Frequently Asked Questions

about alpacas

What are alpacas?

 Alpacas are part of the South American Camelid family. Other related members are Llamas, Guanacos Vicuna and of course Camels. You can learn all about the history of Alpacas by visiting the British Alpaca Society.

What are “Huacaya” & “Suri”?

There are two different breeds of alpacas. The Huacaya (pronounced wa-ky-ya) and the Suri The two types or breeds are conformationally extremely similar, except the huacaya fibre (wool) has a pronounced crimp to the staples, whereas the Suri fibre is like dreadlocks.

Where do they come from?

They mainly come from Peru, Chile and Bolivia.

How big to they grow?

A mature alpaca weighs 60 to 90 kg and is 85 to 95 cm tall at the withers (top of the front shoulder). Crias (Baby alpacas) normally weigh 6-8 kg at birth.

How many alpacas can I start with?

Alpacas are herd animals so MUST be kept in a group a minimum of 2, however 3 alpacas is preferable, depending on condition of grass, the stock rate would be say 6 – 8 alpacas per acre.

How long do they live?

They are known to live up to 20 years.

How long is their gestation?

Their gestation is 11 – 11 half months. Alpacas have one baby called Cria.Twins are very rare.

Are alpacas difficult to look after?

Not at all, they graze, eat hay, plus pregnant/lactating females & youngsters NEED a daily feed supplement. Clean water should be available always, plus regular healthcare checks are needed.

New born Alpacas have the same potential problems to overcome as other new born animals, assuming normal health when born. These are: chilling, predators, getting nourishment, maternal care and infection.

What Regular Healthcare Checks do they Need?

They need to be wormed and need medication to prevent Clostridial & Liver Fluke. They need additional vitamin D to compensate weaker sunlight in Europe. Their toenails & teeth must be regularly checked. The alpaca shearer will undertake teeth filing if necessary. Occasionally alpacas suffer from mites, but rarely from fly-strike.

Do they need shelter?

Yes preferably during long wet/wintery spells, plus very hot weather too.

Do they spit or kick?

Spitting is a camelid’s defence mechanism. It seldom happens. Yes they may kick to defend themselves.

Why do we farm alpacas in the UK?

Alpacas are farmed for their fleece. It is very strong, lustrous, soft and sought-after, excellent for anyone with skin allergies. There are 22 different natural shades of fleece of alpacas. They are also farmed for pedigree bloodstock, striving to improve the genetics and advance the quality of the fleece – this is a MUST!

Gelded alpacas are often used as lamb or poultry protectors. They will “see-off” foxes badgers, etc. Historically in South America, where alpacas have lived for thousands of years, they have several predators, one of them being the fox. The fox will take a weak or unwell baby alpaca (known as a cria) if it is unguarded.  As a result alpacas have developed an instinctive reaction to foxes. They have very keen eyesight and ears tuned in to the sound of trouble, even when it is a long way off. If a fox is careless enough to go near a herd of alpacas the adult alpacas will chase it away and if the fox is unlucky enough to get cornered they will trample it. As word began to spread throughout the rural community, alpaca wethers were tested on small and then large scale free range chicken farms. The results were astonishing and it was not long before alpaca wethers were in high demand.

In the UK the alpaca has been used not only on commercial size chicken and sheep farms but also by hobby and small scale farmers. These otherwise gentle, inquisitive and bewitching animals are easy to look after and mix happily with other species. Many farmers have alpacas as integral parts of their operations and are reaping the rewards as a result...

Alpacas are wonderful socialisers – i.e. taking to agricultural shows, parading them in the “show-ring”, PLUS, they make “unique” lawnmowers.

How often should they be sheared?

Annually, May June or July when the weather is warmer, the fibre is say 3" long.

What do I need to do before buying my First Alpacas?

Visit shows with alpaca classes, why not try the Devon County Show, to see a good range of the best animals. Talk to alpaca breeders and pick their brains. Find out where alpacas are being farmed in your area. There are an abundance of sound reasons why it is preferable to buy alpacas from local alpaca farmers who can support you “quickly” if needed – it’s a “peace of mind” scenario!