Alpacas are members of the Camelid family, alongside Camels, Vicuna, Llamas and Guanacos.
There are two breed types of alpaca; the Huacaya (“wuh-kai-uh”) and the Suri.
Alpacas originate from the Andean mountains of South America but are now farmed globally for their luxurious fleece.
Alpacas are sheared annually. Their fibre is soft, light, durable and hypo-allergenic, and is second only to silk as the strongest natural fibre in the world.
Male alpacas are called ‘machos’, females are called ‘hembres’ and youngsters are called ‘cria’.
Alpacas should only be kept in single sex groups. Males and females should never be mixed together…even if the male is castrated.
Gestation is approximately 11-11.5 months. Births are generally trouble free and usually take place during daylight hours.
These calm, inquisitive herd animals and can live for up to 20 years and are extremely addictive!
Why Keep Alpacas?
‘An investment in happiness’
In the UK and Ireland, alpacas are kept mainly for their luxurious fleece, for which there is a growing international demand.
Advanced genetics can offer a sound financial return from the breeding and selling of elite alpaca stock.
Alpacas make excellent pets. They are a gentle, intelligent, family friendly breed that offers a low maintenance option for those seeking a relaxed rural lifestyle.
They are clever enough to train quickly to a halter and lead.
Alpacas make excellent paddock grazers. Not only are they clean, safe, quiet and relatively disease resistant but they can also have a soft padded foot which makes them very gentle on the ground.
Alpacas can prove useful as guard animals for poultry and sheep, often keeping foxes at bay.
‘The joy, ease of care and potential profitability of raising alpacas has attracted people from many walks of life’
What do Alpacas Need?
Alpacas are very social animals and must always be kept in groups of their own kind.
They prefer to stay outside all year round, but will need a field shelter in times of extreme weather conditions.
Alpacas are ideal livestock where land is limited. They eat grass and can be stocked at a rate of 4-5 animals per acre. Alpacas also require hay or haylage ’ad-lib’ and benefit from a supplementary camelid feed.
Alpacas require routine vaccinations, occasional foot trimming, annual shearing and parasite control when necessary.
Standard 4ft fencing is adequate for alpacas as they rarely challenge fences or try to escape.