are thought to have evolved from the wild guanaco and are generally smaller
than the llama standing at just under a meter at the shoulder. They
produce a wonderful, heavy fleece of fine strong fiber that comes in 22
basic colors including whites, fawns, browns, blacks and greys.
A fully fleeced alpaca with good coverage around the face and legs is an
extremely beautiful and captivating animal and a good reason why so many
farmers and lifestyle block holders have entered the industry. Being smaller
than llamas, alpacas are easy to handle and make delightful companions.
Alpaca fiber is world renowned for its soft handle and luster and is often
compared to fine merino and cashmere.
There are two types of alpacas:
The huacaya accounts for over 97% of the world’s alpaca
population and is characterized by a thick dense fleece growing
perpendicularly from the body. Good huacaya fiber has a soft handle,
brightness of sheen and frequently has a defined crimp throughout the
blanket area. Not all huacayas have these qualities.
The rare and prized suri is distinguished by its long silky
fiber that grows parallel to the body and hangs in long, separate,
distinctive pencil locks. Its softness and exquisite luster ensures a
premium price on the world fiber market. The world population of suris is
calculated at being just over 150,000 animals.
Why are alpacas so appealing?
Alpacas are raised for their lustrous, soft handling fleece
and for the enjoyment of their delightful personalities. Alpacas require
limited care, are small and easily handled – they do not get flystrike or
footrot and they do not require tailing or crutching. Their enchanting good
looks, their soft humm and their friendly disposition make them a popular
choice of livestock for families with lifestyle blocks.
Alpacas do not require lush fertilised pasture and require
minimal shelter. A standard five- wire fence, preferably without barbed wire
is all that is required to restrain the animals. Occasional grooming,
trimming of toenails, annual shearing and regular worming and vacinations
Alpaca farming is economically viable on small lifestyle
blocks and therefore qualifies as a farming business in the eyes of the
taxation authorities. Tax losses incurred on the farm can be offset against
Are they profitable?
Unlike other exotic animals, alpacas have not gone through
boom and bust times. Alpacas first appeared outside South America in the
early 1980’s and have generally enjoyed prosperous times. Animals at the top
end are in fact attracting higher prices now than before.
is no artificial insemination or embryo transplant and the cost of
importation is high especially from South America. Alpacas live to about 20
years of age and produce an average of 11 cria (babies) during their
breeding life. Gestation is 11.5 months.
The alpaca is rare and as can be seen, supply will be limited.
Alpaca fibre is fine and has a soft handle and is sought after by the
fashion houses of Europe and Japan.
Breeders working to a business plan who market themselves
well and who keep abreast of developments in the industry, will be well
recompensed for their efforts.
In conclusion, alpacas are a viable alternative to traditional livestock
farming and most importantly are profitable on small acreages. They require
limited care and offer excellent opportunities for a secondary income.
Silverstream Alpaca Stud