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Llamas and Alpacas

Camelids are even-toed ungulates belonging to the family camelidae, and unlike true ruminant animals of the family ruminantia, they only have three stomach compartments instead of four.

South American Camelidae are grouped into four species: Vicuna, Guanaco, Llama, and Alpaca. The first two are protected wild species, while the later two species have been domesticated for thousands of years. Llamas and alpacas can succussfully interbreed, and the offspring are called "huarizo".

Llamas

Llamas are raised for meat, fiber, dairy products, as pack animals, and as pets. The predominant market for llamas in the United States is the pet market, however other areas gaining exposure include mountain packing, the tourist industry and as guard animals in sheep flocks. As pack animals, llamas can carry 25-30% of their own body weight for several miles. Llamas also have a fine undercoat which can be used to make garments from. The coarser outer guard hair is used for rugs, wall-hangings and lead ropes.

Llamas average 5.5 - 6 feet tall and weight in at 280-450 pounds.

Alpacas

Alpacas are strictly raised for fiber or for pets, as they are too small to be pack animals and too valuable to be slaughtered for meat. A 1997 estimate of the average wold market value for an alpaca was between $8500 and $25,000; a breeding age female could be sold for between $15,000 and $25,000.

Alpaca fleece can come in over 20 different colors and is considered to be as soft as cashmere. It is much lighter than sheep's wool and is free of lanolin, making it a hypoallergenic material.

There are two alpaca breeds based on their fleece:

  • Huacaya: This breed is the more common of the two fleece types. The fiber stands perpendicular to their body similar to a sheep and is very dense.
  • Suri: This breed is distinguished by its longer locks of fleece that hang down against the contours of the body. The fleece is somewhat similar to an Angora goat.