Frequently Asked Questions - All FAQs

FAQs - All FAQs

Alpacas travel well in a van, covered trailer or horse float. Most alpacas will sit during the journey and travel best in the company of another alpaca. On trips over two hours it is advisable to plan for a stop so the alpacas may have a toilet break. Clean straw on the vehicle floor helps absorb jarring on rough roads.

Laws on transporting livestock vary from state to state and you should contact your Department of Agriculture for more advice.

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 very successfully run with sheep and goats to act as fox guards. The alpacas tend to bond with the foster herd and they 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.

Because of the risk of the alpacas being kicked, caution should be used if running them with cattle or horses.

Females become sexually mature at around 12 to 18 months of age and once they reach 45-50kg in weight. Males can display sexual interest from a few weeks of age but are not sexually active or fertile until 18 months to 3 years of age. (Some individuals will fall outside this age range.) Libido in males is not a criterion of stud quality in alpacas.

Alpacas do not have a breeding season and, providing they are receptive, females can be mated at any time of the year. Like rabbits and cats, female alpacas are 'induced ovulators' which means it is the act of mating that causes them to ovulate. It is preferable, though not essential, to avoid mid-late summer matings. Given the 11 to 12 month gestation, this reduces the incidence of heavily pregnant females and new cria in very hot weather.

Alpacas mate in the 'cush' (prone) position and if a female is not receptive (e.g. already pregnant) she will refuse to sit down and probably spit at the male. This rejection response, known as a 'spit-off', can be used to regularly monitor the progress of the female's pregnancy.

The average gestation period is 11 1/2 months, but pregnancies that go for over a year are not uncommon. Births are generally trouble-free and most occur before the middle of the day.

Cria should be 6-8kg at birth and most will be on their feet and drinking within 2 to 3 hours. The mothers are often very protective and the cria will stay with its mum until weaning at 5 to 6 months.

Females are usually re-mated 2 to 6 weeks after giving birth.

Twinning in alpacas is extremely rare (approximately 0.0001% of births) and should not form any part of a breeding plan.

Price is directly related to the individual breeding potential, and the potential quality of the offspring. For example, a wether (castrated male) has no breeding potential and is therefore the cheapest alpaca to buy. On the other hand, a high quality male with many good progeny can be worth many thousands of dollars. He can also command a high income from the stud services he provides.

Female prices are a reflection of quality, age, breeding history and to which stud male she is mated. Females can be worth anything from a few thousand dollars to a few tens of thousands of dollars.

Income from females is derived from selling the offspring. However, breeding plans should be made so that long term depreciation of the older breeders and increases in quality of offspring are taken into account.

Although the average gestation is eleven and a half months, a projection of three offspring in four years per mature female is more realistic than expectations of one offspring every year.

There are a number of things to consider before launching into the breeding industry. Firstly, it is best to talk to as many experienced breeders as possible. You will gain lots of useful information from people who have already done the leg work.

If you are serious, it is advisable to develop a business plan and, if you don't already have one, find an accountant who specialises in primary industry clients.

To be able to register your offspring you will need to become a member of the Australian Alpaca Association and apply for Herd Registration (Herd Prefix and Herd Code). The National Office can send you the appropriate forms.

Also ask which region you will belong to and attend any workshops or seminars that are being held. The more you can educate yourself about all aspects of breeding, the more informed your choices will be.
Some people have bought a couple of wethers to begin with, and once they feel confident that alpacas really are extremely easy to manage, they then start a breeding herd.

Most breeders want to start as soon as possible, and enjoy the experience as they learn along the way.

AGE is a way of comparing the genetic performance of alpacas bred in small or large herds, done by assessing progeny on-farm for characteristics (traits) and combining all the records in a specialised analysis that establishes the best estimate of each animal's relative genetic performance for the traits recorded. The environmental difference between alpacas in different herds and groups within the herd are removed.

Assisting breeders to improve their breeding and marketing. AGE provides important information to help alpaca breeders and future commercial fleece producers to increase the accuracy of their decision making on the genetic breeding performance of their alpaca. It can also show the improvement being made over years by a herd, a group of herds, or all the herds participating in the AGE.

The AGE is now under way after starting in the second half of 2003 in Australia, and was introduced to New Zealand in 2004. Australian breeders who entered data in late 2003 received their first reports in Spring 2004. The AGE will be owned and managed by the AAA as a service to members, with full access by AANZ members. Participation by breeders in the AGE is entirely optional. The AAA and AANZ are asking as many breeders as possible to be involved. Regional Workshops throughout Australia and New Zealand were held in 2004 and 2006.

If you are shearing before you have the opportunity to attend a workshop, it is important that if you want to participate in AGE you collect a midside sample and record shearing date and fleece weight, if possible, together with any other traits that are important to you at sheering time.