About the Alpaca
An alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated species of the South American camelid. It resembles a small llama in appearance. There are two breeds of alpaca; the Suri alpaca and the Huacaya alpaca.
Alpacas are herd animals and graze on the level heights of the Andes of southern Peru, northern Bolivia, Ecuador, and northern Chile at an altitude of 11,500 ft to 16,000 ft above sea level throughout the year. Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, they were not bred to be beasts of burden, but were bred specifically for their fiber and meat.
An adult alpaca generally is between 32 and 38 inches in height at the withers and usually weigh between 106 and 185 lbs. Their lifespan in the United States is 15 to 20 years. The gestation period is 11 1/2 months and one cria is born at a time.
Alpacas are easy to care for, eat only 1-2% of their body weight and need shelter from wind, rain and sun.
Characteristics of Alpaca Fiber
Huacaya, an alpaca that grows soft spongy fiber, has natural crimp. Suri has no crimp and is a better fit for woven goods.
Alpaca fleece is made into various products, from very simple and inexpensive garments made by the indigenous communities to sophisticated, industrially made and expensive products such as suits.