History of Alpacas:
Alpacas have had a troubled journey through history, valued by the ancient Inca civilisation, their superior fleeces were reserved for Incan royalty.
Alpacas provided clothing, food and fuel in the altiplano of Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia. Members of the Camelid group, alpacas are related to the vicuña, llama and guanaco; it is considered alpacas were originaly to be a cross between llamas and vicuñas some 6000 years ago.
Different cultures have treasured and threatened the alpacas. Ten centuries before the Roman Empire, it is thought that alpacas that had higher quality fleeces than the best alpacas of today were a thriving part of civilisation but after the Spnish conquest of the Incas they were almost extinct as they were viewed by the Spaniards as a source of meat rather than a fibre producer, the Spaniards preferring to graze their sheep on their conquered lands, they slaughtered the alpacas for meat. The Incans that survived took their alpacas with them into exile in the Andes mountains, both humans and animals survival was challenged by harsh mountain climate and conditions; but if it were not for the temerity of the Incan people taking some of the prized alpacas with them, alpacas would not have survived.
The renaisance of alpaca fleece came in the mid-1800s when Sir Titus Salt of London found the alpaca fibre and introduced its beauty and fineness in the textile world of Europe. As the value of the alpaca's fleece, as smooth as silk and soft as cashmere, became renowned so did the chance of the species survival grow - in the 1980's the USA and Canada started to import alpacas, followed by Australia and New Zealand and with improved husbandry and breeding programmes the species has grown and developed. Today in Peru there are believed to be 2.5 million, Bolivia about 0.5 million and approximately 50.000 between Argentina and Chile, Australia has 250,000 (compared with it's 6 million sheep the alpaca still has decades of breeding to catch up) and in the UK there are now over 35,000 registered alpacas.
The outlook for the future growth in the UK is positive and exciting as the British and European customers discover more the sheer luxury and beauty of the fleece. There are two types, the Huacaya which have a wavy crimped fleece and Suri with is locked ringlets; fleeces come in twenty-two recognised shades ranging from white to black. Personally, I hope this evolution and interest in their fleece has saved this beautiful animal forever, not just for it's fibre, but so more people can see them in our countryside, elegant, quiet and gentle.
Care of Alpacas
These are just brief care points, if you are considering purchasing alpacas arrange to visit a breeder,
read some of the many online articles and magazines and/or go to a BAS show.
Alpacas cannot and do not live alone - they need to be in groups of at least 2 or 3 to survive.
Alpacas need grass, more than an average residential lawn - approximately 5-6 alpacas per acre. I learnt that alpacas are excellent lawnmowers but they are NOT harvesters; I severely overestimated the amount of grass my first four girls could eat (they tried their best) but they soon were standing in a field surrounded by long grass around their knees but they like the short sweet shoots not the long sour grass - the field had to be cut for hay and topped later in the year. They have twin toed padded feet which do not churn the ground.
They need checking daily, make sure they have fresh water and plenty of it. Some fresh hay should be available, definitely during the winter/wet months. You can feed them some daily vitamin and mineral supplements and gives you and the alpacas a 'bonding' time - go in the field with a bucket and you will be their best friend. It gives you a chance to get closer and if one is reluctant to come and see you, then that can be a first sign of ill-health.
Regular vaccinations are necessary for the health of the alpaca - worming and clostridial. You can give vitamins via injections or paste boosts.
The alpacas will need to be sheared once a year during the summer months.
Check them regularly - their mouths for signs of abscesses, their eyes, their feet (toe nails will need trimming at least twice a year) and their fleece for signs of mites, fly strike or wounds. Condition score them and record/monitor their health. Halter training makes husbandry easier for both of you.
Alpacas are not high maintenance - they need to be looked after but they do not require grooming. They are happy to live outside all year round as long as they have a shelter for the windy and wet weather or when they are unwell.
Mobile husbandry services available ALL YEAR ROUND...
If you need help we can provide the husbandry duties your alpacas require.
Tel: 07870 612559 (please leave a message, we will get back to you as soon as possible) Email: (subject ‘Husbandry’)