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Nic and Linda keep up-to-date with the latest in alpaca information, by reading widely, being a member of the New Zealand, Australian, British and American alpaca associations, and attending conferences worldwide.
They share this knowledge with others through holding industry training days and
workshops, writing articles for industry magazines, and also through articles on
this website and others.
Click here for more articles
By Nic Cooper Southern Alpacas Stud
(and Cup Cake the Alpaca)
In autumn 2006
the first shipment of alpacas from Christchurch, New Zealand, to London via
Singapore with Singapore Airways was successfully completed. Since then
shipments have been a regular feature from the quarantine isolation facility on our farm to all parts of Europe.
always undergo some steep learning curves, and every shipment throws up new
challenges, the routing via Singapore is clearly less time consuming, better
logistically, and far less stressful on the alpacas than the previous routing
through Auckland and Canada.
New Zealand has
the right to export to Europe, whilst Australia does not. The approval of a
camelid import protocol (Overseas Market Access Requirement - OMAR) from New
Zealand to Europe also provides a safe, easy to access, transit-haven, for
Australian alpacas on their way to Europe.
This has opened
up new opportunities for New Zealand alpaca breeders. Stud males can be worked
whilst in NZ, and this helps pay their way whilst giving New Zealanders the
chance to gain the new transiting genetics.
And more and
more New Zealand bred alpacas are also making the journey to Europe.
First Step -
New Zealand Citizenship
alpacas going to Europe have to come to New Zealand and establish residency here
for six months. To obtain entry to New Zealand, requires first a month long
quarantine in Australia, and this is probably the most intensive of all the
procedures required through this process.
shipments have been relatively clear, some past shipments to NZ have seen
problems, despite the protocol for shipping.
alpacas going to Europe of course don't have this time-consuming and expensive
stage - they go straight to screening and into isolation on farm. We can get NZ
born alpacas from NZ to UK in under two months.
Let's look at
it from an alpaca perspective from a successful shipment -
"Hi my name is
Cup Cake and as leader of my herd I have a story to tell about a big journey my
herd has been taking recently.
I was born on
the EP Cambridge farm in the Adelaide Hills; there were lots and lots of us, a
very prosperous herd. However one day another human came to the farm and our own
human (Matthew) brought us in to the covered areas. This new human pawed all
over us, messing up our fibre. Then along with a group of my friends I was
separated from mum and put in a separate fenced area called "quarantine".
30 days of needles, blood taking, tests and general poking and prodding,
followed by completely taking away all our fibre and washing us with nasty
smelly liquid. Very undignified. We were not allowed grass, and were fed only
hay and supplement.
Then we were
herded into a big truck and headed for an "airport" where we were imprisoned
behind wooden bars, lifted high in the air and put on another large truck that
looked like a bird. It was a very noisy bird, and several hours later, we landed
in New Zealand.
New humans (Nic
and Linda) met us at the airport and after another truck ride we arrived at our
new home at Southern Alpacas Stud in Christchurch - although at that time I
did not know that was just for 6 months. We got to meet lots of other alpacas
who spoke with slightly different accents, and some of the boys that were with
us had a great time mating some of the local girls."
Isolation and Testing
the UK Registry (BAS) is the time consuming part, whilst screening contracts
are signed and set up, and whilst fibre is sent away to USA for testing.
UK screening is
undertaken by NZ accredited judges (phenotypic) and vets. It is an expensive
process. Perfect conformation and health is a must. Fibre must be excellent and
there is no allowance for age or colour.
The one problem
we have found is that it is difficult to ship weaners and "intermediates",
however magnificent they are, because of the height/weight minimums that are
applied irrespective of age. However cria at foot (whatever age) are not
Once they pass
screening they are on to testing and isolation, supervised by AgriQuality. Two
tests for those going to the UK - a Tb test and a Brucellosis test. As soon as
the test is taken the alpaca must be isolated from those of a different status
(i.e. those not tested). Test results are back within the week and, if clear,
the alpacas are free to fly.
If any of the
alpacas are destined for parts of Continental Europe, the whole herd has to have
a further (expensive) test and the isolation is a full 30 days.
Getting the timing right for the
changing of the seasons can be tricky. Our early shipments were blade shorn to
leave some fibre on for UK winter. Mostly now we clean shear well in advance so
they have a growing coat on when they leave NZ.
Cup Cake takes
up the story again "We were just settling in to the new farm when more humans
arrived and the prodding, poking and fibre stealing started again. The humans
were called "screeners" although one acted just like a Judge (I had seen one
once when taken to a sort of circus) and the other smelled just like one of
passed comments (nice and not so nice) and spent a lot of time looking at our
legs - most rude. They weighed us, and measured our height. And they stole a
handful of fibre off each of us.
Next came some
humans with bright red overalls and big boots. They shaved some more fibre off
and did what the humans called a "Tb test" and took bloods to check for
Brucellosis. The local alpacas were amazed. They told us the farm we were on
had been clear of Tb since the inception of the alpaca Tb scheme (close to half
the lifetime of an alpaca) and New Zealand had no brucellosis, but I overheard
the Nic human saying it had been ordered by this special person called "OMAR" so
it had to be done and not to worry about it.
We were then
taken straight into a new paddock well away from all the others. "Isolation" it
was called. All the gates were locked, important signs were put up at the front
gate of the farm warning humans and other alpacas to stay away, and our humans
washed their feet every time they came to visit and wore those distinctive red
A few days
later things got traumatic again. A man arrived with big sharp scissors and
while our humans held us, he undressed us again. Silly thing - we thought, it
was still winter and very cold. But he left a good deal of fibre on us so we
could keep warm, so it was OK, if not the most flattering of coiffure. We still
had lots of bald patches where those humans had stolen fibre."
