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Alpaca & Camelid Facts

Origins

Alpacas are a South American native and a member of the camelid family, the largest percentage coming from Peru and Chile. They are cousins to camels, llamas, vicunas and guanacos

Alpacas have been valued for their soft luxurious fleeces for generations – indeed their fleece has been called “the fibre of the gods”. Alpaca fibre was so valued by early South American civilisations that it was used as a form of currency. Decimated during the colonialisation of South America by the Spaniards some centuries ago, the Alpaca is now making a world wide come-back, as a modern generation again begins to appreciate the quality of its fleece and the charm of its nature and appearance.

Alpacas eat pasture grasses and hay. They are easy care animals, ideal for people with limited farming experience. They require shearing, toenail-trimming, annual innoculations, and worming once or twice a year. They are generally very healthy and remarkably disease free.

Normal farm fencing is adequate, for added security boundary fences should be dog-proof. Shelter trees to protect from wind and sun are needed in New Zealand’s moderate climate. Areas that are prone to snowfall also need shelter sheds – though your alpacas may need to be trained to use them.

Alpacas are ideal for people with small blocks of land  – only 1/2 an acre is needed to graze a pair of wethers (geldings). We have alpacas for sale. Call us today to find out how alpacas can benefit you!

Alpaca Types

There are two different types of alpacas, the suri and the huacaya.

The Suri has a distinctive fleece that grows parallel to the body in long, silky ringlet-like locks. The lustre of Suri fleece is quite unique however there is limited commercial demand, due to manufacturing difficulties.

 

 

Suri
The Huacaya is more numerous than the Suri, being distinguished by a thick, dense fleece, growing vertically from the body, giving it a very soft, woolly appearance. Huacaya fleece can be manufacturered into either textiles or yarn. Internationally, huacaya fibre is in high demand as it is a recognised high quality product.  Because the alpaca industry is in its infancy, alpaca fibre needs to be marketed proactively by suppliers – however, we have sold all our annual clip since 2004, and are happy to supply information to our customers on the options for dealing with huacaya alpaca fibre.

 

 

 

Huacaya

 

Physical characteristics

  • Alpacas have soft padded feet, making them gentle on their pastures.
  • They have two toenails on each foot which require periodic trimming.
  • There are no top teeth in the front. They have a hard plate on the roof of their mouth to provide bite.
  • The height of an average alpaca is 100cm at the withers – small enough to be readily handled by women of smaller stature.

Life span

  • Alpacas have a life span of 20-25 years or more

Gestation

  • An alpaca’s gestation period is 11 to 12 months, about 340 days
  • They have single births (twins are extremely rare occurring once in about every 2000 births).
  • Cria are normally born without assistance between 10am and 4pm on warm, fine days.
  • A baby alpaca is called a cria, usually weighs between 6-8kg at birth

Fleece

Alpaca fibre has a low scratch factor, is more thermal and has a higher tensile strength than sheep’s wool.  It is very soft and warm. An alpaca will produce 2kg – 5kg of soft, warm fibre every year. Clean fleece retails for premium prices. Alpaca fibre comes in 22 colors that are recognized by the textile industry,  producing high quality fabric in high demand in the fashion industry worldwide.