Frequently Asked Questions - All FAQs

FAQs - All FAQs

It combines softness with strength. Alpaca product feels great next to the skin, yet has the durability of a coarser garment – all the benefits of wool and less of the itch! It is warm, yet amazingly light. Alpaca fibre comes in a beautiful range of natural colours – white, silver, all shades of grey and fawn, chocolate brown and true jet black; it also dyes beautifully.

Other than annual shearing and twice-yearly vaccinations, alpacas require very little else, just an occasional trim of toenails and teeth.

Alpacas are shorn once a year, usually in spring. Shearing is the biggest maintenance required and usually takes around five to ten minutes per animal for an experienced alpaca shearer. The preferred method of shearing is to lay the animals on their side, either on a shearing table or the ground, and restrain their legs with a tether at each end. This restraint allows the alpaca to be shorn safely and efficiently.

Electric sheep-shearing equipment is normally used, but because alpaca fibre is non-greasy, care needs to be taken that shears do not over-heat. If you are purchasing your first alpacas, ask the vendors for the name of a recommended shearer, or ask if you can bring the alpacas back to the property on their shearing day. The AAA also advertises local shearers, and can provide advice to new owners.

Depending on the density of the fleece, alpacas cut anywhere between 11/2 and 4 kg of fleece. Some of the high quality stud males will cut higher weights.

Alpacas are principally grazers but sometimes enjoy casual browsing. They are fastidious food selectors and eat small amounts of a variety of plants. Although they can survive very harsh conditions, alpacas do best on good quality pasture and benefit from having access to plant material with long fibres: eg. hay. Bulk feed is found through grazing, and commercial alpaca mixes are best used sparingly to supply vitamins and minerals. Alpacas are affected by the same poisonous plants as other livestock. Alpacas need ready access to good quality, fresh drinking water.
It is important to introduce any changes to the diet gradually, over a period of several weeks. This way, the microbes in the gut have time to adjust to any feed changes.

Alpacas can bond well with other types of animals. Naturally, alpacas and aggressive dogs are not a good combination, but there are many cases of quiet dogs mixing well with alpacas. Individual alpacas have been successfully run with sheep and goats to act as fox guards. The alpacas tend to bond with the foster herd and are naturally aggressive towards foxes.

If running alpacas with other livestock, particularly ruminants, alpacas may pick up the internal parasites from the other livestock. In this case, alpacas should be treated with suitable anti-parasitic products specific to the situation and type of parasite encountered. As all parasite management procedures are 'off label' for alpacas, veterinary advice should be sought. Also, because of the risk of the alpacas being kicked, caution should be used if running them with cattle or horses.

No, because alpacas usually give birth during the day. Birthing is generally trouble free and very quick. Crias (baby alpaca) usually stand and nurse within one hour.

Most alpacas make great pets if they are treated well, however they are not domestic animals. Alpacas are naturally curious and intelligent; let them approach you, rather than rushing to them. Given time, most alpacas will eat out of your hand and training them to lead by a halter is a straightforward process.

Like any livestock, the more handling they receive as youngsters, the quieter they are as adults. Although alpacas look cuddly, they generally don't like being held, and are particularly sensitive to being touched on the head.
When alpacas mature into adults they can engage in herd seniority behaviour. If they have been treated as pets, they may treat humans as competitors and behave in a rough manner to establish their seniority. The best thing to remember is that they are alpacas, and not dogs or cats, and should be allowed to be alpacas.

Not at all. They are comfortable with people and quick to learn. They can be moved easily around a farm without the aid of a dog, and transported in anything from a horse-float to a small van.

Yes, they do spit, but rarely at people. It is one of the few defence mechanisms an alpaca has, and it is an effective deterrent. Sometimes a female will spit at a male if she does not welcome his amorous attentions! Mostly it is used to determine pecking order.

The spitting ammunition is regurgitated or recently chewed grass, so it brushes off when dry. It does have a distinctive and somewhat offensive odour, thus it is best to avoid being a target. If a human hit occurs, it is usually because the person has stepped into a pecking order dispute between two squabbling alpacas.

Trees and bushes provide the best protection against extremes of heat and cold. Most alpacas will not voluntarily seek shelter in sheds. There is no need for special fencing as alpacas are generally content to stay in their own 'backyards'.