About Alpacas

What is an alpaca?

Alpacas are domesticated members of the camelid family which makes them a cousin of the llama, vicuna and guanaco. There are no 'wild' alpacas - they are a farm animal. Alpacas grow to about 90cm at the shoulder and weigh around 60-70kgs. They can live up to 20-25 years old and will breed for most of their life, having a single cria every 11 months (twins are very rare). Alpacas have been farmed for thousands of years for their luxurious fleece and they have become popular investments and pets throughout the world. Approximately 25,000 in New Zealand.

What are the different types of alpaca?

There are two breeds of alpaca. The most common being the Huacaya (wah-kai-ya) which makes up about 95% of the population. Huacayas have a 'teddy-bear' appearance with the typical crimp structure to their fleece. The rarer breed is the Suri (soo-ree) which are often described as having 'dreadlocks' because of their   long hanging locks   of fleece. Alpacas come in 22 natural colour shades from white through fawn and brown to black and grey.

What is alpaca fleece like?

Alpaca fleece was treasured by the ancient Inca civilisation and reserved only for Incan royalty. It was known as 'Fibre of the Gods' because of it's amazing qualities. Alpaca fleece is softer, warmer, stronger and lighter than merino wool. It is super-fine and contains almost no lanolin/grease and has less prickle factor than other fibres. The fibres do not retain water and can resist heat. The fibres retain their luxurious sheen even once processed. The fleece is in high-demand in the apparel industry and commands high prices. The potential for the apparel industry is huge for both manufactures, spinners and weavers. A fibre that is fine, yet soft, with a high comfort factor and excellent thermal qualities will surely endear itself to the discerning public and ensure a successful future for the alpaca industry.

How do you look after alpacas?

Alpacas are relatively easy to look after compared with most other livestock. Usually, 4-6 alpacas can be accommodated on an acre depending on diet and management. Alpacas must be kept with other alpacas or they will become very stressed. Generally, access to pasture, hay and fresh water will keep alpacas happy. They do not require special fencing or elaborate shelter. Unfortunately, alpacas can be susceptible to facial eczema and rye grass staggers. However, they do not suffer from flystrike and footrot or need tail docking and crutching. Alpacas do not ringbark trees and are gentle on paddocks with their padded feet.

Their basic care includes:
* Shearing (around November)
* Toe-nail trimming (6 monthly)
* Vitamin D injection (6 monthly)
* Drenching (if necessary)
* 5-in-1 Vaccination (optional)

We recommend this New Zealand book for more information about owning and keeping alpacas - "A Place for Alpacas: by Cilla Taylor"

Why do people have alpacas?

Alpacas continue to be a vibrant and stable investment. Quality bloodstock have held their value for over 20 years. For example, the top-priced alpaca sold for $40,000 at the 2009 National Alpaca Show and prices for other elite animals have reached well over $150,000. However, the average quality alpaca is now at a reasonable price to attract more breeders to collectively produce commercial quanities of fleece. The fibre industry is growing as more commercial quanities are in demand. Several mills around the country process alpaca fleece and the fibre is in high demand by local craftspeople, national business ventures and internatonal fashion houses of Europe. Did you know that alpaca garments featured at the 2010 NZ Fashion Week? Designed by Laurie Foon of 'Starfish'.

Alpacas have also become a very popular lifestyle block choice. Their exquisite looks, endearing nature and low maintenance appeal to their owners. Refer to our for sale pages.

Who can shear my alpacas?

Alpacas need to be shorn every year usually between November and January. Please contact us and we can recommend alpaca shearers available in your area.

Alpaca Farming in the Andes - VIDEO

This documentary about the Amazon shows an amazing insight into alpaca farming in the Andes.

Start the video from 4:50 to skip the introduction.

AANZ Guide

For more information about alpacas, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help.
We send out free copies of the AANZ's guide on request.


History of the Alpaca

Alpacas were treasured by the ancient Inca civilisation and their fleeces were reserved for Incan royalty. They provided clothing, food, fuel and companionship as domesticated animals high in the altiplano of Peru, Chile and Bolivia.

A thriving economy existed, based on selective breeding and the production of alpacas that were far superior to even the finest alpacas of today. Unfortunately, in 1532 alpacas were close to annihilation after the Spanish conquest of the Incas. The alpaca, prized for almost 5000 years as a source of high quality fibre, was seen by the Spaniards as a competitor for grazing lands available to their sheep. The alpaca was slaughtered almost to the point of extinction.

The surviving Incans were driven into the highest parts of the inhospitable Andes mountains, taking their most prized alpacas with them into exile. The alpaca population only survived due to their great importance to their people and their ability to tolerate extraordinarily harsh climatic conditions.

It wasn't until the mid 1800s that the beauty and resilience of alpaca fleece was 'rediscovered' by Sir Titus Salt of London began promoting its use in the finest textile mills and fashion houses of Europe.

Today, alpaca farming is still concentrated in the Altiplano
. Alpacas not only battle a harsh climate - burning sun by day, freezing conditions at night - but also receive few of the benefits of modern animal husbandry.

In 1989, the first alpacas arrived in New Zealand from South America. Today, New Zealand's national herd continues to grow steadily with approximately 25,000 animals. Australia has become the powerhouse of the modern alpaca industry headin towards 200,000 alpacas and dedicated research and development in embryo transfer, health, genetics and infrastructure to commercially process the wool.
 The UK and other european countries are also developing a strong industry with most of their bloodstock imported from New Zealand and Australia. Peru still has the majority of alpacas at around 2.5 million.