What are alpacas used for?
Alpacas are capable of producing a natural fiber that is better or equal to that of cashmere. It is not well known that the quality of alpaca fiber (or wool) was much, much better 500 years ago, before the Spanish conquests of South America, than it is today. Recent studies of garments and alpaca mummies have revealed that the quality of alpaca at that time was similar to the vicuna fiber of today. Vicuna is the wild ancestor to alpacas and the quality is above cashmere and is valued at greater than $250 per pound.
Why raise alpacas?
It is the goal of many alpaca breeders today to return alpacas to their once held status of producing the world’s finest natural fiber.
No matter where you live, raising alpacas offer an attractive business and farming opportunity. Urban and suburban dwellers can board (or “agist”) their alpacas at nearby farms/ranches. Boarding your alpacas may provide all the financial and tax benefits of ownership without the daily responsibilities.
Alpacas are gentle and very intelligent animals. Working with them has been satisfying as well as being a part of designing the future of the industry provides a sense of purpose. It is very rewarding to witness the advances of our herd and the worldwide industry in general.
How to raise alpacas?
Why not just raise cattle or sheep? The alpaca industry is unique to other livestock. We enjoy being involved in the excitement of an industry that is just coming of age. Current technology is able to provide assistance on how to best raise and improve this livestock without the “Trial and Error” method that has affected traditional livestock for centuries.
The alpaca industry leaders have embraced the livestock science of EPDs which stands for Expected Progeny Difference. This science is able to produce a genetic profile of an animal to guide breeding decisions to meet goals more accurately and quicker than any other method available.
Alpacas have always been livestock….never “wild.”
Alpacas have been domesticated for thousands of years. The Moche people of northern Peru often used alpaca images in their art. There are no known wild alpacas, though its closest living relative, the vicuña (also native to South America, are believed to be the wild ancestor of the alpaca. The alpaca is larger than the vicuña, but smaller than the other camelid species.
Along with camels and llamas, alpacas are classified as camelids. Of the various camelid species, the alpaca and vicuna are the most valuable fiber-bearing animals: the alpaca because of the quality and quantity of its fiber, and the vicuña because of the softness, fineness and quality of its coat. Vicuna is the most valuable of all natural fibers and has sold for more than $250.00 per pound as raw fiber. garments made from vicuna sell for 10’s of thousands of dollars.
Alpacas are too small to be used as pack animals. Instead, they are bred exclusively for their fiber and meat. The quality of alpaca fiber rivaled that of vicunia prior to the Spanish Conquests more than 500 years ago. Alpaca meat was once considered a delicacy by Andean inhabitants. ]
Alpacas and llamas can successfully cross-breed. The resulting offspring are called huarizo, which are have little or no commercial value.
At Stargazer, in order to be considered a breeding quality, a male needs to have a number of objectively identified qualities. We require that they exhibit elite qualities of fineness, uniformity, consistency and fleece weight production.
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