Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an alpaca and a llama?

Alpacas and llamas are members of the camelid family. Llamas are pack animals, and about twice the size of the alpaca. Alpacas grow a prized coat of fiber, and are too small for use as a pack animal. And we think the alpaca is much cuter than its cousin, the llama.

Are there different kinds of alpaca?

There are 2 main kinds of alpaca – Suri (rhymes with jury) and Huacaya (wha-ki’-ya). Suri comprise about 10% of the world’s alpacas, and Huacaya 90%. Suri fiber looks like dreadlocks. It is long, straight, lustrous, and silky, often shorn every 2 years. Huacaya fiber is dense, crimpy, and warmer than Suri, and shorn annually in late spring. We raise Huacaya alpacas at South Fork Farms.

How is alpaca fiber different from sheep’s wool and other natural fibers?

Alpaca fiber is as fine as the finest wool and much stronger. It is over 5 times warmer than wool. Alpaca is very soft, and is ideal for garments worn next to the skin. Alpaca comes in 22 natural colors (black, grey, brown, fawn, rose-grey, beige, white), the widest range of any animal on the planet. It is among the world’s most luxurious fibers. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a cashmere and alpaca garment.

Alpaca fleeces tend to yield a higher percentage of clean fiber and less guard hair. Alpaca is lanolin-free and can be spun directly off of the animal. Sheep’s wool requires harsh cleaning prior to spinning.

What is the height and weight of alpacas?

An average height for an alpaca is 36” at the withers. Females weight 125-175 pounds. Males weigh from 150-200 pounds. Alpacas are small and gentle enough to travel short distances in a family van and easy to handle.

How long do alpacas live?

With a life span of around 20-24 years, alpacas can be enjoyed for some time. Not only do they have a long reproductive life, they will provide fleece for a lifetime.

What’s special about baby alpacas?

Alpacas have a single baby, called a cria (cree’-ah). It takes over 11 months for the baby to develop and it weighs between 14 and 20 pounds at birth. Labor is typically short, from 1-3 hours, and births are usually daytime events. Births are mostly single and twins are rare. The cria is weaned at about 6 months. We begin halter training them on a lead just prior to weaning them.

Do alpacas spit like llamas?

Alpacas are gentle and quite intelligent. Spitting is a communication behavior between alpacas and they rarely spit at people unless provoked.

Can alpacas be petted?

Alpaca are herd animals and tend to keep to themselves. When they are on halter, they are trained to stand quietly and allow touching. Given a choice, they will usually step away from attempts to pet them.

Can the manure be used in the garden?

Conveniently, alpacas deposit their pellet-like manure in common dung piles, allowing for easy clean-up and natural protection against the spread of parasites. This low nitrogen fertilizer is a must for the garden. It can be tilled directly into the soil without waiting for months prior to use. We spread our dung over our whole garden all winter long, till it in the Spring, and continue to spread it down our corn rows for the added benefit of nutrients that the corn tends to take out of the ground. As a result, we’ve been able to keep our corn for years in the same area of our garden without issues.

What sounds do alpacas make?

The most common sound you’ll hear is a soft humming which indicates they are unsure. Mother and cria hum to each other for bonding. When alarmed, alpaca alert other herd members to danger with a sharp sequence of barks. Amorous males sing or “orgle” to the female during breeding.

How much do alpacas cost?

Alpacas are herd animals. So you’ll need to have 2 for companionship. Registered alpacas can range in price from $1,000 to over $100,000, depending on gender, age, and ranking at national alpaca shows. “Pet” quality unregistered alpacas are from $250 to $1,000. These are usually neutered or non-breedable males.