Alpaca Info

History

Alpacas are part of the South American Camelids family, the others being llama, guanaco and vicuña.

Llamas and alpacas are domesticated but guanaco and vicuña remain wild and are protected species. Alpacas are found mainly on the high altitude altiplano of Peru and to a lesser extent in Chile and Bolivia.

Alpacas were domesticated around 6,000 years ago by the Andean people and valuable alpaca fleeces became known as ‘The Fibre of The Gods’.

Alpacas are successfully bred in Britain, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and USA. In the UK the numbers are only around 20,000 alpacas and consequently the fleece industry here is still in its infancy.

Alpacas are herd animals and thrive in a stressless herd atmosphere therefore must NEVER be kept as a single animal. Alpacas are about 1 metre tall at the withers (highest point of the back) and weigh, as adults, between 45-75 kgs.

Alpacas are hardy and adaptable an alpaca can live for 15-20 years. They are curious, inquistive, endearing, intelligent, easily startled and very protective towards their young. They communicate to each other by soft humming or clucking sounds and if scared by a screeching honk!

Alpacas DO spit occassionally—when pregnant and defending cria, at feeding times, and when asserting pecking order within the herd.

Alpacas are bred for their fibre which is very fine and rivals cashmere and mohair. The fibre is very popular with hand spinners because is easy to deal with.

There are 2 types of alpaca: Hucaya which has a dense fleece (sheep-like wooliness) and Suri which has long,silky dreadlocks of fleece.

Alpaca fleece has no lanolin (unlike sheep), thus garments can be worn next to the skin without irritation while providing great warmth and comfort. It has hypo- allergenic qualities and can be used for knitting, crocheting and weaving.

One alpaca can produce several kilos of fleece and they are shorn once per year in late spring/early summer.

Alpacas are induced ovulators which means that a female can become pregnant at any time of the year but mating is usually timed to result in spring/summer births. Females are able to be mated from around 14 months old and gestation is usually 11-11½ months. One baby alpaca (called a cria) is born: twins are rare and don’t usually survive. Cria weigh between 6-9 kgs at birth.

Cold/wet weather is not good news for young cria and a cria coat (in a variety of fashionable colours) is very useful to keep the cria warm and dry. Cria can be weaned at usually 6 months old and are called weanlings.

Alpacas can be halter trained (best done at an early age) and make good pets with patience and gentle handling. They will happily mix with children, horses, sheep, goats, chickens etc.

Alpacas are herbivores which eat and digest grass and vegetation. As modified ruminants they have a 3 compartment stomach and chew cud like cows!

Grazing areas MUST be free of poisonous plants as, like most livestock, alpacas don’t realise which plants will make them poorly! Up to 5-6 alpacas can be grazed per acre, and they need 4ft high stock fencing and a field shelter to protect them from the sun/wind/rain.

Alpacas must always have clean, fresh water, ad lib hay and a vitamins and minerals supplement (usually Camelibra).

Their toe nails need trimming every 2-3 months—just like horses!

Routine worming and vaccination against clostridial diseases are usually yearly.

• Fibre Producers (duvets, hats, gloves, jumpers, scarves, socks, blankets etc etc)
• Pets—wethers (castrates) are ideal for children
• Shows—alpacas have their very own shows where rosettes can be won
• Paddock grazers—alpacas crop the grass very short and have a poo pile in only part of the field (you don’t have to push the poo barrow as far!)
• Flock guards—can be used as a guard against foxes raiding the chicken coop as alpacas are very vigilant against any intruders into their paddock!
• Hobby—for all those people who are looking for an enjoyable, rewarding hobby then alpacas fit the bill!
• Investment—ideal to invest money in quality alpacas and breed quality youngsters to sell with a good return
• Gardens—make your own alpaca poo bricks and watch your garden flourish with the best plant food ever!
• Alpacas make excellent companions for retired horses

These endearing creatures will, with the proper care and attention, repay you with years of fun and fulfillment!






Alpaca head