Around the Burgh: Sunset Hills Farm Alpacas


This weekend we went up near Butler, PA and stopped at Sunset Hills Alpaca Farm and learned more about Alpacas than we ever expected. I’d heard about Alpacas before but really only knew that they were related to llamas and were used for wool. But there’s a whole world of Alpacas and several farms right in the Pittsburgh area.When we arrived we hadn’t realized that this was a family farm and wasn’t really intended to be a public curiosity, but everyone we met at the farm was very friendly and encouraged us to look around and see the Alpacas.When we went out to the pasture to see them, they were very curious in seeing us as well. We had heard that Alpacas are known to spit, which is not just saliva but actually the regurgitated stomach contents and rather foul. However, these Alpacas were very friendly and curious about us..

We also learned a little bit about Alpacas. For instance, Aplacas come from the Andes in Peru and there isn’t such a thing as a wild Alpaca, they were bred down from vicuñas in South America. And, despite their cute fuzzy heads, they don’t like to have their heads pet, but don’t mind being pet on their neck and backs.

The Drive By:
After we were there for a while Lara came out leading Zephyrus their most prized Alpaca. He has won over 10 color champions, and is valued at over a million dollars!!! It’s hard to imagine a farm animal being worth that much!! But he’s sired several other champions and has a virtually perfect pelt and demeanor.

Apparently the way breeding can occur with alpacas is something they refer to as a “Drive By”, essentially a female aplaca is brought to the farm, they are brought to a clean area, and then they are bred. The other curious part about this, is that since alpacas aren’t very big, they don’t need a large trailer and can show up in a mini-van, like this one.

Almost as soon as the female alpaca got out of her mini-van, they were ready to go, and breeding was soon in process. Since alpacas are dribble ejaculators the whole process can take anywhere from five minutes to over an hour, with the male “orgling” (an odd groaning sound) to put the female in the mood. Or at least for a while since after ten or fifteen minutes the female was getting pretty bored and layed down until Zephyrus was done. The other interesting part is that female alpacas are induced ovulators, which means that they don’t really have to worry about the timing, she will ovulate in response to the attempt to breed.

And if all goes well, in another 11 months they’ll have another baby alpaca to continue on the Zehphrus family, like the ones that were recently born this year that were in the barn.


So if you get a chance, be sure to visit an alpaca farm and see these amazing animals.

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