These endearing members of the Camel family were highly prized in Peru in the time of The Incas, their fibre was used for clothing and textiles in the Royal households.
Today the fibre is without doubt still a very special commodity. Being a “dry”fibre it has very little lanolin is extremely hypoallergenic and, non itchy, therefore comfortable light, warm and hard wearing. The fibre in its natural state is said to be found in 22 colours ranging from white to jet black and many shades in between.
The gestation ranges from around 11.5 months to in some cases over 1 year. Normally 1 Cria is born, rarely twins. They give birth usually in daylight, to enable the young to warm up and suckle quickly and bond well with the mother (Hembra) before setting off against all the hazards it would face on the Altoplano in Peru. Mother and baby communicate by way of a gentle short “hum” or clucking sound no two pitches seem to be the same!
They are shorn once a year by specialist shearers, the technique is not the same as sheep shearing, a good fleece can produce up to approximately 3-5kgs, fibre samples are taken to test for quality.
Like all animals certain husbandry has to be maintained. Alpaca are a cloven hooved animal so toe trimming must be done 3-4 times a year to keep the feet in good condition. Their soft padded feet unlike horses do not poach the paddock grass.
Mineral supplements are necessarybecause of the different conditions in this country to their native environment. Alpaca require vitamin D as they can be prone to rickets, due to the reduced intensity of sunlight in this country.
Worming and vaccinations are given routinely within a set farm programme. Healthy Alpaca will give a good fleece when shorn, but to achieve optimum fleece quality a comprehensive knowledge of bloodlines, genetics, inherited traits and previous fleece statistics from both sire and dam and the generations before is essential.
All breeding stock must be registered with the British Alpaca Society where records can be traced for further reference.
There is always something more to learn!