Why do you want to keep alpacas?

If you are interested in the idea of keeping alpacas, it is important to talk to as many owners and breeders as possible.
 

  • Visit people who have alpacas to get experience in handling and how to position fencing to make moving the alpacas easier.
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  • Attend shows and listen to the judge’s comments about good and less good alpacas to learn how to select your herd.
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  • Local BAS alpaca groups provide an excellent way of meeting other owners and gaining basic handling and welfare information.
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  • The BAS has a registry of alpacas which are all microchipped and tagged for identification.

 
Having gathered lots of information, you can then decide if you are going to breed alpacas, or own a group of them for pleasure and the fibre.
 
If you intend to breed, your herd should comprise of the best quality females you can afford and possibly a stud male. Alternatively, stud services can be purchased from other breeders. If you do not wish to breed, the cheapest way to set up your herd is by purchasing castrated males.
 
Alpacas are such wonderful animals that once you own some you will never look back.

 
Fibre
 
Alpaca fibre is desired by the fashion industry and yarn producers because it is a hollow fibre, making it very light but extremely warm.
 
It is a very strong fibre and yet it is soft and silky. It has a high lustre which gives the garments a sheen without an artificial shininess. It also has high durability and washes very well. Unlike sheep wool it does not contain lanolin and so it is hypoallergenic.
 
There are 22 natural colours including true black but it also accepts dye readily. The fibre is also quite fire resistant.
 
Alpaca fibre can be used for clothing, rugs, duvets and soft furnishings. The fibre is very popular with hand spinners because it is easy to work with.

colours 
Fibre colours

White
Light Fawn
Medium Fawn
Dark Fawn
Light Brown
Medium Brown
Dark Brown
Black
Dark Grey
Medium Grey
Light Grey
Rose Grey/ Roan

 
Look before you buy
 
The prospect of buying an unsound alpaca without even realising it, until too late, is scary. There is a large financial commitment involved and an animal with serious faults may affect your breeding programme and the saleability of offspring.
 

  • It is important when buying alpacas that you buy one that is sound in conformation.
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  • It is easier to breed in better fibre characteristics and volume than it is to breed out conformation problems or genetic defects.
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  • To live a long and productive life as a fibre producer, alpacas need to carry their fibre on a sound frame.
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  • There are many genetic defects that are undesirable in alpacas, most of which would meet with immediate disqualification if the animal was taken to a British Alpaca Society run show. Alpaca faults in general can be categorized as being caused by:

 
1. Genetic or hereditary traits;
2. Nutritional or environmental factors;
3. Injury.
 
In relation to breeding stock, those faults thought to be hereditary (genetic) are the least desirable. For those falling under clauses 2 and 3 there should be no repercussions in further generations.
 
Also look out for:
 

  • Tall animals – may have llama genes, tall females may have reproduction problems (check breeding records).
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  • Short animals – may just be stunted because of poor nutrition or a dwarf.
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  • Base wide and base narrow – wide or narrow depth of chest affecting placement of feet on ground and size of chest cavity.

 
Make sure you get your hands on the animal:
 

  • Run your hands over its back and tail;
  • Look at the eyes;
  • Run hands over ears;
  • Look at the mouth and teeth;
  • Pick up the feet;
  • Look under the tail at genitals and feel how big males’ testicles are (are they the same size?);
  • Watch the animal walk away from you and towards you, looking for freedom of movement and angulation of the legs.

 
The ‘perfect’ alpaca would have the following positive traits:
 

  • Short muzzle;
  • Triangular and symmetrical head;
  • Even jaw and bite;
  • Erect, spear-shaped ears;
  • Eyes should be bright and alert with no discharge;
  • Good back line slightly sloping over the rump, with no humps or dips;
  • Legs with correct angulation, and no deviations;
  • Good proportion of body, legs and neck;
  • Good strong base, ie good depth of chest which allows good placement of legs on the ground;
  • Will show itself well, with an erect, alert stance.

 
Not all alpacas are ‘perfect’, so their negative faults must be carefully weighed against their positive attributes before buying an animal, or deciding to include it in your breeding programme.

 
 


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