Farming alpacas

Alpacas are   now  an   established  and   beloved part   of  the   Australian    natural fibres,   breeding    and    farming    industries.  As the   second largest  alpaca  industry  in  the  world,  following the  Peruvian  alpaca  industry,  Australia  is  at  the forefront of breeding,   fibre  quality  and   development.   We  have  reached  record  prices  and quality,    and    are    moving    from    strength   to strength,  focused  on increasing  production  volumes and improving consistency. The Australian Alpaca   Association   plays    a   vital    role in the current strength and continued  development of the  industry by providing  education, communication, resources and marketing for the industry as a whole.

The international  export  demand  for  Australian quality  alpaca  fleece  far outstrips  demand,   so the   industry   has   great   potential  for  further growth. In support, the AAA encourages sustainable   husbandry   focusing    on   animal    health, breeding programs and herd development.

Building  on the  strength  of the  Australian  wool industry,   the   AAA  has  teamed   up   with   the AWEX   (Australian   Wool    Exchange)  to   establish    quality    assurance    guidelines  for   alpaca fleece  that  are  equivalent  to the  standards  of the  wool   industry. This means consistent classing, packaging and branding of Australian alpaca fleece.  This  move  will  enhance  the  commercial image  and  guarantee  a  consistently  high-level product through an  organised collection system for fleece production.

The Alpaca Lifestyle

Those     interested   in   commercial   breeding   and farming  of  alpacas,  are  entering  a  strong  industry that  provides  support,  guidelines  and    a    great reputation.  You  may choose to  focus  on  alpacas, or   diversify   your current  livestock  herds  by introducing alpacas.   These   animals    mix   well   with other ruminants,  and function  well  as herd guards for  smaller  livestock. They  are sustainable and environmentally friendly,  with soft footpads that create  minimal soil  damage,  and  their natural  fibre further  supports  the  green  natural  fibre industry. Alpacas are a great green fit for Australia’s farming climate,  as  they  perform  far  better  in  dry  conditions  than  most  livestock.  As  ruminants,  they  require  only  small  amounts  of supplementary  feeding.

The alpaca  lifestyle  extends  in  many directions, as alpacas are also ideal for small scale and home production,  where owners of small herds value-add to their  fleece   by  producing  fibre   products  themselves, such as felts and yarns. There are a variety of ways that farmers sell their animals, for example via individual private sales, advertising on eAlpaca or other applications, a herd reduction sale or if there is an intention to leave the industry, a dispersal sale.

The alpaca  meat  industry  is  another  pathway    to commercial  alpaca  farming, and is growing  in popularity as alpaca  meat  is extremely lean,  highly  nutritious and flavoursome.  It  is  an  excellent  source of  protein  with  little  saturated  fat  or  cholesterol, and  is  environmentally  sustainable  to  produce.  Alpacas also offer a high yield with very little wastage.

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Overview of the Australian Alpaca Industry

Alpaca care

Information on how to look after your alpacas

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Buying your first alpacas?

Are you just getting into the alpaca industry and not sure where to start? – check out our guide on buying your first alpacas

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Alpaca biosecurity

All alpaca growers, from commercial operators, to showing enthusiasts, to people starting with their first few alpacas, or other species producers with alpacas as herd guardians form part of the alpaca industry. Each and every grower has a role to play in protecting alpacas from established and exotic pests.

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Animal welfare

Animal welfare is a key priority for the Australian Alpaca Association (AAA), and as the peak national body for the alpaca industry in Australia, we believe that the industry will benefit from a united approach to animal welfare. Individuals involved in the alpaca industry and its supply chains must take a proactive approach to ensure that a positive welfare state is achieved for each animal in their care.

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The IAR Database

The Australian Alpaca Association runs an alpaca pedigree register – the International Alpaca Register (IAR). The IAR is recorded on eAlpaca – a bespoke online system designed and built specifically for the AAA.

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Alpaca FAQ

Have a question about alpacas you need answered? Head on over to our handy FAQ guide and find the answers you need.

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Vets with alpaca experience

We have a directory of veterinarians with experience treating a variety of alpaca related health issues around Australia.

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Alpaca meat

Alpaca meat is highly nutritious, lean and flavoursome. It is an excellent source of protein with little saturated fat or cholesterol and is environmentally sustainable to produce. As most parts of the alpaca can be used for meat, alpacas offer a high yield with little wastage. 

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Herd guards

Alpacas are rapidly becoming accepted as essential complements to all sheep and goat breeding enterprises where predators cause lambing and kidding losses.

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Alpaca Exports

Australian alpacas are highly valued in international markets

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Alpacas and the Australian environment

Alpacas are undoubtedly the most environmentally friendly of all domesticated animals in Australia. Like all camelids they do not have hooves but soft-padded feet, each with two fairly soft toenails. Their ground foot pressure of 39kPA is much less than sheep (82kPA), cattle (185kPA) and humans (95kPA). Even the kangaroo at 46kPA exerts more pressure on our thin top soils than the alpaca.

Alpacas differ slightly from true ruminants such as cattle and sheep because of the structure of their three-compartment stomachs. The alpaca’s digestion is adapted to high fibre diets and their dietary efficiency is superior to goats and sheep on a similar high fibre diet. Although their adult weight of 60-90 kg is greater than sheep, their DSE is between parity and 10% above the merino.

Alpacas place their dung and urine in specific spots and do not graze close to these, thus avoiding ingesting internal parasites to which they also have high resistance.

Alpacas grow fibre that is valued for its luxurious handle and lustre, and in a wide range of natural colours that is unique among commercial fibre producing animals. However, unlike many other animals, alpacas do not shed their fibre. Also, even when ‘bonded’ with an accompanying sheep flock and sleeping close by, alpacas will not come into physical contact with them unless forced to do so during yarding. Even then, the risk of fibre cross-contamination is much less likely than from sheep dogs during yard work.

The alpaca does not grow fibre underneath its short tail or in the breech area and avoids any contact with its urine or dung pellets due to the crouching nature of the alpaca during urination and defecation. Together with almost no grease in its fibre, this means that no mulesing or crutching is required, and fly strike does not occur.

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Sustainability Framework

Agriculture is at the centre of many of the sustainability challenges facing the world today, with issues such as animal welfare, land degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change, population growth, water scarcity, and human rights challenging the way food and fibre are produced.

Customers and consumers want to feel confident that the food and fibre they purchase has been responsibly produced

The alpaca industry in Australia is still in its infancy compared to other farming enterprises and does not share the same level of resources.  However, we must still show that we are aware of our impact and are committed to addressing these issues. This will align us with other livestock industries throughout Australia and the world. It will allow us to maintain the trust and support of our customers and the community.

The Australian Alpaca Association is developing an Alpaca Sustainability Framework to document how we intend to meet our responsibilities and ensure a sustainable future for our industry.

The Sustainability Framework demonstrates to global consumers and manufacturers that members of the Australian Alpaca Association farm their alpacas in a way that is good for people, animals, and the environment.

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