Alpacas are increasingly popular farm animals, especially for those in need of a “guard dog”. Because of their territorial behavior, alpacas are actually great at keeping out predators. Their wool is usually used for fiber, but in some areas, such as Peru, the animal is also used for its skin and meat. Once the quality of their fur begins to decline, they are often removed for meat. However, this is not always the case in places like the United States, as alpaca meat is not popularly eaten.
These animals turned out to be long-lived, like most other large farm animals. For all you need to know about their lifespan, keep reading.
What is the Average Age of an Alpaca?
Currently, there are no wild alpacas. Modern alpacas have been widely bred to grow wool quickly. It grew wool so fast that humans had to shear it, or they would grow too much wool for their own well-being. They are a bit like sheep in this respect.
Therefore, these animals can only exist in captivity.
In captivity, these animals can live as long as 25 years. The oldest alpacas are 27 years old, but most do not live this long. That said, where animals live can have a huge impact on their overall lifespan.
Many different factors can affect the lifespan of an alpaca.
Why Do Some Alpacas Live Longer Than Others?
In the United States, alpacas are often kept to their full lifespan, which is often around 20 to 25 years. They are used for wool and their territorial nature. While their wool declines after 8 to 10 years, nature is always there, allowing them to protect the land from predators.
However, in Peru, alpaca meat is rather common. These animals are often kept until the quality of their fur decreases. Then, they are slaughtered for their meat. Few people eat alpaca meat in the US, so the animal is often not slaughtered there.
Alpacas require a certain level of care to thrive. If they are not given this treatment, they may perish before their natural lifespan is up. Fortunately, alpacas are sturdy creatures, so they don’t require much care.
However, they need to be shaved regularly. Otherwise, their wool will grow too long and may restrict their movement.
Alpacas don’t need much protection, but they do need basic protection from the weather. The shed is fine, but even a three-sided lean-to will do. If they have no shelter, bad weather can lead to their death.
The worse the weather, the more likely it will cause damage to the alpacas. Therefore, you should provide the best shelter you can, although it may not matter if you never experience bad weather in your location.
You should also provide enough food for your alpaca. Only grass and hay are needed. They require far less food than you might think and often do well with good pasture land. You should provide 1 hectare of pasture for every three to five alpacas.
In winter, they need to be supplemented with grass hay unless you live in an area that has grass all year round.
Even so, feeding them hay in the winter usually only costs a few hundred dollars.
Most alpacas will need some sort of care eventually. Fortunately, these animals tend to be fairly healthy and don’t require much medical care. However, as they get older, they may experience problems. By providing them with high quality care, you can ensure that they will live to their full life.
Breeding does cause too much age difference in alpacas. They generally give birth well and do not require human intervention. Death during birth is rare.
However, overbreeding will cause the alpaca to die more quickly as it can cause nutritional problems. For this reason, we strongly recommend only breeding alpacas every year or so.
4 Stages of Alpaca’s Life
- Pregnancy – Alpacas are pregnant for about 11 months, or about 335 days. The times may be slightly different.
- Cria – Baby alpaca are called crias, and they are born weighing between 12 and 20 pounds. Usually, they are born during the day. Alpacas are good at giving birth on their own, so they often don’t need human intervention. Night births and complications are rare. Usually, only one cria is born at a time, although twins are rare.
- Tuis – Once alpacas are weaned, they are known as weanlings or tuis until they reach maturity. Usually, alpacas can be bred at 12 to 13 months of age, so they remain in this category until then.
- Adults – Adult alpacas can live for 15 to 25 years, depending on various factors. These adults can be bred 18 to 20 days after they give birth, which averages to about one baby each year.
How to Know Your Alpaca’s Age
One of the few ways to tell an alpaca’s age is by looking at its teeth. Even so, their teeth are only accurate to the 3-6 year mark. After that, it was almost impossible to determine their age with any accuracy. Of course, they may lose their teeth at an older age, but this is not always age-related.
Alpacas usually live to around 20, although there are many factors involved. In Peru, they are often slaughtered when they are 10 years old for meat, which is usually when the quality of their wool begins to decline. In the US, they may be allowed to live longer because alpaca meat doesn’t have a huge market there.
After all, you should take good care of your alpaca to ensure they are healthy and happy. Otherwise, they will not live to their full lifespan.
You will need to give them lots of grass and hay, although they may need less than you think. The average alpaca eats less than large dogs. They also need proper shelter, although they are quite strong. They must be able to escape from more extreme weather conditions.
It is also necessary to shave it annually, otherwise the wool will grow too much, which can lead to health problems and difficulty moving.
Featured Image Credit: HansLinde, Pixabay