Alpacas

Alpacas are part of the South American Camelid Family which, includes in order of size; Llamas, Alpacas, Guanacos and Vicunas. Alpacas are usually bred for their superior fleece, (producing approx. 3kg each a year) but in their country of origin (Chile, Peru and Bolivia) where they are seen as a sacred animal, they are also eaten and their skins used as rugs etc. so nothing is wasted.

Fact File

  • There are two breeds of Alpaca, the Huacaya and the Suri. The Huacaya has a dense, fluffy, woolly fleece whilst the Suri has long flowing silky ringlets.
  • Alpacas can be kept at a rate of 5-6 per acre of good grass.
  • Alpacas are very hardy and do not require expensive housing. A three-sided shelter from the worst of the rain, snow or sun is all that is required. They usually prefer to be outside otherwise.
  • Alpacas feed on grass, hay/haylage and a small amount of alpaca concentrates. They must of course, have clean water at all times.
  • Usual husbandry care includes trimming toenails 3 times per year as necessary; vaccinating against clostridial diseases and worming when necessary.; shearing annually and additional Vitamins A, D & E through the winter.
  • One cria per year is usual with gestation lasting 11.5 months. Crias are usually weaned at about 6 months.
  • Alpacas usually give birth in the daylight hours as in their country of origin the nights are freezing cold and baby alpacas (crias) need to be dried off by nightfall.
  • The mothers don’t lick their young as cattle and sheep do, the cria rolls in the grass to remove the birth sack and then sleeps in the sun to dry off naturally.
  • Twins have been known but are very rare and usually one or both fail to survive.
  • Females mature at 12 months, males at 15 months onwards although it is usually two and a half to three years before a male is mature enough to become a full working stud.
  • The lifespan of an alpaca is 15-20 years we are told although we haven’t had our alpacas long enough to prove this yet!
  • Alpacas areintelligent animals and can easily be halter-trained for show purposes etc. and they can be transported easily as they usually sit down for the whole journey.