Alpacas are not wild; they are a South American camelid that has been
domesticated for over 6000 years. They originate from the high
Altiplano of Peru, Chile and Bolivia but adapt readily to our lower
altitudes. They are closely related to the llama and fall into two breed standards..
Huacaya Who you calling a Teddy
The Huacaya has fibre growing vertically from its skin in small bundles
with a tight crimped wave making the fleece sit off the skin like sheep,
sometimes referred to as the "Teddy Bear" look.
Suri Seen my dreadlocks?
The Suri has a different appearance its fibre grows out of the skin in
bundles/locks without any crimped wave; producing locks that twist and
hang down along the back line of the alpaca. This gives an appearance
much like a Wensleydale sheep. Also the ears are about 2 cm longer
than the Huacaya.
Alpacas are a herd animal and cannot be kept singly but are normally
sold in pairs, either as a pair of non-breeding males or a pair
of breeding females. It is not normal practice to sell alpacas as breeding
pairs as this will limit the genetic capability in the coming years. As herd
animals the more you can have the happier they are.
Offspring "Hello Mum"
Alpacas have only one offspring called cria per annum and the
gestation period is 11.5 months, twins do occur but with a frequency of
one in 50,000 births it is rare for both or even one to survive. We have
been lucky enough to have one set of surviving twins. Giving birth is
called 'unpacking'. Alpacas instinctively give birth during the morning to
early afternoon, this enables the cria to dry, stand and suckle before the
temperature drops, they are normally up and about within half an hour
and suckling after an hour, the mothers do not lick the babies when
they are born they leave them to clean themselves on the grass, the
need to survive is strong. Cria are weaned at about six months.
The twins and mum about 1 hour old.
Too many for 1 acre!!!
Alpacas can be kept at a stocking density of approximately 5-6 per acre
depending on the quality of grazing and one must bear in mind that if
breeding alpacas, additional paddocks will need to be made available
at weaning and to separate the growing males from the females.
Field shelters should be made available, although they probably won't
use them you feel better when it is raining and you know they can get
into the dry. If you make a pen off the shelter and feed in it every day it
makes it very easy if you need to contain them for routine tasks.
Think I better start digging!
Alpacas can jump but rarely want to escape from the herd; normal
stock fencing and bullock hurdles of about 4 ft are sufficient, please do
not use barbed wire.
we have between 5 and 7 tonnes per month
Alpacas eat grass and hay which should be made available all year
although not much is eaten in the summer. Grass is supplemented with
Alpaca Nuts and a coarse mix (readily available from Alpaca Care Ltd.)
to make sure that they are getting all of the minerals and vitamins
needed with protein, but be warned alpacas are lean and very efficient
grazers which will get fat on to much concentrate.
Husbandry Pregnancy scanning
Alpaca's feet consist of a double soft pad and two toe nails that need to
be kept trimmed as our pastures do not wear them down, this is done
on an ad-hoc basis. Their teeth grow and need grinding down so that
they are able to graze properly the males also grow fighting teeth at
approx. 2 years and these need to be removed, both of these tasks can
be carried out at shearing when the animal is restrained. Alpacas are
vaccinated for clostridial diseases; we do this once a year. Alpacas are
wormed regularly on a six-month basis. They should be given a mineral
paste through the winter months and cria need to be given and
additional ADE supplement to compensate for lack of sunlight. You
should body score (feeling the frame to make sure it is not getting too
fat or losing weight) regularly, their thick fleece hides what is going on
Shearing missed a bit
Alpacas are sheared annually and produce an average of about 3.5kg
of fine saddle fibre , although genetically the alpaca has the potential of
up to 6kg. They are normally sheared between May and June and at
this time routine husbandry tasks are also carried out i.e., teeth,
injections, toe trimming etc,a bit like a full service.
There are 22 officially recognised colours of alpacas and every shade
in between. In the UK we have been working towards breeding
consistently solid one-colour alpacas.
Fibre / Fleece
Alpacas produce a luxury fibre akin to cashmere but harder wearing.
The alpaca fibre industry in the UK is in its infancy, however we are
now seeing numerous private and cooperative initiatives as breeders
work together to add value to this unique product. Crafts such as felt
making, spinning and weaving are starting to see the advantages of
alpaca fleeces, larger mills are setting up to deal in quantities as low as
20kg and as a result quality UK alpaca products are coming onto
Alpacas travel well in a horsebox or livestock trailer as long as they
have the ability to stand, although they will normally sit whilst the
vehicle is in motion. During a long journey we would recommend a stop
every 2 hours to allow them to stand to relieve themselves or to feed
How do I find out more?
If you want to visit our farm, see our herd and generally find out more
about these lovely creatures give Graham a ring on 07802-263589,
there is no obligation, we need to know that you are sure about your
commitment, but be warned these animals are seriously addictive.