Information about the friendly alpaca      The alpaca — friendly,  calm,
      inquisitive and easy to farm.

 

 

Developing the NZ alpaca industry since 1989 with top genetics, for studs and sales.

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There are about 3.1m alpacas in the world, only 60,000 outside South America, and 3000 alpacas in NZ.

 

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We can inspect and select alpacas for you, marrying our knowledge and industry contacts with your animal requirements.

 

Alpacas and llamas both belong to the camel family. To see how they differ, look at llamas on Mount Lehman Llama site

Alpacas are easy care animals, and relatively easy to farm. They do need preventative care, and there are seasonal tasks to do. As well as the basic information below, we also have webpages with more details on care.
Seasonal Tips
Toenail Trimming
Articles - lots more information
Vaccinations and Vitamins
Inoculations
Alpaca Farming Facts           

Alpacas at South AlpacasAlpacas are friendly, calm, inquisitive, and easy to farm. The females, or hembras, grow to 60-70 kg and males, or machos, grow to 90kg, standing at our eye height. Babies (cria) are born at between 6 and 9 kg—and should reach 40kg well before their first birthday.

Despite their cuddly appearance, and their inquisitiveness which brings them towards you when they first see you, alpacas prefer not to be touched. But most get used to it.

They are placid, friendly, intelligent and careful animals, and for the most part non-aggressive. Their natural defence is a reflex kick to the rear, and spitting if really provoked, although good spit tends to be reserved for pecking order tussles within the herd, or to keep nuisances in line. A loud "bark" acts as a warning call to others. A soft humming is the only other noise they make.

Alpacas are herd animals and need to have at least one other alpaca for company. Males and females are kept in separate paddocks.

Farm conditions

Southern AlpacasAlpacas are kept in normal farm paddocks, with usual height 7 strand fence. They are equivalent to one stock unit, and are at home on rough hilly ground, as well as flat pasture. Alpacas are hardy, coming from Peru and Chile, where the temperature varies from minus15 to plus 15 degrees Celsius. However they are not used to constant cold rain, so do provide shelter— trees, a hedge, or a shed. They will decide when they want to use it!

Feed

Grass paddocks, with some hay in winter. Alpaca farmers prefer a low endophyte rye grass pasture base, to minimise the potential for rye grass staggers. A supplementary nut mix gives added vitamins and minerals that alpacas are naturally deficient in. If run with sheep, be aware sheep can crop the grass too low for alpacas to be able to graze it. Toxic plants are the same as for sheep and cattle, but alpacas are inquisitive and will try most things, so be careful.

Mustering

Southern AlpacasAlpacas are moved by walking behind them with outstretched arms. They prefer not to be mustered by dogs, but they do get used to dogs on the farm. Alpacas love cats and will follow them, and will also come when called to a feed bin.

Alpacas are also easy to train to walk on a halter and a lead.
 

 

   

Shearing

Alpacas are shorn standing, or turned upside down, stretched out and restrained, and rolled from side to side to be shorn, or on a purpose built shearing table. They can be hand shorn, or with electric equipment. With an electric handpiece a snow comb is used, on a slow speed, with oil to lubricate the hand piece.

Fibre

near-perfect histogramAt least 2 kg of fine fibre (around 20 to 30 microns for an adult) is produced annually by each animal, and use of imported studs with new genetics is now producing greater shear weight, with fleece weights of 5kg and over being achieved. (This histogram on the right is near-perfect.)

Click for hints on handling fibreClick to order fibreThe market is for craft—spinning, weaving, knitting, felting—and also for small scale commercial manufacturing. High quality fibre, processed for specialty markets, can yield up to $100/kg. Look at our fibre page for more information about fibre, and look at the alpaca products page to see garments made from alpaca.
 

   

Preventative Care

Alpaca feet are a soft pad, and they do not get footrot, or scald. On soft ground their toenails need clipping annually. See our webpage on clipping toenails.

Dagging is not required.

In prone areas, and at certain times of year, facial excema needs to be guarded against, and on perennial ryegrasses, you need to watch out for ryegrass staggers. These issues are common to all stock.

Inoculations are required for alpacas: See our webpage on giving inoculations.

1) Colosterid Diseases

Covers pulpy kidney and other colosterid diseases.  Use 5-in-1 (the traditional product) or later 10-in-1 products.

Do not use 10 in 1 products on cria.
Do not use 10 in 1 products on females within 45 days of birth.
Can come with added selenium (selenised).  Do not use the selenised product on cria.
Can come with added drench.  Do not use added drench 5 in 1 products for alpacas.

Comes in different products with different doses and injecting regimes.  Follow the dose regimes for the product for sheep.  However we recommend whichever product you use, you provide cover every 6 months, and also when the dam enters the birthing paddock at 30 – 45 days before birth (but see 10 in 1 warning here).

