ALPACAS are members of the Camelid family, along with camels, llamas, guanacos and vicunas.  They originated from South America (Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina).

 

There are two different types of Alpacas.

The Suri (soo-ree) has long fibres that form long locks.

The Huacaya (wa-ky-ah) has fibre which stands at right angles to the body with crimp.

 

The Alpaca Family

Adult female          -        Hembra

Adult male             -        Macho

Juvenile female       -        Tui

Infants                   -        Cria (cree-ah)

 

How Big Do They Grow?

Cria usually weigh around 5-9 kg at birth.

Female adults usually weigh around 70kg

Male adults usually weigh around 85kg

Adults are around 90cm at the withers when fully grown.

 

Temperament

Alpacas are social, very placid animals although each has his/her own personality. They are herd animals so you need a minimum of 2 as they are unhappy on their own.  They are easily halter trained and are not aggressive so therefore make great pets. Curiosity and intelligence are prominent traits.

 

Lifespan

Alpacas can live for 20-25 years.

 

Feeding Requirements

Alpacas are browsers rather than grazers.  They thrive on a high fibre/low protein diet.  They do well on native grasses.  They like hay and silage.  Supplementary feeding of grains, legumes and/or alpaca nuts are enjoyed by feeding mums or any animals needing to increase their body score.

The alpaca is a modified ruminant with a 3 compartment stomach.  It converts grass and hay to energy very efficiently, eating less than other farm animals.

Fresh drinking water must be available at all times.  In summer an alpaca may drink up to 4 litres per day.

 

Breeding

Female alpacas breed at around 12-16 months of age.  They are ‘induced ovulators’ which means they do not have a ‘cycle’ like most animals.  The eggs are released in response to a mating.  Gestation is around 340 days.  Twins are extremely rare.  Re-mating is usually performed 14–21 days after birthing.  The cria is weaned at six months old.  Males are sexually mature at around 2 years old.

 

Stocking Rates

5-8 animals per acre, assuming good pasture.

 

Shelter / Fencing

Alpacas are accustomed to cold weather in the Andes Mountains but many breeders have barns or natural shelter as protection from severe winter storms.  Their fibre provides excellent insulation and protection from cold.  The use of cria coats for babies born in the winter months is sensible.  Shade protection is welcome in the heat of the summer.

 

Most commonly used fencing can be used although barbed wire and electrics are not recommended.  Alpacas are not prone to forcing or jumping fences.

 

Health Care

-        Toenail clipping – 2 to 3 times a year

-        5 in 1 vaccination twice yearly

-        Worming as needed

-        Vitamins A, D & E injection for young stock and breeding females,

3 times through the winter.

-        Alpacas are susceptible to facial eczema but it is easily prevented by

          feeding zinc alpaca pellets or oral drench.

-        Observing your alpacas daily, especially heavily pregnant females and 

young cria, will allow you to gain an understanding of normal behaviour.

 

Special Features of Alpaca

-        Alpacas have been domesticated for more than 5000 years.

-        They are environmentally friendly because an alpaca has padded feet and they leave even the most delicate terrain undamaged.

-        They do not suffer from bloat.

-        It is very rare for them to get foot rot or fly strike.

-        A herd of alpacas consolidates its faeces in a few spots in the paddock, thereby controlling the spread of parasites, and making it easy to collect and compost for fertiliser.

-        An alpaca produces enough fleece each year to create several soft, warm garments for its owners.

-        The processing of fleece requires less chemicals than other natural fibres.

 

Shearing

Shearing should be done once a year in spring or early summer before seed heads develop which could contaminate fleece and before hot weather could cause heat stress. 

 

Alpaca Fibre

Alpaca fleece is very warm and is an exceptional insulator.  Quality products have a very soft feel and are extremely comfortable to wear.