Last Updated: Thursday, December 22, 2016, 11:30 AM EST
When someone mentions the word livestock, most would think of cows, pigs and other kinds of animals. Not many would have llamas or alpacas in mind, but that is exactly what Airrport Ranch owner Mark Slaba raises on his property down in the Punta Gorda area. Both aplacas and llamas are a domesticated species of South American camelids so they are also related to camels. Mark raises these animals not for their meat but for their hair, or fiber as the finished product is called.
At first glance, many people could easily mistake an alpaca for a llama but there are a few defining differences between the two. Alpacas generally weigh in around 150 pounds while llamas can get up to 400 pounds. Llamas have a longer face and bananna-shaped ears while the alpaca's face is more blunt and they have shorter spear-shaped ears. Alpacas are very much herd animals while llamas are more independent minded. For more than 5,000 years alpacas have been bred for their fiber while llamas have typically been bred as pack animals and for their meat. Alpacas produces a much finer fiber than it's larger cousin and generally have more hair on their head and face. Alpacas also produce more fleece than llamas and in a much wider variety of colors.
Alpaca fleece is a lustrous and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep's wool, it is warmer and bears no lanolin which makes it hypoallergenic. It is also not prickly like sheep's wool and it is also flame-resistant. Alpacas are typically sheared once per year in the spring. Shearings generally produce around five to ten pounds of fiber p[er alpaca. An adult alpaca might produce 50 to 90 ounces of first-quality fiber along with 50 to 100 ounces of second and third-quality fiber.
Llamas have a fine undercoat which can be used for handicrafts and garments. Their coarser outer-guard hair is used for rugs, wall-hangings and lead ropes. Their fiber comes in many different colors ranging from white or grey to reddish brown, brown, dark brown and black.
Find out more about Mark Slaba's Airport Ranch by visiting their Facebook page.
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