Basics of alpaca keeping

Page last updated: Wednesday, 13 December 2017 - 2:50pm

Shearing

Alpacas are shorn once a year usually during spring. Shearing is the biggest maintenance task required and usually takes about seven minutes per animal for an experienced alpaca shearer.

Health

Alpacas are relatively disease free, but like all animals they need to be monitored to ensure they stay in optimum health. They are vaccinated twice a year with the same vaccines as used for sheep in the local area.

Alpacas are essentially free from fly strike, foot rot and generally defecate in one spot so have a relatively low worm burden.

When buying alpacas especially for breeding purposes, it is advisable to arrange for a vet check to ensure the animals purchased are healthy.

The alpaca industry employs body condition scoring systems that are similar to those used for other livestock. Regular monitoring of the flock's average body condition is one way to determine the health of animals regardless of how much fleece they are carrying.

Animal identification and movement

All livestock owners within Western Australia must be registered and their stock identified in accordance with the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management (Identification and Movement of Stock and Apiaries) Regulations 2013.

Registered owners will be issued with a Property Identification Code (PIC) card which outlines the properties they have registered to run stock on and the identifiers they may need to identify their stock (e.g. their stock brand and earmark).

Alpacas must be identified before they reach six months of age, or before they are moved from the property, whichever occurs first.

The identification required for alpaca (and llamas) may be all or any of:

  • the registered brand impressed on an approved eartag or the registered earmark applied to the right ear of males or the left ear of females
  • an approved breed society identifier.

Alpacas under six months of age can move without identification if accompanied by their legally identified mother, and movement is to another property with the same PIC.

Alpacas that have registered identifiers of the previous owner do not require additional identification if the present owner has proof of purchase.

Whenever you transport your animals off your property, you must fill out a waybill, even if they are returning to the same property.

Interesting alpaca facts

There are two types of alpacas, Huacaya and Suri.

These two distinct alpaca breeds share many features, but the key difference between them is their fleece. Alpacas come in 12 colours ranging from white, fawn, brown, grey and black.

Alpacas can live for up to 15 years.

Male: macho

Female: hembra

Young alpacas: tuis

Baby: cria

Average adult height: 90-95cm

Average weight: male - 85kg; female - 70kg

Age at puberty: male 18-36 months, females 12-18 months

Alpaca associations are a good source of additional information.