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Information about Alpacas

Huacaya Alpaca History
Alpacas originated from South America and belong to the camelid family that include camels and lamas.

Alpaca Breeds
There are two types of alpaca. The Huacaya is the most common type of alpaca and has a dense body of fleece growing straight out from an even coverage over the body, neck, and extending down the legs. The Suri has a fleece that resembles pencil-like locks that hang down from the body, neck, and legs.

What are alpacas bred for?
Alpacas are bred for their abundance of soft, lustrous fleece, which is used in a variety of textiles. An advantage of alpaca fleece over sheep wool is the range of natural colours ranging from white to black. Alpaca fibre is highly suited to fashion garments such as men’s and women’s suits, coats, jumpers, scarves and hats. A single alpaca can produce up to 7 kg of fleece.

What do alpacas eat?
Alpacas are grazing animals and can survive on a wide assortment of grasses. They can also be sustained on dry crop such as hay, although quality dry crop such as lucerne, clover, etc, is more palatable for alpacas. They should also have access to a water supply.

How long do alpacas live for?
Alpacas are known to live for, and even surpass 20 years of age.

12 month old alpacaWhat type of climate can alpacas live in?
Alpacas are well suited to the Australian climate. They can withstand sub-zero temperatures in the winter months and up to 40C during the summer, although this is very dependent on their fleece management. Alpacas have been known to die from exposure to cold weather from being shorn too early. Alpacas are also known to get heat stress from having their fleece left on over the summer months. Alpacas are ideal for small properties and are considered to be environmentally friendly as their softly padded feet decreases the chances of damage to top soil.

Are alpacas aggressive?
No, generally alpacas are not aggressive towards humans. They are herd animals and will be aggressive towards dogs or fox when threatened. Alpacas are sensitive around the rear end, pregnant females will kick out in order to deter advances from the rear. They have soft padded feet so human injuries are very rare.

How often do alpacas require shearing?
Alpacas require shearing once a year. They are usually shorn in mid to late spring. Toe nails also need trimming every 6 to 12 months. See our Guide to cutting toe nails instructional.

Who can shear an alpaca?
There are experienced alpaca shearers who travel around shearing on site. They usually take around 5 to 10 minutes to shear one alpaca. The alpaca is tied down on their side by their legs. This holds the alpaca still so the shearer can shear with minimal injury (cuts) to the alpaca.Kurrawa Galaxy

Are alpacas prone to disease?
Alpacas are generally disease free with only minimal vaccinations required. They need 5 in 1 and Ivomec vaccinations every six months, which protect the alpaca from intestinal parasites. Vaccinations vary for different locations so check your local veterinary for further details.

What is Johne's Disease?
Johne’s Disease (JD) is spread to alpacas via faeces and can infect sheep and cattle as well. The disease is not common but there have been recorded cases in Australia. The symptoms of JD are diarrhoea and weight loss, but in some cases the alpaca might not even show symptoms for a long time after being infected. For more information about Johne’s Disease refer to National Johne's Disease Program.

Do alpacas make good pets?
Alpacas make great pets. Alpacas can be halter trained quite easily, and will eat out of your hand. More handling and association with humans at a younger age will enhance their friendliness in future years. Alpaca pets are always sold as a minimum of two alpacas as they are herd animals and find well being from having other alpacas for company. See our page on alpacas as pets.

Do alpacas get along with other livestock?
Alpacas can be successfully run with sheep.

Alpacas as sheep guardians?
Alpacas are a herd animal, meaning they bond well with sheep or goat and will protect the flock or herd from fox. Alpacas have been proven in many cases to increase lambing rates substantially. See our page on alpaca sheep guardians.

What age can alpacas start breeding?
Female alpacas can become sexually active from around 12 months of age with the minimal weight of the female to be 35 kg. Males can show signs of sexual maturity at a very young age, but they are usually able to “produce the goods” from around 2 years of age. The act of mating will induce ovulation in females, meaning they can be mated at any time of the year providing the female is receptive. Females can be re-mated between 2 to 3 weeks after giving birth.

What is the gestation period for an alpaca?
The gestation period of alpacas is around 340 days, but premature and extended periods are not uncommon. Births usually take place during the day, with the cria up and walking within an hour. Cria are supported by the mother’s milk until weaned at approximately 6 months of age. For more details go to our page on Birthing.

How much do alpacas weigh?
New cria (baby alpaca) weigh approximately 5 to 8kg. The average weight for females is 55 to 65 kg, the average weight of males is 70 to 80kg, although alpacas can exceed weights of over 100kg. We have a male alpaca called “Horrie” who weighed in at 102kg, as you can imagine he eats all day and as we say, “is chained to the hay feeder”.

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Alpaca Maintenance - More information on alpacas

Putting weight on thin alpacas
Fencing for alpacas
How to determine signs of a sick alpaca
Basic first aid kit for alpacas
Alpaca body temperatures
Can cold and wet weather affect alpacas?
Making sense of the alpaca fibre analysis
Rye grass staggers
Taking the perfect alpaca photograph
Facial abscess
Berserk male syndrome
Vitamin D
Constipated crias
Preparation for Winter
Keeping alpaca records
Alpacas need head-space
Testing for parasites
Birthing help
Cutting Toenails
A Working Dog's Guide to Alpacas
Paddock Maintenance
Alpacas for Pets
Alpacas as Sheep Guardians