Alpaca Faring Guide

There are two types of breeds of alpaca. One is called the Huacaya, and the other Suri. The Huacaya represents more than 90% of the alpaca populations, whereas the Suri accounts for less than 10%.

The Huacaya is characterized by a curly fiber with a dense fleece.

The Suri, on the other hand has long straight strands, like dreadlocks. The Suri is less adaptable to harsh climates because although the fiber is longer, the falling style of the fiber offers less insulation than that of the Huacaya. In addition, the suri fleece parts along the spine, thereby exposing the spine to the cold.

Alpacas are not an endangered species.

Why Alpaca Farming?

Alpaca farming is often seen as a friendly type of farming – green farming so to speak. The animals are raised for their fleece rather than their meat and hide. However, before embarking upon alpaca farming, you need to analyze all aspects to see if this type of farming is for you.

Alpaca farming has been sold as a type of investment farming, taking advantage of tax breaks. Many believe it is better to invest in some form of farming, rather than pay the tax man. I’m not particularly keen on that approach, in that if you enter alpaca farming, it should be the alpacas that yield results. It’s either going to be profitable or not, and this is why it is necessary to have a good understanding before embarking upon such an operation.

What are the four levels of entry?

There are really four entry levels in alpaca farming.

The first one is not really an entry level. It is the pet market. Buyers want an alpaca to have a pet, along with other animals, or to act as an attraction.

Such buyers have no real interest in buying more alpacas nor in breeding them. Their sole interest is the acquisition of one (or two) alpacas for the sole purpose of ownership, or to draw attention.

What is the income from alpacas?

Whilst some sources quote the price of alpaca fleece between US$2 and US$4 per ounce, the wholesale price is anything from US$10 to US$24 per kg ($0.28 to US$0.68 per oz.) What matters of course, is what you get for your fleece. For this you need to contact your local alpaca farmers, find out who’s buying and speak directly to them.

Undoubtedly your major income will come from selling live alpacas.

If you have an exceptional male, and can prove it, then you may be able to offer stud fees. Stud fees can vary from approximately US$1,000 to US$3,000. By offering your male for reproduction purposes, you are adding to the genetic pool of your buyer.

Where does the name "alpaca" come from?

The name “alpaca” originates from Aymara, Bolivia. The Aymara occupied Bolivia between 400 to 1000, before being conquered by the Incas.

In English, they were first referred to as “pacos”. The English later took the word alpaca from the Spanish, who took it from the Inca language “Quechua”, who had taken it from the Aymara.

“Alpaca” is the only known word in the English language from the Aymara. The language still exists – over two million people from Bolivia speak Aymara, and some 400,000 people in Peru. About a quarter of the language is the same as Quechua.

Do alpacas spit?

If threatened, alpacas will either kick, or spit.

However, they are more likely to spit at a fellow alpaca, than a human. Although, it is best to make sure you’re not in the firing range!

Also, spitting is an individual characteristic in that some alpacas may spit regularly, whereas others won’t spit at all.

The actual “spit” is regurgitated acid stomach contents, normally a green, grassy mixture.

When can alpacas breed?

Females can be reproductive after 12 months, but much safer to start reproduction after at least 18 months when they are physically stronger, say at least 45 kgs in weight.

Males may show signs of sexual activity from a very young age, but they only really start to be reproductive from 18 months of age, and in some cases 3 years.

The actual act of mating can last from anything from 5 minutes to one hour.

The male orgles, which is said to be a signal to the female to get her into the mood. Alpaca females are “induced ovulators” – it is the actual act of mating that causes them to ovulate.

How do I go about a genetic improvement plan?

The objective of an alpaca farmer is to try to improve the genetic base of his breed so that he can pass on favorable traits.

This is why a genetic improvement plan is essential. This is what you’re selling – offspring with more favorable traits than say your competitor.

Even though Peru has over 90% of the alpaca population, this does not mean to say that they have the best alpacas. In Peru, there are very few genetic improvement plans, and latest reports have shown that fiber production in Peru has produced a coarser alpaca fiber than previous years. Undoubtedly they have a large genetic pool, but without such a genetic improvement plan in place, there is little improvement for quality fiber productions.

All the alpaca associations have some form of breeding program attached to them which involves registration and the recording of various traits. Traits may be related to fiber such as softness, color evenness, fineness and luster, or to breeding such as conformation, body weight, higher fertility, resistance to disease and illness.

How many alpacas can I keep per Acre or Hectare?

In sheep terms, the number of sheep per land area depends on a series of factors such as the type of grass, type of land and rainfall. Land with constant green pastures can sustain more sheep than an arid one for example.

The DSE (dry sheep equivalent) per hectare is used as the base to determine sheep flock numbers that can be comfortably supported by the the type of grass, type of land and rainfall. Land with constant green pastures can sustain more sheep than an arid one for example.

The green pasture land may have for example a DSE/ha of 10, whereas the arid land may have a DSE/ha of 2.

For the purposes of alpaca rearing, where DES/Ha is used, you can safely put 1 alpaca.

Therefore the land with a DES/ha of 10, means you can place 10 alpacas per hectare. You may need to speak to an agricultural consultant to establish the DSE/ha of your land if it’s not known.

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