Time to pack
the bags (again)
Alpacas Stud we are 15 minutes from Christchurch International Airport - with
daily non-stop flights to Singapore, connecting directly to Heathrow. Initial
exports went this way, taking just 30 hours in transit.
However protocols around plane routes now mean that the
alpacas leave on a flight from Auckland.
There the alpacas are loaded on
the plane late at night for an early morning flight, and the alpacas are
at Heathrow within 36 hours. The flight to UK is 28 hours, including a stop-over
in Singapore and Sharjah. It
is a similar timeframe to Germany.
a check by NZ Agriquality Services, the alpacas are loaded into a horse truck
which is quarantine sealed for their journey by road to Auckland. They have hay
and water en-route and two drivers take it in turns to drive through the day and
night to arrive in Auckland.
is an isolation transitional facility where the alpacas stay in nice green
pastures for a few days. It too is subject to bio-security scrutiny and is
The check in
time for alpacas is 3 hours. So after a final check by NZ Agriquality
Services, it is into the horse truck again for the short ride to Auckland
Airport where we are
met by MAF clearance officials. The alpacas present their boarding passes, we
present the biosecurity clearances (a lot of work goes into getting these
signed), the shipper presents the travel paperwork, MAF seals the crate and we
all breathe a sigh of relief.
the vet man came back and checked our tags against his list for the third time
(these humans cannot get it right first time it seems) and a large truck was backed in and we were encouraged to get inside.
We sat down on the hay and waited. After a sunny day and a dark night
we arrived at dawn at a green paddock.
There were a
lot of those long-legged creatures there that humans climb on. They said that we
were in Auckland.
We spent a few days there in the sun gambolling freely in the paddocks, watching
the horses go around in circles with their humans. We have a much better
understanding with our humans than that.
large truck came again - we knew it was called a horse truck now - and one of
those vet men. Again he checked us against his list and we went on a short
ride, to the
place where the
big noisy birds fly from. And amazingly there were our wooden slatted
another vet man there and an associate vet girl, looking very official with
clipboards, and a "clearer" in a white shirt. He did not want to get it dirty. I
tried to spit in his direction but he kept clear!
I looked into
the prison and led my herd in, as we had a comfy carpet and hay, food buckets of
treats, and water bowls, and plenty of space, so it was better than coming from
Australia, where we got nothing to eat or drink for hours.
Then off we
went again. It was a very long night, so we sat and waited. We got off for a
while in a hot place called Singapore, and our water was replenished. Our Linda
human had written for that to happen on the side of the wooden prison. This was
followed by another very long night (what had happened to the world, had it
Finally the big
bird stopped and we were able to get out of our prison. More vet humans and
clearer humans checking we were who we said we were, and checking our passports.
We got good food and water in a place where the ground did not move. All of a
sudden it was summer, and warm. We were at last glad we had lost our coats".
Arrival in UK
alpacas arrive and start to get over the jet lag. They are fed and watered in
reception facilities, import checked, and collected for the home farm.
The alpacas have
to remain on their destination farm for 30 days before becoming citizens of the
UK - or undergoing additional testing and language lessons to move to
There are glitches
- like the official quarantine seals not fitting the crates. In the first shipment the screener's paperwork from NZ was sent to BAS and never
arrived, and the whole exercise had to be repeated. We could write an entire
story on glitches in import and export! Vigilance is still required to avoid
those quirky problems (check everything twice).
shipments done and further crates booked, the export business is now taking a
fair share of our time and effort. But it is rewarding.
Cup Cake concludes
her story "We made a short trip to another new home. There was green grass, and
it was warm. There were also other alpacas there - with very different accents.
We introduced ourselves but felt a bit embarrassed by our coats which, being
blade shorn, did not show us off in our best light.
Our new humans, Bob and
Lesley, seem very nice, and we are happy here, settling in well.
has it that some of our friends from Adelaide and Christchurch will be coming
here to England to join us. It will be good to catch up with them again and hear
Finally why move
alpaca around the world?
Alpaca have been
farmed for 18 years or so in NZ and Australia, and there is quite close
co-operation between their respective alpaca industries. Australia originally
sourced most of their base stock from or through New Zealand, and New Zealand
breeders have been sourcing quality genetic stock back from Australia since
in both countries have steadfastly applied the best of their sheep wool
technology to the development of the alpaca herd - with great success. A solid
common registry, the IAR, linked to a breeding values programme, AGE, has
allowed gain to be recognised genetically and consolidated.
Europe on the
other hand is a fledgling industry. Despite some excellent alpaca already in
the UK, improvement can still be made by buying. From Australasia (and the
Registry) the buying can be genotypic, not just phenotypic. And there are some
very exciting proven genetic fibre traits to be sourced in antipodean alpacas.
Alpacas on the
earlier shipments have birthed successfully and Brutus, Irraquoy and Encounter
offspring are now running around English fields. UK clients have been impressed
with the quality of stock shipped from NZ. Even the UK clearer commented
positively (“best he had seen”) on two young cria that were shipped.
One of the
cria born in UK from an exported female, pregnant to our stud male Encounter, has gone on to win Champion
Intermediate at the Royal Bath and West Show in England.
Wellground Close Encounter, from Australasian genetics, sired by our stud
For more on imports and exports, and our isolation
see Imports and Exports
Updated January 2009