Alpacas are part of the Camelid family and originate from South America. There are 4 types of South American camelids; Vicuna and Guanaco, which remain wild and are protected species, and Llamas and Alpacas which are the domesticated version.
The importance of these camelids was recognised in the 14th century when the Incas used them for food, fuel, clothing and transport.
There are two types of alpaca, the Huacaya – which makes up approx 93% of the population and the rarer Suri, 7%.
Both the Huacaya and Suri are conformationally identical but look very different when in fleece.
The Huacaya has a more rounded appearance as the fleece grows at a right angle from the skin and has a crimp to it, giving it the “Teddy Bear’ image.
The Suri fibre hangs in long silky locks and has more lustre to it.
Alpaca fleece is remarkably lightweight yet strong and resistant to rain, extremely lustrous and high in insulation value.
Alpaca fibre is one of the most luxurious fibres and is harvested once yearly when the animal is sheared.
Some benefits of using Alpaca fibre are that it is hypoallergenic, eco friendly (if not dyed), sustainable, ethical, warmer than sheeps wool, is flame resistant and bio-degradable.
Alpacas have soft padded two toed feet which leave pasture unpoached.
They have no top front teeth so make very gentle grazers.
Alpacas tend to use a single area (a midden) as a toilet.
Alpaca poop makes an excellent fertiliser. It has the highest amounts of nitrogen, potash and nutrients of any natural fertiliser and has the ability to retain water. It is lower in organic matter than any other farm animal and the beans can be used without composting.
Unlike other farm animals, alpacas are induced ovulators which means they do not have a breeding season and can be bred at any time.
Alpacas are modified ruminants having 3 stomach compartments unlike sheep and cattle who have 4.