Alpaca Facts 01 Alpaca Facts 02 Alpaca Facts 03 Alpaca Facts 04

Alpaca Facts

Starline Alpacas offers farmstay accommodation in Cessnock in The Hunter Valley. Set amongst boutique wineries in the beautiful Broke region of the Hunter Valley, NSW.

Origin From South America where they graze at an altitude of 3 - 4000 metres on the Andes Mountains Altiplano, which runs through Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Argentina.

Types There are two types or breeds of alpaca: the huacaya, whose fibre has a crimp or wavy quality that enhances its use in spinning and the rarer suri, which has a lustrous fine fibre with no crimp. The world population of alpacas is approximately 90% huacaya and 10% suri.

Size Alpacas are small gentle animals. They stand about 0.9 metres at the withers and about 1.5 metres at the head and weigh from 45 to 80 kilograms.

Life span Alpacas live from 15 to 20 years.

Maturity Females can be bred at about 13 months or 40 to 45kg, whichever occurs last. Males usually achieve full maturity at around three years of age, at which time they can be used for breeding.

Gestation and Birth Gestation for alpacas is from 11 to 11½ months. A single (twins are extremely rare) cria is born usually in the morning and often with no human assistance. Crias usually weigh from 6 to 10 kilograms at birth and can stand and nurse within two hours. They are usually weaned at five to six months.

Physical Characteristics Alpacas have no upper teeth. They have lower teeth and an upper dental pad, and do not bite. They have soft padded feet with two toenails on each foot. Alpacas are ruminants, they chew a cud, have three compartments to their stomachs, eat grasses. Manure clean up is easy since they deposit in only a few places. Alpacas come in twenty two recognised colours and many more in between. Colours can range from brilliant white to the deepest black with all shades of grays including rare rose gray, to browns, fawns, and reds. Fibre Commonly known as "The Fibre of the Gods", alpaca fibre is very fine, soft, dense, very warm and insulating. Alpaca fibre is almost free of guard hair, which makes it a "non-itchy" material. This fibre spun into yarn is especially resilient and strong. Garments made from it are comparable to cashmere, but much more durable and easy to care for. Fibre from alpacas contains only minute amounts of lanolin so it is not greasy and can be shorn and spun the same day. An alpaca is usually shorn once a year in the early spring and will usually yield from 1.5 to 3 kilograms of fibre. At the present time in Australia, the fibre is marketed primarily to the Australian Alpaca Co-operative Limited which is working hard to create a sufficient supply of alpaca fibre to support a commercial market. Plans are being made for the day when there is enough fibre to support the growing demand for alpaca knitted garments and textiles to supply the fashion industry. Future demand for alpaca fibre is very promising.

Disposition Alpacas are among the most gentle of animals and are curious and friendly. They are not aggressive animals, kicking is a very rare and biting rarer. Alpacas do occasionally spit at each other in order to maintain their space or when competing for food. They rarely spit at people unless they have been startled. Alpacas communicate through humming and by ear, tail positions, and body postures. They make a shrill alarm call when threatened by predators. Alpacas make a variety of sounds, including clicks and snorts, but they are best known for their humming which is soothing to both animals and humans alike.

Summary Given a little training alpacas make wonderful pets. Their calm and happy dispositions make them a favorite of children who can handle them with ease. They are herd animals and their social structure requires that they live in the company of other alpacas. An alpaca will be lonely, and may even sicken and die if taken away to live by itself. Therefore, we advise prospective alpaca owners to choose two or more in their first purchase unless they plan on agisting, or boarding, their animal with other alpacas. Alpacas can be halter trained and will walk on a lead. They enjoy being paraded about and will allow you to take them to schools, shows, and even hospitals and nursing homes, where they are always a big hit!


History

Alpacas were a cherished treasure of the ancient Inca civilization and played a central role in the Inca culture that was located on the high Andean plateau in the mountains of South America. Alpacas have been domesticated for over 5,000 years and their popularity is only now becoming internationally recognized.

With the Spanish conquest of the Incas came the almost total annihilation of the alpaca. This wonderful animal survived only because of its importance to the Indian people and its incredible ability to live at altitudes and under conditions which cannot sustain the life of other domestic animals.

Following Sir Titus Salt of London’s discovery of the fabulous qualities of alpaca fibre in the mid 1800s, the Alpaca regained its prominence. Today, there is worldwide commerce in alpacas and their products.


In Australia

Australian breeders, international leaders in fibre export and masters in animal husbandry see the alpaca as a great alternative to traditional sheep farming. They have taken a leadership role in research and education in order to maximize the health and productivity of growing alpaca herds. The first alpacas were brought to Australia in the 1850’s. These initial alpacas were dispersed and eventually died out. More alpacas were aquired from from the United States in 1988, from Chile in 1989 and directly from Peru in 1999. The ensuing demand for alpacas is impressive and instructive with total numbers of alpacas in Australia now over 30,000.

Here at Starline Alpacas we offer alpacas for sale from our Hunter Valley farm and sell a range of woolen alpaca products in our gift shop.


Feeding

Fibre producing animals require a consistent and quality source of protein in order to produce fibre that is of buyable quality. Feed intake first goes to pregnancy and lactation, then to maintain the animal and finally the fibre. In order to know exactly what your alpacas are or are not getting nutritionally you should get a feed and forage study of your farm. Use the results of the analysis to adjust your feed and forage accordingly. Make sure to provide a constant source of clean water at all times and provide a salt/mineral mixture. The real trick to fibre production is 50/50 breeding and feeding.