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Cascade Alpacas, Hood River, OR

Cascade Alpacas, Hood River, OR

The Alpaca

Alpacas are now classified not only as livestock, but as environmentally friendly. Their split lips allow them to crop the grass closely without damaging it, their padded feet and toenails are easy on the pastures, and their fiber is mechanically processed without chemicals, unlike sheep's wool. Since alpacas come in 22 colors, more distributors are able to produce alpaca yarn without dyes, which is also ecologically friendly.

Some fun facts about alpacas

An alpaca is easier (and on an annual basis, cheaper) to care for than a dog Alpacas don't need much food: A single one typically eats about a bale of hay a month. The approximate yearly cost: $100 a year.

Alpacas are not llamas: Although both are camelids and share the South American continent as their ancestral home, alpacas are about half the size of llamas. Llamas were bred as pack and guard animals, but the intended purpose of the alpaca, which was first imported into the United States in 1984, is entirely as a fiber producer.

Alpaca fiber–or fleece–is warmer, lighter and less itchy than wool: Huacaya (pronounced wah–KI–ya) alpacas grow short, dense, wooly, or fluffy-looking fiber. The fleece of the less common Suri alpaca is silkier and often hangs like dreadlocks.

Alpacas can stand the heat, and especially the cold: Because they are indigenous to the mountains of Peru, alpacas take snow and freezing temperatures in stride. Their heavy coats protect them in the winter, and as long as they are sheared before summer, they do fine in the heat.

Alpacas are useful all their lives: The typical alpaca lifespan is 15 to 20 years, and alpacas can provide fleece regardless of their age.

Cascade Alpacas

Last updated: 07/03/2011    |     Copyright © 2011 Caitlin O'Brien    |     cnobrien@stthomas.edu