Jane and Herb Wortman have been raising Huacaya alpacas since 1999, first at their farm near Rockglen, Saskatchewan and now at their farm, Sunnyview Alpacas, near Saskatoon. For the first few years they focused on building their herd and steadily improving the line with each generation. More recently they have become more involved with the alpaca industry; Jane as a board member of the Saskatchewan Alpaca Breeders Network (SABN) and Herb as a past board member of SABN. For the past several years, they have been showing their alpacas at the larger shows in Western Canada with great success.
Alpacas are small endearing animals of the camelid family. They were domesticated over 5,000 years ago, and became a cherished treasure of the ancient Incan civilization. Their fine cashmere-like fleece was reserved solely for royalty. These amazing animals provided the food, fuel and clothing for a civilization that thrived in an otherwise hostile environment.
Alpacas have a life span of 20 – 25 years. Adults weigh 100 – 175 lbs and stand 34 – 36 inches at the withers. Baby alpacas, called cria, generally weigh 14 – 20 lbs at birth. Gestation is around 11 months. Alpacas communicate through soft humming noises and unique body language.
Today, in Canada, alpacas are raised for their exquisite fibre, and are enjoyed for their delightful personalities as well as their sound financial returns. Alpacas produce one of the world’s finest and most luxurious fibres, known for its fineness, lustre, light weight and insulating quality, which is eight times that of wool! With the exception of mohair, alpacas produce the strongest animal fibre in the world. As alpaca fibre becomes finer, this unique strength does not lessen, thus making it very desirable.
Alpacas have two different fleece types with quite different characteristics – huacaya-fleece and suri-fleece. Often the alpacas are referred to as simply huacaya or suri. The huacaya, the most common, has a crimped or wavy fleece whereas the suri has straight, lustrous, fine fibre. In full fleece, the huacaya has a full, fluffy appearance, while the suri is elegantly draped in long pencil locks. Alpacas are the only animals in the world that come in so many different colours , there are 22 officially recognised. Prized for its unique silky feel and superb handle, alpaca fibre is highly sought after by the large textile manufacturers of Europe and Asia . Various worsted and woollen mills across Canada offer custom processing of alpaca fibre – carding, blending, dyeing and processing into many products. Sweaters, blankets, mitts, socks, shawls, hats, duvets can be purchased through various home based businesses. Please visit our Boutique to find retailers.
Alpaca fleece is at the head of specialty fibre industries world-wide. They are clean, intelligent, peaceful animals that are easily handled and are safe around children; caring for them is not difficult. Fences should be designed to keep out dogs, coyotes and other predators. A three-sided enclosure or lean-to is adequate for shade, as well as winter wind protection. Alpacas require 2 pounds of low protein hay daily, and fresh water. They require little space; 1/8th of an acre per animal is often sufficient if you can rotate the pasture regularly, making them an ideal small acreage livestock. They defecate in fixed areas, thus clean-up and parasite control is a relatively easy job. Alpaca droppings are almost odourless, and are high in nitrogen and potassium, making them an excellent fertilizer. They are easily transported in a pick-up, van or trailer and usually lie down in transit. Alpacas are extremely hardy and adaptable to most climates, elevations and conditions.
Raising Alpacas, a rewarding Lifestyle
Alpacas offer a lifestyle with benefits and opportunities for the whole family. Relaxation, fun and a source of income are the rewards of raising these endearing animals. Raising alpacas is an investment available to many.
Empty-nesters looking for a rewarding activity with income potential, high income earners looking for tax advantages and incentives, the established farmer looking for diversification, Hobby Farmers looking to make lucrative use of land and busy professionals looking for an outlet to daily stress. Families with children will appreciate how easy they are to handle. The harvesting of the fleece has inspired many to start cottage industries, processing the fibre of their own animals themselves by spinning it into yarn. If this involvement is not desirable, other fibre mills and the Canadian Camelid Fibre Co-op offer processing services.
City dwellers can board their animals at many established alpaca farms, building their herd until they wish to become more hands-on. Alpaca breeders from all walks of life interact with each other by participating in shows and open houses and by sharing their acquired expertise. This common interest and support has been the start of many friendships.
Raising alpacas is a labor of love. The escape from a fast-paced urban lifestyle to the quiet, pastoral surroundings of raising and breeding alpacas is a prescription for healthier, less stressful living!
Want to know more about us?
Give us a call and arrange a visit to the farm. We’d be glad to introduce you to the herd.
Herb and Jane Wortman – Sunnyview Alpacas