Hance Ranch      


Alpacas And Llamas        

Camelid   =   Bactrian Camels, Dromedary Camels, Guanacos, Llamas, Vicuñas and Alpacas.

Lama  =   South American Camelids: Alpaca

Guanaco; Llama; and Vicuña.


A Vicuña "Chaccu" (roundup) for shearing in Peru, 

showing high altitude grass: ichu.

Before the Peruvian Government set aside game preserves and initiated the yearly roundup and shearing process (which had been a native tradition prior to the Spanish Conquest) in the early 1990s, the wild Vicuña had become an "endangered species", due to slaughtering the animals for profit from selling the hides.  Today the exquisitely soft, luxurious cloth of Vicuña is available for sale in Peru.  The Vicuña fleece is intermixed with slightly coarser guard hairs, but the wonderfully fine fiber is usually under 18 microns, and it only grows 1 1/2 to 2 inches a year, so they are shorn every-other-year during the "Chaccu". Due to the small amount harvested each year, the price remains very high.




Guanacos are mostly found in Patagonia. These wild animals of South America are the ancestors of the modern-day Llama.


Two Alpaca Fleece Types:  




Very crimpy (small waves) fleece, mostly hollow 

and stands horizontally on the alpaca's body with incredible insulating qualities-very warm and cuddly;

"The Teddy Bear Type"






Non-crimpy, silky, lustrous fleece that hangs straight downward and twists into "dreadlocks".  Suri fleece has very little or no insulating qualities-the shorn fleece feels cool and is very heavy for the small volume produced compared to the huacaya fleece. 

These animals appear thinner, the fleece parts along the backbone, the suris have long straight "bangs" over their eyes and the fleece ripples and sways in a breeze.  The clothing made from suri carries the luster (shine) and it drapes and hugs a body magnificently.


Both alpaca types come in an array of about 24 natural colors; ranging from white, beige and thru a number of shades of fawn, shades of red-brown, true dark brown, gray and black and combinations and mixes of these colors; both solidly colored and pinto, piebald and spotted.


Longevity:  15 to 20 years


Mature Age:  Both sexes fully mature at 2 ½ to 3 years.  Females in the US are usually bred at about 18 months.  Males are not generally  creating viable sperm until the canines (fighting teeth) erupt. Breeding causes hormonal changes in both sexes that stop the bone growth.


Offspring: Called “Cria” one only, twins are very rare and generally not desirable. They usually start eating hay at about a week.  Most are weaned at about 6 months.


Gestation:  Alpaca norms = 335 to 345 days.

Llama norms = 349 to 359 days.  Both Alpacas & Llamas have had gestations over a year.


Birth Weight:  Alpacas =  15 to 20 pounds

                      Llamas  =    20 to 25 pounds                                                                               

Adult   Llamas weight = 300 to 450 pounds             

                         height = 48” to 52” at the rump

Adult Alpacas weight  = 125 to 175 pounds             

                        height = 35” to 40” at the rump     


  Feed:   Good quality grass hay along with available grazing and browsing and maybe a little grain, salt, minerals and clean, fresh, cool water.  The efficiency of digestion in South American Camelids causes easy weight gain with high protein feeds.  They need 1% to 2% of body weight per day of good quality dry hay, with more for working and breeding males and for pregnant and/or lactating females and growing youngsters.


Fleece Production:   5 to 10 pounds of prime fiber, and another 3 to 5 pounds of coarser fiber per year.  The prime is made into garments; the coarser fiber is useful for rugs, mats and ropes.


Health: Generally better than other livestock with proper hygiene, vaccinations and routine parasite control.  The Lama’s use of  “communal dung piles” naturally provide cleaner feed areas than other livestock since lamas will not feed where they have dropped feces. 

        In soft soil areas routine toe-nail trimming is needed.

         Checking for, and cutting or removing male “fighting teeth” (the canines) as needed to avoid the torn ears or testicles! 

          Occasional trimming of incisors is needed. 

          Shearing is the most important job in most parts of the United States.  Due to our rather warm summers we must be alert for symptoms of heat stress.  

              A great deal of information on Alpaca & Llama (Camelid) health and husbandry can be found at:  www.rmla.com/Health.htm   

Also check out: www.rmla.com/wool_basics.htm   

for interesting facts, research and uses for this exquisite fiber from these wonderful animals.          

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