Alpacas were one of the animals we chose to demonstrate sustainable agriculture. Their sustainable traits include:
-Communal dung piles, which facilitate manure management
-Padded feet, which minimize damage to the land
-Hardy constitution, which minimizes the need for chemical or medical management
-Efficient digestive systems, which reduce pressure on pastures and allow a wide range of suitable forage types
-One of the few manure types that can be used directly on soil without decomposition. We use the manure in our greenhouse.
Alpacas are a fiber producing animal, though in some countries they are used for meat. Alpaca fiber comes in the widest range of colors of any natural fiber. It is relatively rare and often in high demand in the global textile industry, contributing to its value. It is as coveted by hand spinners and fiber artisans as it is by European high fashion design houses. Textiles made from alpaca fiber are durable, soft, warm, and low-maintenance. Unlike wool and cashmere, they can be machine washed and are not “itchy."
Meet Our Alpacas
Six male Huacaya (pronounced Wuh-kai-ya) alpacas call Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center home. Alpacas are also called "camelids" because they are domesticated members of the camel family.
Two types exist: Huacaya and Suris — 95 percent are Huacayas, and the rest are Suris. Huacaya alpacas descended from wild vicuna, which is now a threatened species. Andean herders developed Huacayas to produce luxury fibers; in Incan culture, only royalty wore clothing made from alpaca.
Huacayas’ fleece differs from the more rare Suri alpacas: Huacayas’ fluffy fleece is denser and crimped, which gives it a plush feel as opposed to the Suris’ long, shiny, ropelike, dreaded fiber that feels more silky.
Huacaya males reach a maximum weight of approximately 120 lbs., and they measure 3 feet tall, up to their backs. They live for 15 to 20-plus years.
Alpacas differ from llamas in size and shape. Llamas are often twice as big as alpacas and have been bred as pack animals.
In addition to collecting the alpacas’ fiber, Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center uses the alpacas’ manure for its gardening program. Alpacas employ three stomachs to digest food. This results in one of the most balanced, low-odor manures available. Since the manure measures lower in organic matter than cow or horse manure, it doesn’t burn plants but remains high in nitrogen and potassium.
Visit Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center and learn more about alpaca fiber production, alpaca manure and how alpacas communicate through soft hums and body language, such as head tilts and ear and tail positioning.
Nash, Quantum, Kaya, and Radar arrived Oct. 18, 2012 from Daybreak Criations Alpacas. Boone and Zeb joined the herd June 6, 2013. Each has his own personality.
Nash – June 28, 2011
Kaya – October 9, 2011
Quantum – October 26, 2011
Radar – December 18, 2010
Boone – September 12, 2007
Zeb – August 20, 2007