Alpacas

Become one with your inner alpaca.

Step closer into the world of alpacas

The rare and exotic alpaca is a creature of antiquity that is rapidly gaining popularity around the world. Highly prized for their luxurious coats, the alpaca has been considered a treasure of the Andes Mountains for over 6,000 years.

Alpacas are New World camelids and look like small llamas or long-necked camels with no humps, especially when recently sheared. They have shaggy necks and camel-like faces with thick lips, pronounced noses, and long ears. Their large, expressive eyes seem to exhibit both wisdom and childlike curiousity.

Easily domesticated, alpacas are friendly, gentle and curious. Alpacas were exported from Peru in the mid-1980s and have become a premier livestock in Australia and abroad.

Alpaca fleece

The hair of the alpaca is called ‘fleece’ or ‘fibre’ rather than ‘fur’ or ‘wool.’ Alpaca fleece has 22 natural shades ranging from black to silver and rose gray and white, from mahogany brown to light fawn and champagne. Alpacas can be bred for specific color, though trying to breed grey has left many alpaca breeders scratching their heads.

There are two types of alpacas, classified according to their fibre type:

  • Huacaya (‘wah-KI-yah’) — dense, crimped, wooly, water-resistant fleece. Huacayas make up most of the alpacas in Australia.
  • Suri (‘SUR-ree’) — very fine and lustrous fibre which grows parallel to the body in long, separate locks. Suris make up a very small percentage of Australian alpacas.
  • Huacaya alpaca

    Huacaya alpaca

  • Suri alpaca

    Suri alpaca

  • carollia fleece 28 aug

Unlike the llama, the fibre of the alpaca can be used for clothing. Alpaca fibre is softer than cashmere or angora, and warmer and lighter weight than wool, without the prickle-factor that some wool has. Since alpaca fleece has no lanolin, it is easier to process and is hypoallerginic.

Colour key

W = White MB = Medium Brown LRG = Light Rose Grey
LF = Light Fawn DB = Dark Brown MSG = Medium Silver Grey
MF = Medium Fawn BB = Bay Black MRG = Medium Rose Grey
DF = Dark Fawn TB = True Black DSG = Dark Silver Grey
LB = Light Brown LSG = Light Silver Grey DRG = Dark Rose Grey

 

Plus there are Spottys, Tuxedos and Fancies.

Alpacas are sheared annually, usually in the spring. The fibre may be sold and processed into rovings, spun into yarn, knitted or woven into fine fabrics. Each step adds more value to the product.

Personality

Like all animals, alpacas exhibit individual personality. They are herd animals, preferring the companionship of their friends and their established community, and will become stressed if separated from their mates. 

Observe who is always first at the food bins, and who is last. Notice when a female is extra-friendly — she may have lost her pregnancy and is wanting to be re-bred. Some cria exhibit independence at an early age, others may be mamma’s kids, just like two-leggeds.

Gentle and curious, alpacas respond well to children. Junior Handling is becoming a popular event at most alpaca shows.

Alpacas: A brief history

Since ancient times, the South American Andes Mountains have been the ancestral home to the prized alpaca. Their fleece was cherished by members of the Incan civilisation (referred to as “The Fiber of the Gods”), and their graceful herds of alpaca roamed century, Spanish conquistadors killed a large part of both the Incan and alpaca populations, forcing the retreating survivors to seek refuge in the high mountain plains known as the Altiplano.

When the Spanish Conquistadors conquered the Inca Empire in the 17th century, the Indians sought refuge the heights of the Andes and took with them a limited number of these precious animals.

Consequently, alpacas escaped extinction, and they are now plentiful in wild herds at about 3.5 million strong. Indians of the Andes continue to shepherd them.

In Peru in the 1940’s, Don Julio Barreda purposefully began to breed alpacas toward better fibre and specific colour. He utilised better nutrition by fencing his herd and rotating pastures. By paying careful attention to genetics, he created distinct herds of both huacaya and suri alpacas, and culled out llama genes. Today he is recognised industry-wide as the world’s finest alpaca breeder. “Accoyo” alpacas are from the bloodline of his Peruvian herd. 

The high altitude and harsh landscape ensured only the hardiest of these creatures survived, and these ancestors of today’s best bloodlines have provided a gene pool producing hardy, agile animals with dense, high quality fibre. 

Peru, Bolivia, and Chile are still home to the largest percentage of alpacas in the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

Please click on a question to open and reveal the answer.

  • Alpaca fleece is a premium fibre and in high demand in the fashion industry. It is light-weight, warm, durable, soft and not itchy. Handspinners appreciate its quality, and handcrafters find it easy to work with. The natural hues are highly desirable, yet light colors readily accept dye. Many ranches have small stores selling yarn from their own animals or clothing and accessory products crafted from the fleece.

  • Size and fibre quality. Llamas were primarily bred to be beasts of burden, and alpacas were bred primarily as fibre producers. An average alpaca stands 34″-36″ at the withers (shoulders), whereas a llama stands 42″-48″ at the withers. Alpacas weigh 60-80 kgs on average. An adult alpaca can produce up to 3-4 kg of high-quality fibre each year.

  • Alpacas have a life expectancy of 20-25 years.

  • Females reach breeding capability from 12 months. Males usually don’t reach sexual potency until 24 months or more, with the rare one becoming potent as early as 12 months.

  • The gestation period is 11 & 1/2 months (about 350 days).

  • Females will breed throughout their life.

  • Alpaca crias average 7 kgs. Delivery usually occurs during the daytime and rarely requires the assistance of humans. Twins are extremely rare. Cria can be weaned from about 6 months of age, but at Alternative View Alpacas, we very rarely wean our crias.

  • The alpaca is an herbivore, grazing on grass and munching weeds, shrubs and trees. They process their food through 3 stomachs where special secretions enable the animal to absorb 50% more nutrients than sheep. Low-protein feed is recommended, with additional mineral supplements for females since they are generally pregnant and/or nursing.

  • Not very often and only at each other, to signal displeasure at a herd member. A pregnant female ‘spits off’ an inquisitive male to let him know she is disinterested in his advances.

  • The alpaca is prey to mainly dogs, either wild or domesticated, in Australia. In its native Andes, the alpaca’s long neck helps spot predators among the rocks of the mountain slopes.

  • Humming is the most common sound an alpaca makes, a sort of musical purring. The mum calls to her cria by humming, or they hum to communicate with each other within the herd. When alarmed, a staccato tooting is made by one animal, then joined in by the rest of the herd as they focus attention in the direction of potential danger.

    During breeding, which lasts from 20 to 30 minutes, a male trumpets or ‘orgles’ a lovesong to his mate.

  • Their manure is excellent fertiliser and may be applied directly to the garden without danger of ‘burn.’ Because alpacas are not nomadic, they mark their territory with their dung piles and usually wait to get to the designated area to defecate or urinate.

  • The alpaca’s two-toed feet are soft pads protected on the top and sides by toe nails. Unlike hard hooves, they leave the terrain undamaged. As they graze, they only nibble the top of the pasture grass rather than uprooting it. By rotating between two or three pastures, there is always a fresh supply of orchard grass.

Get in touch

Our alpacas look forward to seeing you soon. To make an accommodation booking or to visit our farm, please call Brigitte on 0427 201 192 or Keith on 0428 130 844. We’re only a phone call, sms or email away. 🙂