Frequently Asked Questions

Do alpacas make good pets?

Alpacas are social herd animals that live in family groups, so it is unwise to have a single animal.
Alpacas make lovely pets, although unlike dogs and cats, and despite their cuddly appearance, the majority do not like being petted, particularly on the head. A penned alpaca, however will stand still and patiently tolerate your touch. Your alpacas will learn to eat out of your hand and, with patience can be halter trained. One of the nicest and most peaceful things about owning alpacas is to go and sit quietly in the paddock and have the alpacas milling around you.

Where are alpacas from?

Alpacas were originally found in South America and were highly valued by the Incans for food and clothing. They were first imported into Australia in the 1800s by Charles Ledger however this venture failed and they were not reintroduced into Australia and New Zealand until 1988/1989.

What are the babies called?

The babies are called Cria (pronounced cree-ah), adolescents are Tuis, adult females are Hembras, and adult males are called Machos.

How big are alpacas?

An adult alpaca generally is between 81 and 99 cm in height at the withers. They usually weigh between 48 and 84 kg

Do alpacas spit?

Spitting is a form of communication, aggression, or a warning to an adversary and is delivered by the regurgitation of stomach contents. A pregnant female will spit at a male alpaca to reject his advances and is often an early sign of pregnancy. Alpacas don’t usually spit at people; however it can happen if the person gets in the way of an alpaca and his food. It may also happen if you walk up to them without talking. Alpacas hum to each other to show that they are friendly and see no predators around. If you move quietly you might be seen as a threat and could be spat at.

How often are alpacas in season and how long is gestation?

Females are sexually mature once they reach 12 to 18 months and attain a body weight of more than 40 kg. They don’t have a fixed breeding season as they are induced ovulators; that is, the act of mating and the ogling sound produced by the male during mating induces ovulation. Gestation usually ranges from 315 to 370 days, with the average being 342 days (11.5 months). Birthing usually occurs in daylight hours (although our little suri was at least an hour old when we discovered her at dawn). Twin births are very rare, however not unknown.

Are alpacas easy to look after?

Alpacas need fresh drinking water and good quality pasture although they can survive in harsh conditions with supplementary feeding of hay and grain (although take care to introduce new types of food gradually to avoid tummy upsets). Shelter should be provided and the simplest method is to ensure that there are trees and bushes in the paddock. Basic husbandry (toenail and teeth trimming, and vaccinations) is usually conducted during the annual shearing, although toenails may need additional clipping during the year. Vitamin D injections should be given to cria at 6-weekly intervals during winter to maximise good bone growth. Worming is not usually necessary unless the alpacas are grazing with other livestock.

How much do alpacas cost?

Prices related to breeding potential and generally start at around $250 for a wether (castrated male) and can go well over $100,000 for a grand champion. Prices of breeding females and certified (stud) males depend on parentage, the quality of the animal (usually determined by fleece characteristics and conformity to the national standard), the age of the animal and the quality of previous progeny.

How often do you shear alpacas?

How often are they shorn? Alpacas are shorn annually, every spring (although suris can go for 2 years between shearings). Alpacas are generally restrained for shearing. Although this looks cruel, it prevents injury to both the alpaca and the shearer

How long do they live?

Alpacas are thought to live for 15 to 20 years, however as they were only imported into Australia in the late 1980s, there is some margin for error.

What sort of fences do I need?

Alpacas do not tend to challenge fences, so a standard 1.2 metre wire or mesh fence is usually sufficient.

Can you eat them?

Work is underway to develop an alpaca meat industry in Australia. Alpaca meat products are already for sale from some businesses in Western Australia, and other states. Alpaca meat is high in protein and low in fat.