Aquitaine Alpacas

Alpaca Facts

Originating from the South American high Andes, alpacas are members of the Camelid family that includes Vicuña, Guanaco and Llama. The classic curly haired alpaca is known as a Huacaya and its counterpart the Suri is characterised by its long free flowing fleece that naturally divides into ‘pencils’. About 90% of the world alpaca population is Huacaya and 10% is Suri.

Farmed essentially for the luxurious, lightweight fleece it produces, the alpaca is also very popular as a field companion and ‘pet’ due to its gentle nature, ease of maintenance and attractive looks.

It is not though, a ‘pet’ in the true sense of the word, in that it prefers not to be cuddled or stroked. It does though, enjoy human contact and will feed from your hand and gather round when ever you enter the field. Being very curious it is happy to explore new pasture making it easy to move around. They are calm by nature and safe to have around children.

Head collar training is essential if you are hoping to show your animal and advisable when control is needed, accessing the trailer for example or simply to accompany you on walks which they enjoy. This is easily achieved with a little patience.

They do need the company of other alpacas: ideally, a minimum of three should be kept together. They will happily graze alongside other animals, becoming flock guardians to sheep, protecting them from foxes and dogs, and are well capable of killing them by chasing and then stamping on them.

Their feet consist of two padded toes, which spread their bodyweight as they move and do not break up the ground surface as do sheep and goats. They have lower teeth with a hard pad on the upper jaw to chew against and do not graze the grass down as closely as sheep.

Diet consists mainly of grass and hay with complementary feeding for pregnant females, crias and animals with a low bodyscore. A mineral supplement is also generally given, especially if soil quality is poor. Allow an acre per 4 to 5 alpacas.

After an 11-month gestation females generally birth unaided in the morning, producing one young called a ‘cria’. Females are normally first bred at about 18 months old whereas males take 2 to 3 years to reach sexual maturity.

They require shearing yearly but do not require dipping. Toenails need to be trimmed two to three times per year. Vaccination for clostridial diseases is required and treatment for external and internal parasites carried out if faecal tests show a worm burden or other parasite is suspected.