According to the Encyclopedia Britannica alpaca are mammals and “South American members of the camel family Camelidae. They are closely related to the llama, guanaco, and vicuna, which are known collectively as lamoids. The alpaca was domesticated several thousand years ago by the Indians of the Andes Mountains of South America” (2014). In contrast, Kiss Me Alpacas is a product of two ladies located in Bandera, Texas with a fondness for the gentle animals and their fleece.

Like other lamoids, alpacas are slender-bodied animals with a long neck and legs, a short tail, a small head, and pointed ears. Alpacas are readily distinguished from llamas by their smaller size and pointed ears; they stand approximately 90 cm (35 inches) high at the shoulder and weigh 55 to 65 kg (121 to 143 pounds). The alpaca also differs from the llama in having a smaller more rounded body, and in its habit of pressing its tail close to the body rather than holding it erect, as does the llama. The alpaca’s coat varies in color from black or brown through lighter shades of gray and tan to pale yellow, and the predominate white. The present distribution of alpacas is limited to central and southern Peru and western Bolivia (Encyclopedia Britannica 2014).

Alpacas in the United States & their Value

There are about 53,000 alpacas in the United States and there are alpaca breeders right across the country from Florida to Alaska. The states with the largest number of alpacas are Ohio, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and California… (Though we think Bandera, Texas has the alpaca ranch with the friendliest owners) …As the alpaca is still quite rare in the US, coupled with their slow breeding rate, this makes them quite a valuable animal. A breeding female can cost between $5,000 and $30,000 depending on its quality. Stud males can go for $10,000 upwards. Young males and geldings can start from $500 (AlpacaSeller.com, 2014).

According to Alpacas of Montana (2013), “The most expensive female alpaca sold for $180,000 (USD) and the most expensive male alpaca sold for $675,000 (USD)”.

According to Alpacas of Montana (2013), “The most expensive female alpaca sold for $180,000 (USD) and the most expensive male alpaca sold for $675,000 (USD)”.

More Alpaca Facts & Tidbits

Alpacas are the most important of the lamoids for fleece production. During the period of Incan civilization, the wearing of robes made of alpaca and vicuña fleeces was reserved for the nobility and royalty. Two breeds of alpaca, the huacaya and the suri, were developed in pre-Columbian times… (Our herd at KMA is all Huacaya: Go Huacaya’s-Go!) …Suri fleece is fine and silky, cool to touch, and grows (quite long) …if the animal is not sheared (think dreg locks). The fleece of the huacaya is shorter, warm to touch, fluffier, and soft (appearing somewhat like a teddy bear with a long neck and four legs). The alpaca’s fleece is remarkably lightweight, strong, lustrous, high in insulation value, and resistant to rain and snow. It is used in parkas, sleeping bags, and fine coat linings. Alpaca fiber is sometimes combined with other fibers to make dress and lightweight suit fabrics and is also woven as a pile fabric used both for coating and as a lining for outerwear. Peru is the leading producer of the fleece, with most of it being marketed in the city of Arequipa (That being said, we hope to provide easier access to this wonderful fleece from our little ranch down in Texas. You know what they say: Everything’s bigger & better in Texas).

Alpacas are normally sheared every (one to) two years, and Huacayas give fleece blankets weighing up to 5+lbs. (With the Texas heat, Kiss Me Alpacas shears their herd yearly. Why? Imagine wearing a parka in the middle of summer.) Alpacas have a natural life span of 15–20 years (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2014).

More About Alpaca Fleece

Alpaca fleece is a lustrous natural fiber. “Alpacas fleece is as soft as cashmere”…, warmer than wool in winter and cooler than wool in the summer, “…hypo-allergenic, almost completely waterproof”. The preparing, carding, spinning, weaving, and finishing process of alpaca is very similar to the process used for wool. Alpaca fiber naturally comes in a variety of colors. However, it can also be combined with dye to produce any number of color variations.

Reproduction

Females are "induced ovulators"; the act of mating and the presence of semen causes them to ovulate (Of course flowers, carrots, and batting your eyelashes wouldn’t hurt either). Females usually conceive after just one breeding, but occasionally do have troubles conceiving. Artificial insemination is technically difficult, but it can be accomplished. Alpacas conceived from artificial insemination are not eligible for registration with the Alpaca Registry.
A male is usually ready to mate for the first time between two and three years of age. A female alpaca may fully mature (physically and mentally) between 14 and 24 months. As the age of maturation varies greatly between individuals, it is usually recommended that novice breeders wait until females are 18 months of age or older before initiating breeding.
The gestation period is approximately 11.5 months, and usually results in a single offspring, or cria. Twins are rare, occurring about once per 1000 deliveries. After a female gives birth, she is generally receptive to breeding again after about two weeks (The ladies of Kiss Me Alpacas always wait at least a month). Crias may be weaned through human intervention at about six months old and 60 pounds, but many breeders prefer to allow the female to decide when to wean her offspring (unless her name is CL9 Rana and feeds her baby until she’s 2 years old); they can be weaned earlier or later depending on their size and emotional maturity (Wikipedia, 2014).

Alpacas are fascinating animals and as you can see there is a wealth of information to be learned about them. If you approach them in a non-threatening manner they will often curiously appear to be going in for a kiss (thus our ranch name Kiss Me Alpacas). If you have any alpaca questions, be sure to visit our “Contact Us” page and let’s open the conversation and see where it leads. Perhaps alpacas are a good fit for you!