Alpacas are gentle creatures that are easy to care for and can be raised for either profit or for pure enjoyment as a hobby.
Although they make wonderful pets and are exceptionally gentle with children, they are primarily known for their high quality, luxury fiber. Alpaca fiber is highly prized for its exceptional softness, durability, incredible warmth, and is hypoallergenic. In fact, it is considered to be a luxury fiber.
Like other natural fibers, alpaca wool has excellent thermal and wicking properties, so it will keep you warm and dry, yet will allow your skin to breathe. Alpaca fiber makes great socks, hats, sweaters, scarves, and gloves. Lower grade fiber from the legs and belly area makes excellent rugs and blankets.
A Suri alpaca has long, silky fiber that hangs in narrow twists or locks and resembles dreadlocks. The Huacaya looks like a plush toy animal and has shorter, dense, crimpy fiber that is soft and fluffy looking. The Suri is not as common as the Huacaya, and therefore its fiber tends to be more expensive.
Alpacas originated in South America and were imported to the United States in the 1980s. They are part of the camelid family, which also includes camels and llamas, but they chew their cud the same way that cows do.
An alpaca's diet consists mainly of grass and hay, and it can obtain most of its food from grazing in the open pasture. They will also trim the grass carefully without pulling out the entire plant.
After the initial investment, the cost of maintaining alpacas is relatively low and they are considered to be a very healthy, 'green' animal, having very nutrient-rich manure. Alpacas are shorn once a year, and their fleece does not take long to grow back.