Supply & Demand

The market for alpacas has been moderated by the effects of relatively slow herd growth. As of early 2004, the total population of registered alpacas in North America accounts for about 50,000 in the United States and about 15,000 in Canada.

Supply will continue to be limited in the near future for a number of reasons:

  • Alpacas reproduce slowly. A female generally breeds for the first time between 18-24 months of age, is pregnant for 11-12 months, and almost always only has one cria.
  • Many breeders retain their offspring to build their herds
  • The limited size of the national herds in each country outside of South America will restrain growth to a small degree.
  • The U.S. alpaca registry is closed to further importation to protect our national herd, which will further moderate U.S. herd growth.

Meanwhile, demand for alpacas has increased dramatically every year since their introduction outside of South America (1984). Not only are there more breeders entering the alpaca market each year in established countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the U.S., but there are more countries worldwide also actively establishing alpaca herds. This growth is sure to continue as the alpaca gains international recognition.

Alpacas offer an outstanding choice for livestock ownership. They have long been known as the aristocrat of all farm animals. Most of all, alpacas are easy keepers, they have a charismatic manner, they do very well on small acreage, and they produce a luxury product which is in high demand. Consumers are drawn to alpaca sweaters with just one touch. Alpaca is several times stronger and much warmer than sheep’s wool. The fiber itself is semi-hollow and makes very light, thermal garments.

Historically, alpaca production has been concentrated in the high Andes Mountains where pasture is limited. The world-wide population of alpaca is barely three million animals. As a result, alpaca is considered a specialty fiber with limited available supply. Alpaca fleece is comparable to cashmere in softness and is often mixed with other fibers, such as mohair, to vary the texture of the yarn produced. A strong domestic commercial market for large volumes of alpaca fleece is easily envisioned and a national fiber co-op is working with breeders large and small to see this vision become reality.