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Alpaca Speak

Terms used around the barn

accoyo: the Peruvian ranch of the world-famous alpaca breeder, Don Julio Barreda; imported animals that originated on his ranch carry this name.

agist: board alpacas at a ranch; used originally of the feeding of cattle in the king's forests, and collecting the money for the same.

blanket: prime fleece on the main body of the animal; best quality for spinning

breed back: a breeding with any herdsire from the ranch from which a pregnant female is purchased, following her delivery; offered in contracts as a three-in-one deal.

brightness [of fleece]: the quality of alpaca fiber that reflects light

camelid: mammal family to which the alpaca belongs; also includes camel, llama, vicuna, and guanaco

colostrum: the initial rich milk produced by a new mother soon after delivery; vital to stimulate immunities in the newborn 

conformation: the appropriate alignment of the alpaca's body structure in proportion to the whole animal

cria: (CRE-A) an unweaned camelid baby; from old Spanish word for "create."

crimp: the wavy crinkle of fiber strands from a Huacaya alpaca 

cush: upright resting position, sitting with all legs tucked under; similar to a cat  

dam: female parent

Density: how tightly packed together the individual fibers of a fleece are.
fiber: the product of shearing an alpaca; interchangeable with 'fleece;' never referred to as 'fur' or 'wool.'

fighting teeth: the tiny sharp teeth that grow mid-jaw in adult alpacas; males use them to render other males in the herd impotent. These teeth are filed down in a managed herd situation.

alpaca fleece: the fiber of an alpaca; lanolin-free. Huacaya fiber is crimpy, while fleece of the Suri alpaca is silken.

gelding: a castrated male

guard hair: the longer, medulated single hairs interspersed with the finer fiber on a huacaya alpaca or llama

guanaco: the rarest relative of the alpaca, native to the Andes

hembra: adult female alpaca

herdsire: adult male alpaca used for breeding

huacaya (wah-KI-yah): one of two types of alpaca, with thick, fluffy fleece suggesting the 'teddy bear' look

humming: the most common audio communication between alpacas; a melodic, purring sound that indicates nervous attention, as a mom calling to her cria, or an adult separted from the herd.

husbandry: the watchful care and intervention by humans to the herd for optimal health maintenance; vaccinations, toe-nail trimming, nutrition, protection, etc.
ideal alpaca: perfect in every sense of conformation — proportional body, straight legs, dense fleece, overall coverage, crimpy fiber, presence and stature, aligned teeth.

improved alpaca: the overall look of the animal is balanced and typey

induced ovulator: the female is stimulated by the breeding process to release an egg for fertilization; cats are also induced ovulators, different from a female cycle that the male then responds to.

junior herdsire: intact young adult male alpaca, not mature for breeding

llama: larger cousin of the alpaca.

lock:  Long twisted strands of Suri fiber

luster: a bright shine on a Suri's silky fiber

macho: adult male alpaca

maiden: young adult female, not yet bred

medulated fiber: the thicker, hollow-shaft fiber that sometimes populates the fleece and sticks out beyond the finer, crimped fleece of a Huacaya

micron: one-millionth of a meter; referring to the width of single fiber of alpaca fleece

micron count: the average of measurements within a fiber sample

orgling: a sound a male sings to the female during breeding

orchard grass: low-protein grasses either growing in the pasture or baled as hay; not alfalfa

pasture breeding: placing a male in a pasture with females in a to breed 'at will'

pen breeding: purposefully placing one male and one female in a pen together with the intention of breeding

PPPeruvian: the 3 "p's" indicate the third Peruvian import of alpacas into the US

primitive alpaca: an alpaca whose overall conformation and structure is out of symmetry

pronk: romping, playing and prancing behavior, especially between young animals

proven: an animal, either male or female, who has successfully parented an offspring

retained CL: "corpus lutum" = yellow body, referring to the casing of the unfertilized egg. When not shed by the body (i.e., retained), hormones may still respond, thus giving a "false pregnancy" reading when spit-testing (see below).

roving: fiber that has been cleaned, carded into strips ready for spinning

ruminant: having multiple stomachs - digestive system

shearing: the annual clipping of the fleece off of the alpaca

show ring: events sponsored by by national and regional organizations to judge the quality of animals; show divisions are by type, fleece color, age and gender

sire: male parent

spinning: making yarn from fleece, by adding twist to the strands — using a spinning wheel or a drop spindle —

spit test: bringing a bred female to a  mature male. If she 'spits him off,  she may be pregnant – this is a primitive pregnancy test. And needs to be repeated for several weeks

suri : one of two types of alpacas, marked by silky fleece that hangs in long, curled pencil 'dreadlocks'

unproven: an animal that has not yet been bred; if female, has never been pregnant; if male, he has not yet impregnated a female; no offspring has been born

vicuña: smaller cousin of the alpaca and llama with even softer fleece; native to the Andes of South America but not allowed for export.

vicuña coloring: red-brown above with cream under neck, belly and insides of legs; referred to in Huacaya alpacas that probably carry vicuña genes.

weanling: a newly weaned alpaca, usually at least six months old but less than one year.


Updated April 14, 2017