Alpacas are one of four species of South American Camelid. Llamas and Alpacas are domesticated as opposed to Vicuna and Guanaco which are still wild and are protected species. Unlike llamas who have been bred as pack animals to transport goods, alpacas have been bred for their soft, luxurious fleece.
There are thought to be 3.5 million alpaca in South America. They are mainly found in Peru and the Andes although there are some in Chile and Bolivia.
Alpacas stand at about 1m tall at the withers and weigh approximately 50-75kg. They live to about 20 years of age. They are extremely hardy animals who rarely require veterinary attention although they should have a minimal routine husbandry requirements.
Alpacas are normally kept at a similar stocking density to sheep and most ground can cope happily with 4 per acre. They will require hay to be available particularly in the winter but we find they often don’t touch this when grass is plentiful. Supplement feed can make sure they receive the correct nutritional requirements.
Alpacas are very gentle on the land since they have padded feet. They tend to do their droppings in piles, making field maintenance easier. They do not have a tendency to jump fences so 1m high fencing is normally enough, however this should not be barbed wire. They should not be kept on their own since they are a herd animal. They also provide good protection against foxes for sheep, goats and poultry if kept with them.
Alpacas are generally friendly, especially if handled well from a young age. They are fairly easily harness trained. They will only occasionally spit, usually under extreme provocation. They will occasionally kick out with their back legs if their legs are touched although again this can be minimised by handling at a young age. Alpacas can be made great pets.
Alpacas are normally sheared once a year. The fibre they produce should be soft and luxurious and is naturally fire resistant. It is also hypoallergenic due to the absence of lanolin. There are many different fleece colours ranging from white, fawn, grey, brown to black.
The alpaca gestation is about 11 months resulting normally in a single cria being born, weighing 6-8kg. It is very rare for twins to be born and even rarer for them to survive. They are normally weaned at 5-6 months old.
Alpacas can normally be mated from around 14 months old and then 2-6 weeks after giving birth.
The British Alpaca Society aims to be the UK’s leading resource of information about alpacas. Find out information on alpacas from the British Alpaca Society