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August 9, 2021

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History of Alpaca

Originating from Peru, alpaca are a member of the Camelid family which also includes camels, llamas, vicunas, and guanacos. Alpacas were first imported to the United States in 1984 and have since thrived based on their popularity as a luxury fiber in the textile industry and as friendly livestock family members. Though often confused with llama, alpaca are smaller in height and bred for their fiber versus their larger llama cousins who were bred as working animals.
A group of Majestic for a tan colored alpacas in a wheat field

Suri vs Huacaya

The alpaca species is divided into two breeds: Suri and Huacaya. While similar in height, temperament and color variety, the major difference lies in the fiber. Huacaya alpaca is the most common breed and makes up approximately 90% of the alpaca population. Their fiber is crimped and warmer to the touch, and grows outwardly from the body giving huacaya a teddy bear like appearance. The Suri alpaca are less common with silk-like locks draping down their body creating an elegant flowing movement when they walk. Their fiber is valued for its high degree of luster and cool hand lending itself to producing luxurious woven textile goods.

Breed Characteristics

conformation

fiber

temperament

Ideal conformation is directly related to the ability to function and thrive. Body parts should be balanced and in proportion to each other giving a graceful appearance and a fluid gait. The textbook alpaca exhibits strong bone structure, a broad muzzle, and a wedge shaped head with erect spear shaped ears. Their gait should be smooth and in a straight line with strong, upright pasterns, and “V” shaped toe pointed forward. Their eyes should be clear and dark in color and lower teeth should meet just under the upper dental pad (correct bit).  They should have straight muscular legs squarely set, full coverage of fleece from head to toe, and a straight topline with a smooth rounding at the rear.
Suri fiber is extremely soft, silky, with a high degree of luster and cool to the touch. As the fleece grows, it twists into uniform locks that hang close to the body. It is known for its silk-like lustrous shine and tensile strength, making it extremely attractive for use in luxury textiles and rugs. Suri fibers can also be blended with other fibers such as huacaya alpaca, merino wool, and plant fibers to give the yarn more structure and memory. When breeding Suri alpaca, the characteristics of their fleece is in heavy consideration during the matching process, and the genetic traits related to fleece quality are laboratory analyzed for the desired traits.
The alert, curious, and friendly nature of alpaca make them easy to handle if appropriately socialized to people from a young age. They are happiest being in groups with other alpaca, however, they can share pasture space with other livestock such as goats, sheep, and chickens. Alpaca are also habitual by nature and can even be litterbox trained. They express themselves with a variety of vocalizations and distinct body language signs. Spitting does happen occasionally if displeased with another alpaca, however this is rarely directed towards people.

suri alpaca facts

Baby alpaca are called “cria” and are typically delivered from a standing position early in the day.
There are 16 official natural colors of alpaca: white, beige and shades of fawn, brown, black, and grey.
Alpaca lifespans can reach up to and beyond 20 years if given appropriate, regular care.
Cria weigh anywhere from 14 to 20 pounds pounds at birth and will mature to 100 to 190 pounds as adults.
Fern Creek Farm
Robertsville, MO
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