• Alpacas come from South America and belong to the camelid family which includes llamas, vicuňas, guanacos and camels.
  • Alpacas are most numerous in Peru, where there are some three million of them. In Australia and America there are about 100,000 in each country, with the UK having some 20,000. The rest of Europe has about another 10,000.
  • Alpacas eat grass or hay and only about 1.5 kilos a day which is about 1/3rd of what sheep will eat.
  • Alpacas need some shelter but need very little looking after on a daily basis. They have their nails cut two or three times a year. Other than regular twice yearly injections they need very little veterinary care.
  • At the same time, being natural guard animals they will help keep foxes and others from encroaching on your land.
  • Alpacas are very clean.  They don’t need ‘dagging’ and only defecate in a few selected places around the field, keeping their own eating and sleeping quarters clean.
  • Alpacas have soft feet, so don’t harm the pasture. Their feet are a bit like our hands and feet, but with only two toes. They don’t get foot rot.
  • Alpacas are great companions for horses and other animals. So rather than just having one horse by itself, give it some company with perhaps a couple of wethers (castrated males). This avoids doubling your workload by having two horses.
  • Alpacas are shorn once a year and produce a wonderful fleece. A fine quality fleece can produce a good price The Incas in Peru called their fleece ‘The Gold of the Andes’. The quality of the fleece is important for its value and generally breeding goals are linked to producing a better quality fleece. The fleece industry in Europe is in its infancy, with a number of initiatives on-going. If you are interested in producing your own knitwear, then doing it with your own fleeces will be really special.
  • Each female will produce one cria a year. The gestation period is 11 to11½ months, and the female can be mated again about 2/3 weeks after she has given birth.
  • Alpacas live between 15 and 20 years. They are not bred in Europe for their meat.
  • Alpacas are shy, but inquisitive. They will eat out of your hand and can be halter trained .

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