Alpaca, the Perfect “Green” Animal

What makes Alpacas the perfect animal? To begin with, they are beautiful. They have big brown eyes, which can melt the hardest of hearts. They are sweet, gentle, environmentally friendly and low maintenance. Alpacas are in the Camelide family, originally from the mountains in Peru, Chile and Bolivia, before importation to the United States in 1984. There are two types of Alpacas, the Huacaya and the Suri. The Huacaya are the most common, their fleece resembles a sheep’s while the Suri’s fleece is long and thin.

Their Characteristics

Alpacas are pack animals therefore they need to have another Alpaca as a companion and they must be of the same sex. Only half an acre of property is enough space to raise four Alpacas. The area or pen needs to be fenced in for their protection only, as Alpaca’s are gentle and will not challenge a fence, nor destroy any area where they are located, including trees. Their feet will not damage the environment because they have soft pads rather than hooves. They graze on grass and as a result, a lawn will have a nice manicured look to it.

Their Personality/Traits

Alpacas are sweet, shy and quiet animals that have their own individual personalities as do dogs. They love treats and look forward to eating them out of your hand. Their treats are alfalfa pellets that contain supplemental vitamins as well. Alpacas are clean; they go to the bathroom in the same area, no matter how many you have. The manure is easy to collect and does not have a strong smell to it. There is no need to neither wash nor brush them, as this will harm their fiber. The only maintenance they require is a nail clipping every now and then, shots once a year and a shearing usually performed in May or June.

Their Fiber

Alpacas have excellent fiber used to make textiles and clothing. Alpaca fiber is hypoallergenic, stronger, warmer, lighter than wool, naturally water resistant, does not wrinkle nor pile and softer than cashmere. Many fiber artisans love to work with Alpaca wool for hand spinning, felting, crocheting and knitting. Alpaca is popular in the international fashion industry seen on the elite runways of Milan and New York. Alpaca owners sell their fiber to Alpaca co-ops and to individuals as roving or yarn in addition to finished handmade knitted or crocheted items.

Their Manure

Alpaca’s have a stomach with three compartments thus converting energy efficiently, eating less than other ranch animals. Their manure makes excellent fertilizer for growing fruits and vegetables. It is high in nitrogen and potassium, low in organic matter, which causes plants to burn. In addition, it has low weed seed, meaning fewer weeds in the garden. Alpaca owners trade and/or sell the manure as compost, Alpaca tea (manure steeped in water) or as is.

Most Alpaca ranchers earn money on the breeding and selling of Alpaca; however, they make great family pets and are the perfect animal for a “Green” lifestyle.

To locate an Alpaca ranch near you, click on the Alpaca Owner and Breeders Association at

http://www.alpacainfo.com.