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Alpacas, one of the planets favourites
Alpacas have been domesticated for more than 5,000 years and have evolved physical attributes that allow them to exist in harmony with their environment, including….
Members of the Australian Alpaca Association
Alpacas are highly environmentally friendly, some even refer to them as "green sheep"
The Alpaca’s role in sustainable farming practices
Although some Alpaca meat markets have been established in Australia, the principal roles for the animal remains in natural fibre production, as herd guardians and simply as pets.
An alpaca produces around 3kg of fibre. Each strand is partly hollow, usually ranges from 20 to 70 microns in diameter and comes in 22 natural colours. It is light weight, stronger than sheep’s wool, and provides excellent insulation.
The main end use is knitwear, but it is also woven into cloth for clothing, accessories such as scarves and rugs. The premium alpaca fibre is cria, shorn from young animals and is considered as warmer, lighter and softer than cashmere.
To increase the use of alpaca fibre, some textile mills blend it with wool, cotton and silk for both knitwear and cloth. More recently the product is gaining popularity in outdoor sports clothing due to its lighter weight and better insulation properties during cold weather.
Despite its superior qualities worldwide alpaca fleece production is estimated to be approximately 7,000 tonnes against 2.1m tonnes of wool (Food & Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, 2009). This statistic alone can be very disheartening for a small alpaca producer but we believe it is worthwhile chipping away at this vast market. As sustainable and extensive farming practices take hold we foresee a shift away from wool. This will come about due to two pressure points:
Alpaca fibre is soft like cashmere and stronger than wool.
(Image from Alpaca Mall)
If you Google "Alpacas" and "Herd Protectors" you find any number of commentaries about the pros and cons of using Alpacas for this purpose. All we can do to add to this discussion is to document our personal experience of using and observing Alpacas as they have guarded our own sheep over the past 10 years.
Just like other camelids, Alpacas have evolved with strong herd instincts. Both females and males are very protective of each other and especially their young. Alpacas are normally gentle toward humans and other animals that are not seen as threatening. Foxes and dogs will immediately attract their attention but so too will anything that is a little unusual such as snakes, goannas and even kangaroos and wallabies. While we have read reports of Alpacas attacking predators such as foxes and trampling them to death, we have never observed this type of behaviour. Rather we have heard them let out a high pitched warning squeal and observed them slowly move towards the intruder and take up a position between the herd and the intruder. Most intruders want to avoid confrontation and give them a wide berth. Those that are more persistent will tend to be chased away.
Certainly we have found alpacas to be effective but they are not Mother Theresa on four legs so please have realistic expectations. Also, be sure to use only castrated alpaca males over 2 years of age. Entire males will become a nuisance attempting to mount sheep etc. When the alpaca is younger than 2 we have found that bonding can be more difficult and guarding instincts don’t seem to be fully developed.
Further, only use 1 or 2 guardians per mob. We have found this to be the optimum number. Working effectively in pairs they cleverly position themselves between the mob and the predator. One can be effective but they run the risk of being outflanked. On the other hand, with more than two in a paddock they may tend to prefer their own company and form their own herd.
Alpacas as pets
Most alpacas make very good pets if they are treated well and the owners have realistic expectations. Given time, most alpacas will eat out of your hand and training them to lead with a halter is a straightforward process. Although alpacas look cuddly they generally don't like being held, and are particularly sensitive to being touched on the head. Alpacas are naturally curious and intelligent and if you let them approach you, rather than rush at them and expect an affectionate response, the interactions can be very rewarding. The main thing to remember is that they are alpacas, and not dogs or cats, and should be allowed to be alpacas.
Our alpacas form protective bonds with their adoptive family.
Why you may choose Chregan Alpacas as your Alpaca supplier?
To us alpaca breeding is more than a hobby; it is an ongoing commitment to the continuing development of fine white and also grey and black coloured Huacaya Alpacas.
We have enjoyed success at local AAA shows with our animals and fleeces. Also a number of our fleeces have been considered suitable for inclusion in Alpaca Ultimate’s Ultrafine Bale Scheme.
Understanding the needs of most small landholders our primary breeding aim is produce and offer animals that are healthy, true to type and require a low level of maintenance. We are Q-Alpaca accredited and take particular care in producing sound animals and firmly believe it is far more economic and less stressful to raise healthy alpacas than treat sick ones.
We also supply experienced Guardian Alpacas who have been tending to our own mobs of sheep.
For information regarding animals currently for sale please refer to our Alpacas For Sale page. For up-to-date information regarding Chregan Alpacas and discussions regarding alpaca husbandry drop into our Observations Blog.