Top 5 Most Frequently Asked Questions About Alpacas

When people visit the yarn shop, the topic of our farm and alpacas almost always comes up in conversation.  Currently we have 40 alpacas and 2 llamas residing at Stewart Heritage Farm.  The farm has been operating since 2004 and over the years, many visitors to the farm have enjoyed the breathtaking beauty of the alpacas and llamas.

Everyone that visits is curious about these creatures and we always  get lots of questions.  If you have not visited our farm yet, this blog provides some basic information about the alpacas.  If you have visited the farm or the shop, you still may have some questions about the alpacas.  Either way, I hope you enjoy this little article about the alpacas.

Here are the top 5 questions we get from visitors to the shop and farm.

1.  What is the difference between alpacas and llamas?

Alpacas and llamas are related.  Both are members of the camelid family.  Although very similar in some respects, there several differences between alpacas and llamas.

The first and most obvious difference is in their appearance.  Alpacas are about half the size of llamas.  Alpacas weigh about 140 to 150  pounds, while llamas weigh from 250 to 400 pounds.  The face of a llama is longer than the alpaca’s face.  Llamas have banana shaped ears and alpacas have smaller spear shaped ears.

A second difference is their fiber.  Alpacas are bred primarily for their fiber, which is generally very soft.  Llama fiber can be very soft and silky, but there is more variation in the types of fiber found on llamas.  Alpacas generally produce more softer fiber than llamas.  (As a side note, our llama fiber, although much coarser than our alpaca fiber, is used in some of our products we sell.)

A third difference is in the use of alpacas versus llamas.  Alpacas, as mentioned previously, are used primarily for their soft fiber.  Llamas are used in many ways:  as pack animals, as guardians for smaller animals, as fiber producers…just to name a few. 

Finally, another notable difference is their dispositions.  Alpacas can be a bit more skittish than llamas, and they prefer to be with their herd.  Llamas may be less skittish and are more independent.  Whether alpacas or llamas are smarter is debatable.  Both can be trained on halter and to do obstacle courses.    

2.  How often do you shear alpacas?

We shear the alpacas once a year, usually at the end of April.  Shearing at the end of April gets all that winter growth off their backs before the heat of the summer arrives.  The fleece grows back slowly over the summer and into the early fall, and by winter the fleece has grown enough to help keep them warm in the winter.  By shearing time, the alpacas usually have produced about 3 to 4 inches thick of fleece.

3.  How long do alpacas live?

Average age is about 15 years.  Some alpacas live longer.

4.  Do alpacas spit?

Yes, they do!  However, alpacas are not aggressive and usually are not deliberately seeking out someone to spit on.   When our alpacas spit, it’s usually at each other as they find their spot around the hay bin or feed bowls.  Our llamas rarely spit.  In my opinion, the llama’s reputation for spitting is unfounded.

5.  What do alpacas eat?

Alpacas are happy to graze on a nice green pasture and can survive quite well on that diet alone if the pasture is well maintained and has good grasses appropriate for alpacas.  We supplement their grazing with a good quality orchard grass hay, loose minerals formulated for alpacas, and a pelleted alpaca feed.  As special treats, alpacas enjoy carrots, apples, and pears (just to name a few of the veggies/fruits appropriate for the alpacas).

So there you have it, a list of the top 5 frequently asked questions about alpacas.  This list doesn’t include all the questions we get, but they are the most common and hopefully gives you a little more information about the alpacas.

If you are interested in visiting the farm, stay in touch with us on Facebook and check our events page, where we post upcoming open farm days.

What other questions might you have about the alpacas?

 

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