Alpacas are from the Camelid family, closely related to the llama, and are mainly found in the Andes mountain range in Peru — although smaller numbers can also be found in Chile and Bolivia. Since they were first imported to South America in 1983, numbers there are thought to have grown to 3.5 million (British Alpaca Society), and large numbers have been established in North America, Australia, Britain and Europe. There are two different types of alpaca — the suri (with long “dreadlocks”) which represents about 10% of the population, and the more common huacaya (with shorter, crimped fibre).
Alpacas live over 20 years and fully grown weigh around 45-50kg. As they are herd animals they cannot be kept individually, and while they sometimes spit at each they are generally docile around humans &mdash although they are initially wary of being touched. Once they have become used to the presence of people and being handled by them, alpacas may allow their backs and necks to be touched. Halter training helps the animals to get used to being around humans, and also allows owners to move and show their alpacas easily. As they are prey animals, they are cautious of any potential threat and may make high pitched screeching sounds and threaten to spit in order to warn the intruder away. If another animal or human gets too close they may also kick, but the soft pads on their feet are not as dangerous as hooves.
If you would like your own alpacas, five to ten alpacas can be kept on one acre – depending on the quality of the grass and the time of year – though you can start your herd with a group of 3 females if you wish to breed, or 3 castrated males. A 4-foot high fence is suitable as alpacas do not tend to challenge barriers.
Alpacas require a shelter during rain and snow, but it is not necessary to bring them in during bad weather. Neither is it necessary to provide a waste area as they instinctively use a dung pile that they do not graze, avoiding the chance of spreading disease by keeping waste and food separate.
Alpacas are grazing animals, but require feed supplement once a day for the correct balance of minerals and vitamins, along with hay throughout the winter. Routine care involves trimming toenails 2 or 3 times a year, 6-monthly vaccinations and worming.
Alpacas are generally trouble-free so they do not take up a lot of time to maintain – though you will find you enjoy spending time among them. There is nothing better at dusk on a summer evening listening to alpacas gently nibbling the grass than watching the cria rushing about having a mad half-hour before bed time.
Alpacas for sale
We have a few alpacas available to sell each year, with prices ranging from £500 to £4000.
Prospective buyers are welcome to arrange to visit us to see our alpacas and learn more about their upkeep. We also offer as much hands-on, practical instruction and future support as possible to anyone reserving alpacas from Willowmead.
Call 01473 738212 to enquire, or contact us online.
Willowmead is a small family farm running a herd of 34 alpacas in the Suffolk countryside. We have been breeding alpacas for ten years, concentrating just as much on health and character of the animals as on the fineness of their fleece.
Alpacas currently available
We like to limit our herd size to ensure we can get to know each of our alpacas by name and character, so must sell some this year to make way for new arrivals. We offer a wide choice of colours at reasonable prices, all backed up with ongoing support and advice.
We are fortunate to be in a part of the country that is currently free of the bovine TB that is a serious problem in other areas – a good reason to choose your alpacas from Suffolk.