15 000 to $30 000. The average value of alpaca sales in the USA is $24 000 USD per animal. Let's say your female is worth $15 000, she will give you 1 cria per year, so approximately $15 000 per year. You can see that you will not need many animals to be able to live from your alpaca farm. The Alpaca industry is booming : we might only have around 30 farms in Quebec, in the USA, around 500 news farms are opening each year.
Breeding alpacas is an easy thing to do. The animal is rarely sick, and the breeding and birthing is done without human intervention. The alpacas are easy to handle and very gentle. You don't need to have an agriculture background to be able to raise alpacas: since these animals were recently imported to our climates, everything is new for all breeders.
The female alpaca will reach her sexual maturity around 14 to 16 months, the male will reach his around 3 years old. The alpaca has an induced ovulation wich means that she will ovulate only when she is bred. A female can therefore get pregnant almost at any time. The alpaca has a 340 days gestation on average (11 ½ months). Two to three weeks after giving birth, the female will once again be receptive to males and can be bred again.
The births are usually easy and do not require human assistance. The babies (called cria) are usually born between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, the hottest hours of the day. In Quebec, to ensure that the cria will be born in hot weather, we try to keep the births between May and September.
The alpaca has a life span of 15 to 25 years. It measures between 32'' and 39'' to the shoulder and weights between 100 and 190lbs. It's an animal that can easily be handled without force and when in halter, it can be led by a child.
The alpacas are environmentaly friendly. They are silent, they do not destroy their pastures (they cut the grass instead of pulling on it and they have padded feet) and they do not pollute the air. Their manure is solid (little pellets like a rabbitt) and can be turned into compost. The fences and buildings needed to protect the alpacas are tourist friendly : the animals can easily be observed from a distance as they are often outside of the barn or shelter.
The alpacas are very resistant animals that almost never get sick. Compared to thier home land, the Andes, our North American pastures provide them with more than enough to stay healthy ! When minimal hygene measures are performed regularly and when their nutrition is well balanced, the alpacas will rarely require a vet.
The alpaca is a camelid, close cousin to the llama. They were domesticated by the Incas about 5000 years ago. Their fiber is fine, soft, hypoallergenic, very warm and does not itch like wool. The Incas kept the alpaca fiber exclusively for royalty to wear.
We shear the alpacas once a year, in the month of May. An animal will shear approximately 6 lbs of good quality fiber (part of the legs and neck and the head are excluded). There are 2 fleece types : huacaya and suri. The Suri's fiber looks like dreads and the Huacaya's grows like a very thick carpet. Our animals are all Huacayas.
The alpaca is very well suited for our cold winters. The summer heat, on the other hand, can be difficult to bare. By shearing them in May, we make sure they won't have too much fiber during the hot summer months but they will have enough regrowth for the next winter.
Athena before shearing Athena after shearing
The alpacas are the wool/fiber producing animals that present the largest variety of colors. From white to black, from beige to brown, more than 200 different shades have been identified around the wolrd. To ease the process of registering the animals, the official registries have identified 22 official colors.
The alpaca is a herd animal and need to constantly be surrounded by it's peers. When starting your farm, make sure you count at least 3 animals per herd. The alpaca is very gentle, calm and easy to handle. It will have a tendency to keep away from the humans. It spits only when very mad, and usually at other alpacas. The alpaca is a very intelligent and independant animal.