Alpacas and llamas are members of the camel family. While camels and dromedaries hail from the Middle East, Northern Africa, South Asia, Tibet and China, other humpless members of the family come mostly from South America. In this article, we describe and discuss alpacas and their care. Read on to learn more on how to take care of an alpaca.
Alpacas are long-lived animals, and they produce valuable fleece all their lives. Typically, a well cared for alpaca can live for about twenty years. The oldest alpaca on record lived to be 27 years old. A healthy animal will produce between 5 and 10 pounds of high quality fleece every year.
Alpaca fleece is very similar to cashmere, and it is used to create yarn, blankets, tapestries, clothing and more. This fine material is in great demand.
Generally speaking, the fleece from an alpaca is more resilient, warmer, lighter and stronger than that of any sheep. Very fine grades of alpaca fleece are called “baby alpaca”. This quality of fleece is considered hypoallergenic.
There is no lanolin in alpaca fleece, so it takes very little cleaning to get it ready for spinning. Alpaca fleece feels very silky and is extremely easy to work with, so people who go in for weaving, knitting and hand-spinning fleece prefer it to sheeps’ wool.
Alpaca fleece is sometimes combined with sheeps’ wool to make a softer product. It can also be blended with other fibers such as:
Alpaca fleece also comes in a wide variety of colors. In fact, there are sixteen official alpaca fleece colors, they are derived from these basics:
Each of these comes in several subtle light and dark shades. The paler shades are very easy to dye and hold their color well.
The textiles created using alpaca fleece are warm, durable, soft and light. Many alpaca owners make their own products using alpaca fleece and sell these online, at farmers markets, craft fairs and through local shops.