Meet the Alpaca
The Alpaca is: Captivating, beautiful, curious, alert, neighbour friendly, engaging, intelligent, child friendly, enchanting, wonderfully soft and warm on a cold winter’s day!
I could continue dreaming – but, here are some alpaca facts, by no means complete! …… … … …
1. The alpaca adult weighs around 45 to 70 kilograms, with crias weighing into the world at about 4 to 9 kg. Alpacas stand about 3 feet at the withers.
2. Alpaca’s feet have soft joined pads with two toenails, causing minimal damage to the land. Toenails need to be checked regularly about every two months and trimmed when necessary.
3. The teeth continue to grow well into adulthood, and need to be checked. This is best done when alpacas are restrained at shearing time and the teeth are ground down. The males fighting teeth which develop at around 2/3 years of age can be filed off at this time, too. The incisors on the lower front jaw meet with a dental pad on the upper jaw and should align correctly.
4. Alpacas are shorn once a year. Alpacas are restrained for their safety as well as the shearers. A good shearer will be able to carry out other tasks at this time, toenail trimming and teeth grinding, and possibly vaccinations.
5. Stotting or pronking. This has brought tears to my eyes of love and affection for my alpacas. The sight of alpacas leaping with all four straight legs into the air simultaneously, head held proudly high, bouncing through the herd with others joining in is a beautiful emotional sight to behold. It is usually the youngsters participating, but adults also join in. It is usually follow the leader style, and it requires good strong health, and I’m sure, a happy alpaca. It is often combined with extremely fast races, the speed of which can be alarming to watch, especially as it usually takes place at dusk, and to see cria hurtling around obstacles and up to fences is nerve racking indeed.
6. Alpacas make good pets, and some are suitable to protect against foxes. Farmers report lamb losses substantially reduced.
7. We provide our alpacas with field shelters to provide them with shade from our rare hot summer days, or the worst of the weather. Three sided shelters are fine, and alpacas don’t like to be shut in, however, should a poorly one need attention have somewhere to attend to them, with a companion as they don’t like to be away from the rest of the herd.
If anyone knows how I can stop my alpacas from using their shelters as loos, please contact me at once!
8. Alpacas can be carefully introduced to other animals on the farm. If gradually introduced over a period of time alpacas will tolerate the family dogs and cats, although exercise caution with protective mums and their new cria! I make a point of never allowing friends or relatives dogs into the fields. If the alpacas become complacent with other dogs, then they are less likely to chase out a strange dog that should not be there. Take note that alpacas have been killed in this country by dogs. They are also capable of killing or injuring a solitary (small) dog.
9. Know what is lurking in your hedges! Alpacas are browsers as well as grazers and managers should be aware of any poisonous plants, shrubs and trees in the hedges and pasture (rhododendron, yew, laburnham, ragwort, etc. etc.). Don’t forget that alpacas have long necks!
10. Alpacas have an alarm call. When something unusual or threatening is spotted, one alpaca in the group will emit a unique ‘peculiar shrill neighing’ sound! The alpacas will fixate on the source of their concern, so a responsible manager may be able to determine the cause.
11. Alpacas need vaccinations for clostidial diseases, and treating/testing for worms, etc. These are carried out at 6 months or a year, liaise with your vet. Membership of the British Alpaca Society will ensure the latest information on FMD, Blue Tongue, etc.
12. Alpacas are hardy and less susceptible to many diseases, in comparison to other livestock. However, a responsible owner will know his/her alpacas and should detect any unusual symptoms.
13. Alpacas should be handled in a patient calm manner. There are tips that can be passed on to the prospective buyer, so do ask when visiting farms regarding catchment areas, etc. Alpacas can stress very quickly.
14. Like any animal alpacas need fresh clean water to drink.
15. Our alpacas have good quality hay ad lib, especially though the winter. We also give them a supplement of Carrs Billington Camelid Care Mix, which has been formulated according to alpacas needs and provides them with the correct vitamins and minerals. We recommend this, and are stockists.
16. Yes – alpacas do spit. Usually at each other when food is involved or if someone is showing too much interest in mum’s new delightful cria when she/he is trying to find the milk bar!! They are not very keen – surprisingly – when you are jabbing them with a needle! Learn to read the signs and keep out of the way/wear a hat. Yes, it does smell and the smell lingers but, it is harmless. It is also preferable to another animals bite to make you aware of its displeasure, or contact with a horn or hoof, etc.
17. The gestation period is about 11½ months, with one cria born. Cria are usually born in the morning and are usually trouble free. If mothers are giving birth in the evening there is usually a problem. Twins are very rare and often don’t survive (we have a surviving twin born 2008).
18. Alpacas can be stocked at about 5/6 to the acre depending on pasture. Barbed wire is not advised due to their longs necks, long fleeces, and thin skin.
19. Alpacas are induced ovulators – the act of breeding brings about ovulation.
20. The alpaca is a modified ruminant. They are highly efficient grazers having evolved in a harsh environment, utilizing their feed better than other ruminants.
21. Alpacas are bred for their beautiful luxuriant lustrous strong thermal fleeces, in more colours than any other fibre bearing animal - 22 colours and all the shades in between ranging from white, fawns, browns, blue and rose greys, to jet black.
22. Two types exist – the Huacaya and the Suri –the cuddly appearance of the Huacaya can be seen on this website, while the Suri has a straight fleece with no crimp falling down in ringlets.
23. Alpaca manure is great on the garden and in the vegetable plot!
24. Alpacas are addictive!