Our family recently decided to visit one of the several dozen alpaca farms scattered throughout North Georgia. These are small, private working farms. For a reasonable fee, we were able to set up a private tour of one of the farms. We chose a warm weekend in the springtime for our visit. Our educational tour taught us many interesting facts about these delightful animals.
Finding Out About Alpaca Fiber
When we began our tour, the guide described alpaca fiber and took time to share some of the ways this material is used. Alpacas are raised for their soft, warm fleece, which is even softer than sheep’s wool. The alpacas that are raised in Georgia are shorn once a year, usually in the month of April. Their fiber is woven into all sorts of products, such as socks, scarves, and the lining of boots. Alpacas come in 21 different colors. The fiber of white alpacas can be dyed in order to make products of various shades and colors.
Discovering Differences Between Alpacas and Llamas
We found out that alpacas, llamas, and camels are all part of the same biological family known as “camelids.” Though they have many similarities, alpacas and llamas differ in some significant ways. For example:
- Ear Shape: Alpacas have short, spear-shaped ears while llamas have much longer, banana-shaped ears.
- Size: Alpacas are much smaller than llamas. They typically weigh around 150 pounds, while llamas weigh around 400 pounds.
- Face Shape: Alpacas tend to have shorter, blunter faces than llamas.
- Hair: Alpacas produce much finer fiber than llamas.
- Disposition: Alpacas tend to be a bit more skittish than llamas.
Appreciating the Alpaca’s Unique Qualities
Each alpaca we observed definitely seemed to have its own lovable personality. As the farmer called to her alpacas, the herd came to meet us in one big group. One was so excited to see visitors carrying food that it began to dance and jump for joy as it approached us. The herd included both babies and adults. A baby alpaca is known as a “cria.”
Each alpaca’s looks were distinct. Some had puffy fur on their heads while others had spiked fur. It reminded Emily of how people have different hairstyles. They looked extremely soft and fluffy, so we naturally wanted to pet them. The farmer cautioned us not to approach them from behind as it would make them nervous. They needed to be able to see us and know we were there before they were comfortable being touched. Overall, the alpacas were gentle, timid animals. We were told they make great pets to own on a farm.
Feeding Time Fun with the Alpacas
We were given buckets of pellet food to feed the alpacas. At feeding time they grew extremely friendly and surrounded Emily and her sister. We relished
the opportunity to hand feed these adorable animals. Compared to many farm animals, the alpacas seemed quite polite while eating. They didn’t nip at our fingers at all.
We asked the farmer if alpacas spit like llamas are prone to do. We were told that they don’t normally spit at people. However, they do sometimes spit at one another as a sign of aggression. Our group broke out into laughter when we were caught in the crossfire of an alpaca spitting at another member of the herd.
Our visit to an alpaca farm was an unforgettable experience. Emily highly recommends scheduling a visit to a North Georgia alpaca farm.