There are different approaches to inoculating young cria.  Some recommend inoculation to cover from day 3 or 4.  We prefer to rely on the dam’s immunity and do first inoculations at about 6 weeks of age.

5-in-1 is not weight related. Use the sheep dose for cria and adult, irrespective of weight.

2) Drench

Drenching is necessary if alpacas are run in paddocks occupied by sheep or other stock. Alpacas on their own use a communal dung heap, which reduces the occurrence of internal parasites. If you graze the paddocks low, and the alpacas are made to eat close to their dung heaps, then worms may become a problem.

Frequent use of the same drench can cause resistance. We therefore recommend a conservative use of drench – drenching only when there is likely to be a problem (heavy stocked grazing, hot humid climatic conditions, sharing of paddocks with other stock, and frequent incoming and outgoing of other alpacas).  Faecal egg counts can assist in identifying if there is a problem or not. Concentrate on at risk alpacas which will be your juveniles under 6 months.

We prefer Dectomax injectable drench which is weight-related - use the pig dose at 1 ml per 33kg bodyweight.  Every 4 weeks if you need to be intensive.  Every 6 months as a preventative.

Can also use ivomect injectable drench.

If drenching cria use an oral drench.

Note that unusual parasites such as barber pole worm (North Island) and tapeworms need special treatment and should be vet consult cases.

3) ADE Vitamins

We inject these as supplements See our webpage on Vitamins.

·         At 6 weeks age for a cria (use VETADE)

·         In April, June and August (winter months) for the first year of life.  (use VETADE for younger cria, and HIDEJECT for older alpacas)

·         When entering birthing paddock 30 – 45 days prior to birthing (HIDEJECT).

We also supplement any other alpaca that looks suffering from Vit D deficiency symptoms (see Vitamin D article on this web site).

Use sheep weight based doses -  however alpacas are tolerant to larger amounts of Vit D (less so the Vit A that goes with it!).
 

 

 

 

 

Young male alpacas 
  practise mating from
  an early age !

 

Males are able to be studs from 2-3 years old, and females are mated at one year old.

 

 Alpaca Pregnancy

Alpaca produce one cria every year. Pregnancy is 11.5 months, and animals are re-mated two weeks later. Females can be mated at 1 year, and will breed until they are 14 or 15 years old. Males reach fertility between 2 to 3 years old.

Alpacas are called induced ovulators. This means that they do not  have  a cycle, and
can be mated at any time they are not pregnant, as the female is receptive to the male then. The female is induced to ovulate by the actions of the mating.mating

At day 14 from mating the male is re-introduced to the female. If the female is not pregnant, her progesterone level will be low, and she will sit down for the male and the mating process is repeated.

If it has been a successful mating and a pregnancy has resulted, then the progesterone level will be high and the female will not be receptive to the male.  She will run, kick, and spit at the male - and thus alpaca pregnancy testing is commonly called a "spit off" test !

Progesterone is what helps to maintain pregnancy.  Thus pregnancy can be tested by a blood test, which measures the progesterone in the alpaca.

Scanning of an alpaca can be done at 60-90 days, to see the foetus.

Alpaca gestation is 11.5 months - from 335 to 342 days usually.

As the pregnancy nears term, the progesterone level drops in preparation for birthing. Signs that your alpaca is in the late part of her pregnancy are moving away from the herd, sitting off alone, and sitting up on their hips, looking uncomfortable.  This behaviour may start as much as 2 weeks prior to birthing.
 

   

Alpaca Birthing

Alpacas usually birth in daylight hours, and usually on a fine day. This is related to a survival mechanism in the wild, where the baby cria has to be up and walking with the dam by the time the herd moves away to a safe place for their night resting spot.

Normal alpaca labour can be divided into 3 stages – preparation, cria birth, placenta passing.

Contractions begin – the cervix relaxes, and the cria begins to head into the birthing canal. This  stage can take from 1 to 6 hours and some alpacas may not show signs of discomfort.

Most alpacas deliver standing up, and usually the head and front feet come first.

The cria will appear to be diving out and heading for the ground.
 

The female may have short rest periods, sitting, lying, or even eating, during this process.


The cria drops to the ground and the placental cord breaks. The female may sniff her cria, but does not lick it clean. The herd will come and meet the new arrival.
mum and cria

The third stage of birthing is the passing of the placenta, usually within 1 hour of birth. It should be checked for completeness, and collected and, taken away from the paddock, and buried.

Some mothers may be uncomfortable until the placenta is passed, and certainly once the placenta has come, the milk flow improves.

 

Updated March 2015 Nic Cooper and Linda Blake
Main West Coast Road, West Melton, RD1, Christchurch, New Zealand
Phone 0064 3 318-1917 | fax 0064 3 318-1927 | email alpacasnz@xtra.co.nz