Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. invites you to visit their member farms and ranches on National Alpaca Farm Days, Sept. 27 and 28. This is a unique opportunity for the public to explore the many aspects of the alpaca livestock industry in the United States and Canada.
From meeting these beautiful, inquisitive animals in person to experiencing luxurious alpaca products at individual farm stores, there will truly be something for everyone.
Visitors can also learn how alpacas are a green business opportunity, as they are animals that are sensitive to their environment in every respect.
While most alpaca farms welcome visitors throughout the year, National Alpaca Farm Days are sure to include special activities and educational opportunities.
For a complete list of participating farms and ranches, visit www.AlpacaFarmDays.com.
Alpacas, cousins to the llama, are beautiful, intelligent animals native to the Andean Mountain range of South America, particularly Peru, Bolivia and Chile.
Today, the United States boasts two types of alpacas. Although almost physically identical, the two types of alpacas are distinguished by their fiber. The Huacaya (wa-Ki'-ah) is the more common of the two and has a fluffy, extremely fine coat. On the other hand, the Suri (SUR-ee) is more rare and has fiber that is silky and resembles pencil-locks.
Adult alpacas stand at approximately 36 inches at the withers and generally weigh between 150 and 200 pounds. They do not have horns, hooves, claws or incisors. Alpacas are alert, intelligent, curious and predictable. Social animals that seek companionship, they communicate most commonly by softly humming.
Long ago, alpaca fiber was reserved for royalty. Today, it is sold several ways. Hand-spinners and fiber artists buy raw fleece. Knitters often purchase alpaca yarn. Fiber cooperatives mills collect alpaca fiber and process it on behalf of the producer.
Alpacas are shorn, without harm, every 12 to 18 months. An adult alpaca might produce 50 to 90 ounces of first-quality fiber as well as 50 to 100 ounces of second and third quality fiber. Some alpacas already achieve, or exceed, these levels.
Because of its soft texture, alpaca fiber is sometimes compared to cashmere. The fiber also has the luster of silk, making it even more coveted. Alpaca is just as warm as wool, yet it is a mere one-third the weight. It comes in 22 natural colors and can be dyed any desired shade.
Containing no lanolin, alpaca fiber is also naturally hypoallergenic. Most people who are sensitive to wool find they can wear alpaca without the itching or irritation they feel from wool because alpaca fiber is smooth. Additional performance characteristics include stretch, water repellency and odor reduction. For travelers, clothing made from alpaca is desirable because it is wrinkle-resistant.
Today's consumer searches for high-quality, environmentally-sound products made of naturally renewable resources. The alpaca provides fiber, just as it has for thousands of years, to create colorful garments that are soft to the touch. Classically-styled alpaca sweaters and suits can last for generations.
Socks, scarves, purses, golf shirts, teddy bears and blankets are just a few additional items made from North American alpaca fiber currently on the market.
Alpacas come in 22 natural colors, but they are all green.
Sensitive to their environment in every respect, alpacas have soft-padded feet instead of hooves and can leave even the most delicate terrain undamaged. Damage to topsoil decreases long-term soil fertility and in the process, the soil is eroded and weed invasion is encouraged.
Alpacas prefer to eat tender grasses, which they do not pull up by the roots. Lacking upper teeth, alpacas "cut" the grass with their bottom teeth and upper palate. This vegetation cutting encourages the plants' growth. Because they are modified ruminants with a three-compartment stomach, alpacas convert grass and hay to energy very efficiently and stop eating when they are full, further preserving the landscape on which they live.
However, alpacas do not mind eating brush, fallen leaves and other "undesirable" vegetation, leaving the "good stuff" for species that do not have the stomach to digest such roughage.
Alpacas' pellet-like droppings are PH balanced, and an excellent, natural, slow release, low-odor fertilizer. This rich fertilizer is perfect for growing fruits and vegetables. Because alpacas consolidate their feces in one or two communal spots in the pasture, it is easy to collect and compost, and the spread of parasites is controlled.
While alpacas are environmentally friendly —and even beneficial — to the land, what makes them even more "green" is the fiber they produce. No chemicals are employed either during feeding or during the industrial production of alpaca fleece into fiber. If dying is desired, only 20 percent of a normal dye quantity is required.
All fiber from an alpaca can be used. Even the fiber from the lower legs, belly, neck, etc is being used for things such as natural weed mats to be placed around trees. Alpaca fiber is also biodegradable.
Alpacas require no insecticides, herbicides or fertilizers, which pollute the groundwater.
Headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, Alpaca Owners Association, Inc. serves as the national livestock association for alpacas in North America. As the largest alpaca association in the world, Alpaca Owners Association facilitates the expansion of a strong and sustainable alpaca industry through the tracking of bloodlines, registration and transfer of alpacas, national educational outreach, the national show system, marketing, public relations and its highly respected judges training program.