What Are The Economics Of Alpaca Farming – Alpacas are cute, furry, and funky farm animals that are often overlooked when many people think about agriculture. Its long neck and small overbite may be quite silly, but you shouldn’t underestimate it. Alpacas are farm animals that contribute to agriculture around the world.
Mark and Sharon Gilbride of Bloomfield, New York, realized the value of alpacas early on. His farm, Lazy Acre Alpacas, is home to 55 alpacas, which are sheared once a year to produce wool. The couple also offers tours to the public to learn how alpacas contribute to the economy.
What Are The Economics Of Alpaca Farming
Alpacas come from the mountains of Chile, Peru and Bolivia. Perhaps the most interesting thing about alpacas is that they are comfortable in most climates. Alpaca is a unique wool that keeps animals cold in the heat, dry in the damp, and warm in sub-zero temperatures.
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One stop on the Lazy Acre alpaca tour is the shearing shed. The Gilbrides offer wool samples for anyone to touch and explain how wool works its magic.
Alpaca hair is hollow and each hair looks like a string of sausages filled with air. These air pockets absorb moisture and move it away, meaning clothing made from alpaca is able to wick away sweat or keep you dry in humid conditions. In cold conditions, your body temperature heats the air pockets, insulating you even in the coldest temperatures.
Alpaca products are often made from more than just alpaca wool. Wool is mixed with other materials such as bamboo, spandex, linen and even silk. Sharon said customers at her alpaca shop are sometimes put off by the fact that the products are not entirely made from alpaca. Sometimes people think that mixing wool with other materials is a way to lower the price of a product, but Sharon says it’s just the opposite.
Sharon puts a lot of effort into educating people on the reasons and benefits of mixing alpaca with other materials. Alpaca wool, like sheep’s wool, stretches over time. No one likes saggy socks or stretch sweaters, so adding extra stretch material to fleece means the garment can be worn longer without having to worry about stretching. Alpaca running socks are a popular hybrid product. The wool is blended with merino wool and does a great job of removing odors.
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Acre’s lazy alpacas live on farms, producing only wool and the occasional calf (baby alpaca). These alpacas are not raised for meat, but alpaca meat is a delicacy in the United States.
Alpaca meat is said to taste similar to veal, with a slightly sweet taste. Alpacas usually have very little body fat, allowing them to absorb the flavors of cooked food. This meat is higher in protein and lower in fat and cholesterol than beef, chicken, and salmon. Mark Gilbride explains that in Peru, people eat alpaca just like we do in the United States. Alpacas are a famous dual-purpose animal in South America.
Alpacas aren’t as popular in the United States as they are in South America simply because they haven’t been around for that long—they’ve only been in the United States since the 1980s. Since then, most farmers’ alpacas have been found along the Western coast: Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington are the states with the largest alpaca populations.
There are alpaca farmers like the Gilbrides across the country who want to show how alpacas are impacting American agriculture. They create unique and useful products for people around the world.
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Elizabeth Maslyn is a student at Cornell University working in the dairy industry. His passion for agriculture fueled his desire to learn more and make the voices of our farmers heard. Alpaca farming in the Andes is a unique example of ethical farming practices.
Did you know there are 86,000 alpaca farms in Peru alone? Or that the average farm only has 60-90 alpacas? Alpacas were domesticated by pre-Inca civilizations and have been an integral part of Andean culture for thousands of years. The animals provide food and clothing to local people, as well as economic opportunities.
Alpaca fiber is one of the finest fibers in the world. While wool can be scratchy or rough, alpaca is soft and silky, has a cloud-like texture, and is finer than cashmere (depending on micron diameter). Due to its natural comfort, alpaca is one of the most popular fibers used for blankets and clothing. When you first encounter alpaca fiber, it’s easy to wonder: where does alpaca fiber come from, how is it obtained, and how do alpaca farms work?
Since the beginning of building our brand, we have worked closely with the Alpaca International Association (AIA) and Daniel Aréstegui. Daniel is the manager of the AIA and Alpaca Civil Society of Peru (ASCALPE, ) and has dedicated his life to the welfare of alpaca farms. As part of our origin traceability project, we visited alpaca farms in the Andes. We spoke to farmers about their relationship with the land and alpacas.
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In this article you will find excerpts from these interviews. If you are interested in learning more from these farmers and Daniel, you can check out our origins page and watch some interviews.
“Behind the clothes are the fibers; behind the threads are the animals; behind the animals are the people who care for the delicate balance between Pachamama (Mother Earth), alpacas and humans.”
Alpaca fiber is native to South America, where the animals may have first bred about 6,000 years ago. Although alpacas have been domesticated, today they still live naturally and roam freely with farmers. Two alpaca fibers are commonly used in textile production: Huacaya and Suri. Huacaya alpacas are often called “teddy bear alpacas” because of their wavy wool. Huacaya alpacas are the most common type of alpaca, accounting for approximately 95% of all alpacas. Suri alpacas, on the other hand, have long, smooth hair that hangs on the alpaca’s body.
The Incas and alpacas had an incredibly symbiotic relationship. Alpacas provided the Incas with a major source of income, providing them with alpaca fiber, tools, shoes, medicine and even fertilizer. The alpaca was so important to the Incas that it was chosen as a gift to the gods. Across America, we often view animals as food, creating a loveless relationship between humans and animals. But in Peru, alpacas are like family.
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During the Spanish Conquest, Europeans hunted most of the alpacas, rendering them nearly extinct. The few who remained fled to the Andes with their alpacas, choosing to brave the harsh high-altitude environment. To survive, alpacas rely heavily on their warmth, and alpacas require help from their owners to survive. This dynamic creates a closer relationship between alpacas and alpacas, who need each other to survive.
During our trip with Daniel, we spoke to Maximilan Mamani, an alpaca farmer who lives next to his alpacas. “Alpacas are everything to us,” he told us. “We are here for this.” Another alpaca, Albino Sulca, said: “I feel like I owe a lot to alpacas. Take care of them.
Alpacas still roam freely in the Andes. Fiber from these animals is not produced on a large scale. Instead, they live a wild and happy life. Although the people of Peru no longer depend on alpacas for survival, alpaca farming provides important economic opportunities. They are a means for some families to educate themselves and obtain health care. and significantly improve the health and well-being of local people.
Today, Peru is home to an estimated 3 million alpacas and is home to about 90 percent of the world’s alpacas. There are approximately 500,000 alpacas in Bolivia. The United States and Canada only began importing their first alpacas in 1984, and there are estimated to be about 50,000 alpacas in the country. But alpacas still retain their South American roots.
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In Peru, farmers live in extreme conditions in the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 4,000 meters. These farmers, known as “alpacas,” often move with the seasons to ensure their alpacas have access to the most fertile pastures.
After the Spanish Conquest, the production of alpaca fiber almost disappeared from the world. But in the 1800s, the fiber was “rediscovered,” sparking rapid growth and interest in animals. Over time, alpacas crossed the country’s borders and began to breed again. Today, there are approximately 3 million alpacas on small alpaca farms worldwide. They are usually engaged in fiber or alpaca wool production.
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