Foxwood Farm Alpacas - "Farming a Friendlier Way"

Foxwood Farm Alpacas - Madison County, KY

Richmond, Kentucky
- Heart of the Bluegrass -

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
   --Mohandas Gandhi


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  Alpaca History
Alpacas are domesticated members of the Camelid Family and are native to the South American countries of Peru, Bolivia, and Chili.  When you think of a camelid, you probably think of the old world camels with humps (Genus: Camelus).  Archaeologists believe that camelids originated in North America around 30 million years ago and were ultimately split into two groups. One group, the old world camels with humps, migrated to northern Africa and central Asia, and the other group, the Lama group, migrated to South America.  

Today there are two domesticated species of South American camelids, including the llama and the alpaca, and two wild species of South American camelids, including the guanaco and the vicuna.  For many decades, the domesticated alpaca was thought to have been derived from the wild guanaco.  New genetic evidence shows that the ancestor of the alpaca is really the vicuna, according to a 2001 genetic study by an international team including Jane C. Wheeler, director of the South American Camelid Research and Development Organization in Lima.  Guanacos and vicunas still exist in the wild, although wild populations of both are considered threatened and vulnerable.

The below table shows the taxonomic classification (family tree) of the alpaca. 

Class: Mammalia
  Order: Artiodactyla
  Suborder: Tylopoda
  Family: Camelidae
  Genus: Camelus, old world camelids
  Species:
  C: dromedarius, dromedary camel (one hump)
  C: bactrianus, Bactrian camel (two humps)
  Genus: Lama, South American camelids
  Species:
  L: glama, llama (image)
  L: guanicoe, guanaco (image)
L: vicugna, vicuna (image)
L: pacos, alpaca

Alpacas were first domesticated by the Incans in South America over 5,000 years ago and were a cherished treasure of the Incan civilization. An Incan's wealth was once measured by the number of alpacas he owned.  Alpacas were also thought to be an important part of religious ceremonies, perhaps as sacrifices to the gods. The Incans practiced selective breeding and their alpacas evolved with the finest of fleeces ever known to mankind, the likes of which, has not yet been matched today.  

Did the ancient Inca make the finest woolen cloth the world has ever known?  Be sure to read "Secrets of the Alpaca Mummies", a fascinating article from Discover Magazine.

With the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors in the 17th century, both the Incans and alpacas were massacred in South America.  The Spanish slaughtered the alpacas by the thousands, seeing them as competition for the sheep that they brought with them.  The finest bloodlines were lost and the many years spent producing the "fiber of the gods" was all but lost.  The Incans that did manage to survive took what alpacas they could and fled high into the sanctuary of the Andes Mountains.  Here they lived and survival of the fittest ensued, ensuring a hardier and healthier alpaca.

Now recognized worldwide as producers of some of the finest fiber in the world, alpacas are being successfully raised and enjoyed throughout North America and abroad. There are two types (or breeds) of alpacas - the Huacaya and the Suri.  The fiber of the Suri alpaca falls in long lustrous locks while the fiber of the huacaya alpaca shows greater density, crimp, and is very fluffy in appearance.  The ancient Incans can be credited for creating these two distinct fleece types through their selective breeding programs.

 

  Alpaca Facts and Notes
  • The lifespan of the alpaca is thought to be about 20 to 25 years and gestation is 11.5 months; twins are extremely rare.
  • Alpacas do not go "into heat". They are induced ovulators and can be bred year-round.
  • A baby alpaca is called a cria and only weighs between 15 - 19 pounds at birth.
  • Instead of hooves, alpacas have padded feet (like dogs and cats) with only two toenails, making them gentle on the land. Toenails do need occasional trimming.
  • Alpacas eat grasses and chew a cud.
  • Alpacas have a hard pallet in their mouths instead of upper incisor teeth so they cannot pick grass closely to the ground as do sheep and goats. 
  • Alpacas typically do not bite, unless fighting with another male.
  • Adult alpacas are about 3 feet tall at the withers and generally weigh between 100 and 200 pounds.
  • Alpacas are much smaller than llamas.
  • Alpacas are not used as pack animals in South America, they are too small.
  • They are gentle animals, sometimes timid like a deer, and easy to handle.
  • Clean-up is easy since alpacas deposit droppings in community piles.
  • They require minimal fencing and can be pastured at 5 to 10 per acre.
  • Alpacas do spit, but rarely on humans (just watch out for the cross-fire!)
  • Alpacas are typically shorn every spring in North America.
  • The Alpaca Registry Inc. (ARI) has been established to document bloodlines. Alpacas must be blood typed in order to be registered. Virtually every alpaca in the U.S. is registered.

 

  Opportunities and Tax Advantages
  • Raising alpacas is a growing industry and the demand for breeding stock has been steady. Each animal is blood-typed and registered with the Alpaca Registry, Inc. (ARI).  As a result the registry bloodlines have been kept pure and well documented. The current alpaca industry is based on the sale of quality breeding stock, which demands premium prices. With the small number of alpacas currently available, along with the slow reproduction rate of one baby per year per animal, the market for these animals will continue many years into the future.  

  • If alpacas are actively raised for profit, all the expenses attributable to this endeavor can be written off against your income.  Tangible property (breeding stock, barns, fences) can be depreciated.  Alpacas can also be insured against loss.  Alpaca breeding allows for tax deferred wealth building (example:  a small owner can purchase several alpacas and then allow his herd to grow over time without paying income tax on its increased size and value).  Another bonus that many will appreciate is that alpacas do not require butchering in order to be a profitable investment.  A very helpful IRS publication, #225, entitled The Farmers Tax Guide, can be obtained online or from your local IRS office.

  • Alpacas are practical for both large and small farms.  They are beautiful, intelligent, gentle, clean, disease resistant, earth-friendly farm animals. They are small, easy to handle and halter train.  In addition, they make wonderful pets that can be transported easily in the family van. 

  • Alpacas are low maintenance in that they require little daily maintenance. An acre of land can pasture 5-10 alpacas. Good animal husbandry does require occasional grooming, trimming of toenails and teeth, vaccinations, as well as the annual or bi-annual shearing of the fleece. 

Maybe an alpaca is for you?

 

 

Member of AOBA - Alpaca Owners And Breeders Association

Proud Member of the Humane Society, A.L.L. of Madison County, KY

Member of KAA - Kentucky Alpaca Association


Greg and Eve Secrist - 859-624-4277          Email Us


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