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Your Life Calling With Jane Pauley

Alpacas Are Awesome

Here, a dozen reasons why alpacas are a fine choice for people considering a later-in-life agricultural career or hobby.

6. Alpacas need minimal grooming: Because alpaca fleece has no lanolin, their coats don't get sticky or matted. Alpacas occasionally need to have their nails clipped, but they don't have to be brushed or washed. Any mud that gets on them dries, and they shake it off. However, they should be sheared annually, typically before the peak heat of summer.

7. Alpacas are good lawnmowers: They nibble the tips of grass instead of pulling the blades from their roots. On the downside: Alpacas don't like weeds, so they aren't good weed-whackers. 

8. Alpacas are environmentally friendly: Because alpacas have soft, padded feet and toenails (like a dog) rather than hard hooves (like a cow), they don't tear up pastures. Their pellet-sized droppings make good fertilizer that doesn't need to be aged, and unlike wool, alpaca fleece doesn't require chemical cleaning during processing.

9. Alpacas don't bite: They don't have incisors or upper teeth, so they essentially can't bite. However, alpacas can chomp and they do spit. On the plus side, they generally spit only when they're mad or scared, and such ire is usually directed at fellow alpacas and other animals.

10. Alpacas can ride in cars: Because they're the size of a large dog (albeit a very large dog with a very long neck), an alpaca can be transported short distances in a minivan or sport utility vehicle. Just walk them in and they sit down—no cage, carrier, pick-up truck, or trailer needed.

11. Alpacas are useful all their lives: The typical alpaca lifespan is 15 to 20 years, and alpacas can provide fleece regardless of their age.

12. Alpacas make good neighbors and good pets: They're friendly, cute, and quiet. (The standard alpaca sound is a soothing hum.) The only time alpacas make a racket is when they think they're in danger. In those instances, they honk!

Are you now thinking about getting an alpaca? If the answer is yes, know that you'll need at least two. Alpacas are herd animals, so they like company.

For more information, visit Alpaca Owners & Breeders Association and Ideal Alpaca Community.

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