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Pamelamas LLC

"Feel the fiber. That's what it's all about."

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Frequently Asked Questions

These are questions and answers that we have compiled over the past few years during our Open Farm days.

FAQ’s about Alpacas

These are questions and answers that we have compiled over the
past few years during our Open Farm days.

 

About the animals

Where do alpacas come from originally?

They are native to the Andes Mountains in South America – Peru, Chile, and Bolivia.   

 

How long do they live?

Alpacas can live more than 20 years.   

Why are they in separate pens?

Males and females that are old enough to breed are kept in separate pens because they would breed any time if kept in the same pen.

 

Why are they fenced?

The fences are more to keep other animals out than they are to keep the alpacas in.  Alpacas are very content to stay in their pasture and their barn.  The fences keep out coyotes and dogs running loose, which are natural predators to the alpacas.   

What is that machine/thing for (in the garage)?

That is a chute that helps us to restrain the alpacas while we trim their toenails, or attend to them for other health reasons when we need them to be relatively still.  The chute is also a scale for weighing them.   Weighing them periodically helps us to recognize health issues early. 

What is their general temperament?

Alpacas are very, very curious, but rather stand-offish, very much like cats.  They are very curious to know everything that is going on around them.  They are fairly mild-mannered and prefer to be left alone to graze and sunbathe.  They communicate with each other in numerous ways – humming, clucking, posturing, and spitting.  They usually only spit at each other, and rarely spit at people, but sometimes we humans get caught in the cross-fire.     

Do they hum – what does this mean?   Do they make other noises?

They communicate with each other by humming, and we can only guess what they are really saying.  They have many different hums and clucking sounds, and even an alarm call when they feel the need to alert the herd to danger.

 

Why do their ears go back?

Alpacas express curiosity and fear and other emotions with their ears.  Sometimes they are giving a warning with their ears, and sometimes they are showing that something has piqued their interest.

How much do the adults weigh?

Adult alpacas average from 150 to 200 lbs.

 

How much do the babies weigh at birth?

A newborn cria (baby) usually weighs from 12 to 18 lbs-we have had 3 that were 21 lbs.

How often are they shorn?

Once a year, in the spring.

 

Do you bring the animals to shows?  What is judged?

Yes, we have participated in a few shows – and we have some blue ribbons to show for it!     Alpacas are judged both in a halter show, where the alpacas are walked into a ring and the judge evaluates both their conformation and their fleece, and there are fleece shows where the shorn fleeces are evaluated.  There are also spin-off competitions where a fleece sample is judged as it is spun into yarn.

 

How long are they pregnant?

The gestation time is 11 - 11 ½ months.   

 

How many babies do they deliver at a time?

They have a single cria at a time.  Twinning does happen, but it is not common, and there is a high mortality rate.   

 

Do they only nurse from their own mother if there are multiple mothers nursing?

A female (dam) usually will only allow her own cria to nurse from her, but there are exceptions.     

  

 

About the fiber

How do I buy yarn on days other than today?

Give me a call at 985-7215, or email me at pam@pamelamas.com.  Or catch me at the Kennebunk Farmers Market most Saturdays  May-mid-fall, or check with me to see when our next Open Farm will be.

 

Do you have patterns available?

We do have a 3-ring binder with a few patterns for sale.

 

How do you spin?

The raw fiber is combed and carded into a roving, then the roving is drafted (pulled) and spun either at a mini-mill, or handspun on a spinning wheel or drop spindle.

 

Where is the fiber sent to be processed?

Our fiber is usually sent to a mini-mill in Maine.  There are several mini-mills in Maine, and others that we know of in New Hampshire, New York, and many other states.     Our rugs were hand woven in Texas.

 

How do you get it to the braided look in the skein?

The finished yarn is wound into a hank on a niddy-noddy, then the hank is twisted to form a skein.

 

Does the finished product shrink as wool does?

Alpaca can shrink and felt just like sheep’s wool, so it’s best not to put it in the dryer.   Putting socks on a wooden drying rack is a good way to dry them.

 

How do I care for a finished alpaca product?

As a general rule, it’s safest to hand wash and line dry or lay flat to dry.   But the socks normally are OK with machine wash and line dry.   Check the tags on socks, as some do say “machine wash and dry”. 

 

How much fiber do you get from one year’s growth?

Alpacas produce from 5 to 12 pounds of fleece per year.  It’s very dependent on the individual animal.  A female who is producing a baby year after year will not yield as much fiber as a gelded male, because all of the nutrition that she is taking in is going to nourishing her baby and maintaining her own body weight first.    

Updated April 21, 2013