For the Incan civilization in Peru, alpacas were considered a cherished
treasure. Alpacas provided food, fuel, clothing, and transportation for the
Incas, located high in the Andes Mountains.
After the Spanish conquest of the Incas, alpacas became a well-kept secret.
Then, beginning in the mid 1800s, alpacas were rediscovered by Sir Titus
Salt of London. He discovered that alpaca fiber was more resilient and much
stronger than sheep's wool. Knowledge of this fine, silky fiber began to
spread its way across Europe.
Alpaca fiber comes in 22 natural colors: from white to fawn, a range of
browns and pure black, along with grays, silver and rose. There are two
types of alpaca, identified primarily by their distinction in fiber. The
Huacaya alpaca has a crimped or wavy fiber, while the Suri has a lustrous,
fine, lock-type fiber with no crimp.
Alpacas were first imported into the United States in 1984, but are
considered a rare and precious resource here because of their limited
number. Outside of their native South America, the number of alpacas found
in other countries is extremely limited. In fact, 99 percent of the world's
approximately three million alpacas are found in Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.
The lifespan of an alpaca is about 20 years and gestation is 11.5 months. A
baby alpaca, called a cria, weighs between 15 to 20 pounds. Adult alpacas are
about 36 inches tall at the withers and weigh about 150 pounds.
Alpacas have been domesticated for more than 5,000 years. They are
sensitive to their environment and possess physical attributes that allow
them to maintain harmony with Mother Earth.
- Alpacas have padded feet and leave even the most delicate terrain
undamaged as they graze on native grass.
- Alpacas usually do not eat or destroy trees. Instead, they graze and
browse carefully on tender grasses.
- Alpacas are modified ruminants with a three-compartment stomach. They
convert grass and hay to energy very efficiently, eating less than other
- Alpacas generally consolidate their feces in fixed areas within the
pasture or paddock, controlling parasite infestation and making it easy to
collect for compost or fertilizer.
- Alpaca dung makes a rich fertilizer for gardening, and South American
Indians use the firm, dry alpaca dung for fuel.
- An alpaca produces enough fiber each year to create several soft, warm
sweaters, thus contributing to community energy conservation.
Alpacas offer an outstanding investment choice. Due to high demand, it is
common for the female alpaca offspring to sell for the same price or more
than was paid for the dam. Returns of 30-74% are not uncommon.
Alpacas also offer great tax benefits. An alpaca typically can be
depreciated over a five-year span or 20% per year. Currently, Section 179
of the tax code allows the alpaca rancher to deduct the first $24,000 of
their investment. Items such as food, veterinarian consultations, supplies,
computers, travel, tractors, and advertising, among other things, can be
deducted as expenses. Alpacas are 100% insurable, unlike many investments.
Can you hug your prized Vermeer painting or your Wall Street stock? You can
definitely hug an alpaca investment.
For more information, visit the following Web sites: