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The alpaca is a domesticated camelid, with an average life expectancy of approximately 25 years. They are livestock, and should be treated as such, not pets. Fact sheet produced by the Rural Economy and Development Programme, with input from Joe Phelan, K2Alpacas.


There are two breeds of alpaca. Huacayas  have a fluffy coat more suited to the woollen process. The Suri breed’s coat is lustrous and wavy, with longer fibres more suited to the ‘worsted process’ of finer fabrics. Huacaya  fibre is easier to process than Suri fibre, which fetches lower prices generally and is more difficult to sell.

Features of alpacas include:

  • smaller in frame and lighter than llamas, weighing 50-90kg
  • mature height 76-96cm at the shoulder
  • distinguishable by their short spear shaped ears
  • reproductively mature by 18-24 months (females)
  • gestation period is 343 days (plus or minus two weeks)
  • produce 10-12 single crias (baby alpacas) in a lifetime (average 80% fertility rate) – twins rarely survive;
  • curious, sociable, intelligent, quirky, trainable and sometimes amusing animals
  • can be trained to accept a halter and be led
  • calm animals making them easy for even children to handle.

View full factsheet here.