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Latah Creek Alpacas, breeding elite suri alpacas since 1995.

Alpaca Information - What Are Alpacas?

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Randy & Beth Brealey
19450 208th Ave SE
Renton, WA 98058
Tel: 206.229.8845
alternate numbers
Tel: 425.413.3900
Fax: 425.413.3900
Cell: 206.817.2601
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Female Suri Alpacas
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Suri Alpaca Herdsires

Alpaca Criation Photo Album

Alpaca Breeds:
There are two types of breeds of alpaca, the suri which has a lustrous fine fiber with no crimp, and the huacaya, whose fleece has a crimp or wavy quality that enhances its use in spinning. The suri has recently been introduced into the United States and the current domestic population is small. The North American alpaca herd is largely made up of the huacaya variety. The world population of alpaca is approximately 97 percent huacaya and 3 percent suri. The suri alpaca is actually more rare than the famed vicuna!

Alpaca Care and Diet:
Alpaca management is not complicated or difficult. Occasional grooming, trimming of toenails and teeth, as well as the annual or bi-annual shearing comprise the major husbandry. Vaccination against tetanus, rabies (in endemic areas), clostridia organisms, and parasite control are advised for health maintenance.

Alpacas require no special fences or barns. Fences should be designed to keep out dogs and coyotes. A three-sided enclosure or lean-to is entirely adequate. The alpaca prefers grazing in an open pasture as opposed to the confinement of a barn or stall. Normal sheep-shearing equipment can be used for shearing alpacas. Because alpaca fiber is virtually grease-free and very dense, electric shears should be oiled to avoid overheating. Many breeders shear with hand shears.

The alpaca has the habit of defecating in fixed areas and avoids grazing around the piles, thus, parasite infestation is low. These piles also make the job of cleaning pastures much easier. The firm, fry pellet produced by the alpaca makes an excellent fertilizer.

Alpacas are ruminants. They have three stomachs and need no special diet. Exceptionally efficient as converters of hay or grass, they are grazers and browsers who will pick daintily as they wander through the pasture. In winter and in the last stages of pregnancy, supplementary feeding may be advisable. Alpacas take readily to good quality hay and low protein pellets.

Alpaca reproduction:
The female alpaca can produce one cria per year. The gestation period is approximately 11 months. They seldom if ever have twins. Birth rates are high, with the alpaca enjoying a productive life of around 20 years.

The courtship ritual of alpacas is very distinctive. In selective breeding, the male is put with the female in a small enclosure. He will chase her and if she is not pregnant, she will eventually sit and allow herself to be mated. The males characteristically warble during active coitus, which can last up to an hour.

Alpacas do not come into heat. They are induced ovulators and can be bred year round. Ovulation occurs up to 26 hours after the mating. To increase the chance of conception, the same pair will often be reintroduced every few days. In subsequent presentations, the female will reject the male if she is pregnant.

Females can be bred from around 14 to 18 months or at about 95 pounds. Males begin breeding between two and three years of age. The alpaca produces babies in a variety of colors. Color inheritability is still a matter of intense study. It may take many generations of controlled breeding before this little understood subject becomes a more exact science for alpaca breeders. The newborn baby's color is often a surprise and a delight to its owner. Breeding for conformation and fiber quality is the proven way to herd improvement.

Carefully selected stud males and high quality females produce genetically superior babies. Birthing is remarkably quick and trouble-free. Alpacas almost always produce a single offspring and usually give birth in daylight hours. Two weeks later, the female is ready to be bred again. Thus, she will spend most of her productive life pregnant. This is less arduous than it sounds, because the fetus remains small for most of the gestation period.

Alpacas are devoted and protective mothers. The baby alpaca, or cria, will suckle from its mother until weaning at about five or six months.

Alpaca Registry:
The alpaca industry had the foresight in 1989 to create one of the most sophisticated animal registries in existence. Virtually all of the alpacas in North America are registered. The registry protects the existing gene pool and helps ensure that each breeder's investment is also protected from cross breeding with llamas and guanacos.

Parentage must be established for purposes of registering alpaca offspring. Each baby is blood typed to prove its dam and sire. The University of California at Davis Serology lab maintains the alpaca blood type data bank. This bank contains the blood type of each registered alpaca and guards against the registration of an animal as an alpaca, if in fact, its parents were not registered alpacas.

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