Husbandry & Welfare – Shelter
They need shelter from the elements, shearing annually in late spring or early summer, a low protein high mineral diet, toes trimming every couple of months and checking at least once a day. Alpacas are easy to halter train once weaned which makes them easy to handle, less afraid so unlikely to spit at people.
Alpacas are a gentle, timid and non aggressive animal who run away from any predatory situation. Being camelids they have a strong herd hierarchy and use spitting to defend themselves and sort out who’s in charge, and the females spit at the males when pregnant, a useful early indication tool for breeders. They are curious and inquisitive animals making them great fun to keep and care for, they guard each other and indeed all animals in their paddock which they will consider as part of the herd.
Alpacas are members of the camelid family, which includes llamas, camels, vicuna and guanaco. They are completely different to their counterparts in character and temperament especially the camel.
They are known as a modified ruminant and chew their cud similar to a cow, although they only have three stomach compartments, rather than the true ruminant, which has four. Alpacas selectively graze, eating pasture grasses and hay, although to ensure they remain healthy many breeders in the UK add vitamins to their diet providing essential nourishment.
The scientific name of the Alpaca is Lama Pacos. (Guess why the name alpaca soon caught on!) There are two different alpaca types, the Suri and the Huacaya. The Suri has fibre that grows quite long and forms silky, pencil-like locks. Today, there are between 3,500,000 and 4,000,000 living in Peru, representing 75% of the world’s total population. Here in the UK, the British Alpaca Society registry currently lists just over 30,000 which is quite a difference.
Many people are surprised to find that alpacas have no top teeth in the front. Alpacas are small and gentle enough to travel short distances in a stock trailer and can be easily handled by most people (including children – making them ideal for trekking or walks).
Alpacas have a life span of 20 +/- years, so you can enjoy your alpaca for a long time. Not only do they have a long reproductive life, they will provide fleece for a lifetime, making for a long-lived investment.
An alpaca’s gestation period is 11 to 12 months, and they have single births (twins are extremely rare). A baby alpaca, called a cria, usually weighing between 15 and 20 pounds.
The British Alpaca Society (BAS) is a good source for more information and training courses. Reputable breeders usually offer husbandry training to customers new to keeping alpacas when purchasing for the first time. Please do contact us here at Yorkshire Alpaca Group for information and advice, we are a friendly group and love talking about our favourite animals.