Alpacas: E-H

Fencing

Alpacas are very light on fences. Simple single strand wire is sufficient to secure your alpacas. No barb wire, electric fences or ring-lock fences are required. Alpacas normally do not jump fences, but can do so if they are very stressed or are chased.

Fleece

There is much that can be written about fleece! It truly is a world class fleece which is in high demand on both the international and local markets. 

When you have your own alpacas, a practical question is what can be done with fleece from your animals after shearing? Either sell it, or use it yourself! Fleece prices vary with the quality of the fleece. High quality fleeces can achieve $45 to $70 per kilo - or higher. 

Food

See 'Nutrition'.

Foxes

Yes, alpacas can kill foxes. Alpacas run very successfully with livestock such as sheep and goats and they act as stock guards. Alpacas have been known to improve lambing percentages by as much as 30%. 

Purchase of alpacas to protect lambs and kids from foxes has become commonplace in Australian farming practice. The cost of alpacas is returned to farmers within the first year of purchase. Alpacas can live for approximately 20 years, and will be effective as stock guards for most of these years. They can start this work from about the age of two years.

Gestation

The gestation of an alpaca is approximately 11.5 months. Once the cria is born, the female can be remated as early as 2 to 3 weeks after birth.

Getting Started

It's easy. Just buy some alpaca and start enjoying them.

But first, there are a few things to check. Please ensure the fencing on your property is secure - see 'Fencing'. Also, ensure your alpaca will have access to water and feed at all times - see 'Nutrition' and 'Water'. And finally, check that your alpaca will have access to shelter - see 'Shelter'.

Then, please talk with us and we can help you to choose your new alpacas and become confident in how to handle them. 

Handling

Like many animals, the more you handle alpacas, the easier they are to handle. Alpacas are intelligent animals and quickly learn whether they can trust you or not. 

To catch an alpaca is easiest when they are in a confined space. Sheds with pens are helpful here, but if you do not have these facilities, you can create a 'pen' in the corner of a paddock with temporary fences (like extra farm gates). If you regularly hand feed alpaca in these pens, it is easy to lure them into these confined spaces when you need to handle them.

Health

Alpacas are very hardy and relatively disease free. Like all animals, they benefit from a regular health regime. This will vary depending on where you live, but four things are common to alpaca health across Australia.

Alpaca need to be vaccinated with '6 in 1' vaccine, the same vaccine that is given to sheep. In addition, they need selenium and vitamin D.

Most Australian soils are deficient in selenium. If your soil is deficient, then your alpacas will need an injection of long acting selenium once a year. It's easy to do this at shearing time.

Vitamin D is important to alpacas. Where they originate in the South American Andes mountains, they get more vitamin D from the sun than they get in Australia. So especially in cloudy seasons, alpacas need injections of vitamin D. 

See also under 'Care' and 'Toenails'.

How Many?

How many alpacas can I have on my farm? This depends on the quality of your soil and pasture, and on your rainfall. Then, if you are happy to give your alpacas extra food, you can carry higher numbers of animals.

Generally, one alpaca is equivalent to one (dry) sheep in terms of nutritional needs. If you have a pregnant female alpaca, she is the same as one and a half sheep, and a lactating female is like two sheep. 

We suggest you start with fewer alpacas than you think your land can hold, and add to your herd as you see you can. Or you could check with a local agricultural consultant to find out the DSE (dry sheep equivalent) for your area. 

Alpacas like company so we strongly recommend having a minimum of two.  They are herd animals with strong social needs. They will bond very well with other animals but do best when they have another alpaca to be with too. See 'Other Animals'.

How do I start?

See 'Getting Started'.

Huacaya

There are two types of alpacas - Huacaya and Suri. The two types only look different  because they have different types of fleece. Apart from this, the two types are essentially the same. 

Huacaya, pronounced wa-kye-ya, have fleece that grows out from the sides of the body like sheep. Suri, pronounced 'soo-ri', have fleece that falls in long locks down the sides of the body.  

 


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