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Alpacas used to be considered exotic animals that were rarely seen in fields. Nowadays, lots of small farmers choose to raise this gentle animal. It may seem odd to raise alpacas on the homestead, but these fluffy animals have rapidly gained popularity after 1984 when they’ve been initially introduced in the US. Alpacas are closely related to llamas and camels as they’re part of the same family. They’re native to South America and can live for around 20 years.
1. Alpaca Breeds
There are two main alpaca types that work best for farming needs. Huacaya is one of the most common alpaca breeds. You can recognize it by its particularly fluffy appearance created by its dense, sheep-like fiber. Huacaya alpacas are hardy animals and can face different climates without problems. They’re ideal even for colder regions in the US.
Another popular alpaca breed is called Suri. It produces silky straight fur that gives off an impression similar to dreadlocks but lacking matted fibers. Although the breed isn’t as common as Huacaya, the numbers of Suri alpacas have been steadily growing in the US. The breed has been traditionally associated with Incan royalty so that may be an important reason for its rarity.
2. Benefits of Raising Alpacas
- Alpaca Farming
There are many advantages to consider if you plan on raising alpacas. It’s safe to say that you won’t be a millionaire very soon by getting into the alpaca farming business, but the industry feels stable enough to make good profits. You have two main ways to obtain money by raising alpacas. The lush coat of the alpacas is renowned for its luxurious fiber that’s always in demand. Another option is to market the alpaca’s offspring.
- Alpacas as Pets
Some owners find it challenging to make alpaca farming a profitable business. That’s especially the case when focusing solely on selling the alpacas’ raw fleece. Many people enjoy keeping alpacas just as pets. They’re incredibly docile and virtually never get aggressive towards humans. Alpacas seem to have a calming power. As opposed to other animals such as horses, alpacas are camelids which means they have padded feet instead of hooves. That contributes to the peaceful nature of alpacas. They walk gently in the pasture and don’t make a lot of noise.
3. Alpaca Nutrition
Alpacas thrive on nutritious pasture grass and hay. It’s important to ensure that your pasture grasses can cover the needs of alpacas. The winter season can be more difficult as alpacas may require supplementation with additional feed. Alpacas are used to finding lush grass in the rainy seasons in their natural environments in South America. The best alpaca diet should include young grasses. Microgreen fodder provides a boosted nutritional value to let your animals grow healthy.
4. Caring for Alpacas
Alpaca owners don’t really have to put in a lot of effort to take good care of their animals. Alpacas can be considered simple animals to raise, even by novice farmers. As has been previously mentioned, alpacas are very docile so they will quickly learn to respect fences and can be halter-trained.
Alpaca farming should take into account proper sheltering. The same can be said for those planning on raising alpacas as pets. While there’s not a lot of work involved with taking care of alpacas, the animals are vulnerable to harsh cold weather or very hot summers. Building a shelter for the winter is essential. The alpacas will also require a shaded area to face intense heat in the summer. Alpacas are hardy enough to manage with uninsulated and unheated barns during the winter. For maintaining the animals in good health, heat stress is a more important issue to avoid.
Alpacas don’t have complex health needs but it’s still important to be aware of alpaca diseases. Annual health checks are recommended to prevent any potential health issues. Licensed veterinarians can offer instructions to manage some procedures yourself, if necessary.