Alpacas are members of the South American camelid family, originally bred by the Incas in South America and found naturally in Chile and Peru. They come in two types – the Huacaya, with a woolly fleece and the sensational Suri whose fleece hangs in silky spiral locks, giving a fine and lustrous fibre.
The fleece comes in 22 different shades from white, fawns, browns, grey and black and they are usually shorn once a year in the spring. The structure of the fleece differs from wool in that the individual fibres, which are measured in microns are smooth so there is not the prickle factor than can be found with sheep’s wool. It is also climate adapting-warm in winter but cool in summer and perfect for allergy sufferers as dust mites find it difficult to live in.
Alpacas are gentle but inquisitive creatures which live in herds. They do not bite as they only have teeth on the bottom jaw, occasionally they can kick if startled but they have soft padded feet so it doesn’t hurt. They can spit but don’t like to do so as it’s unpleasant for them!
Alpacas live out all year round, eating mostly grass and hay. Their feed can be supplemented with a small amount of alpaca feed to ensure they have the correct nutrients and vitamins and they should have access to fresh, clean water at all times. Alpacas are well adapted to our climate but they should have some where they can shelter from the wind or hot sun, even a hedge or tree cover. It is helpful to have a shelter where you can collect them for routine husbandry tasks.
Alpacas live up to 20 years and females will have one baby, called a cria, per year. Cria are usually born in the morning and most females give birth easily and without fuss.
Alpacas can be kept with up to 5/6 animals per acre as they are soft on the ground. They are much quieter than other forms of livestock; they hum at times and are intelligent animals that can easily be halter trained.
Alpacas are adorable and calm animals that have adapted well to our climate. They are easy to care for. The most important basic requirements are food, fresh drinking water and shelter to escape the extremes of our climate.
As for any pet or livestock it is best to check your animals daily, this also has the benefit of helping you to get to know them.
You may want to process your fleece so shearing is best carried out every year although some prefer to leave two years fleece growth. Suri alpacas look stunning in full fleece with a long defined lock structure.
Toe nails, like ours, need to be trimmed periodically and they may need to be wormed and also inoculated for protection against certain diseases.
The combination of soft padded feet and being light grazers results in alpacas being very kind to their grazing pasture.
There are many articles on all aspects of alpaca owning, handling and husbandry, however, if you would like to learn more with practical hands-on experience we are available to help on an individual basis. Please contact us for further details.
Why Suri Alpacas?
Suri Alpacas are the perfect animal for small, medium or large land owners and below is a list of why ……….
Alpacas are extremely gentle animals which means small children are safe being amongst them.
Alpacas are easy to handle and don’t require any equipment to hold them, you can do it on your own.
Alpacas are easily halter trained and love going for walks.
Alpacas don’t challenge fences.
Alpacas are environmentally friendly; they have a very small foot print and are gentle on land.
Alpaca fleece is warmer and stronger than sheep wool and has no itch factor.
Alpacas poo in piles making collection very easy and is the ultimate natural fertilizer of all farm animals, it can be used on seedlings.
Alpacas are extremely inquisitive, they inspect everything you do and warn you when a stranger or a stray animal is on your property.
Alpacas have a strong herd instinct and will protect the family.
So Suri Alpacas would make perfect in-expensive pets to keep, great flock guards to protect lambs and free range hens from predators.
They are producers of a high quality, soft, silky and valuable natural fibre so would be a good business opportunity to generate an income from a natural and sustainable source.