Alpaca facts

  • Alpacas originate from South America. They belong to the South American Camelids family. Alpacas were brought to Australia in the late 1980s.
  • There are two types of alpacas – huacaya and suri. The difference between the two is the fleece characteristics. Huacaya alpacas, the most common in Australia, grow their fleece directly outwards from their body, whereas as suri alpacas grow their fleece from a centre part with their locks draping over their body.
  • Alpacas are livestock, they are bred for their fleece, sometimes meat, and used as herd guards. They are not ‘pets’. Alpacas usually do not want to be approached or touched, their natural instinct is to be on guard and protect their herd. Alpacas need to know that they are alpacas and be treated like alpacas, no matter how cute they are.
  • As a herd animal, alpacas must live in groups, ideally at least 3 animals of the same sex. Males and females cannot live together due to their breeding behaviour.
  • Alpacas tread lightly on the earth with their soft padded feet.
  • Alpacas must have access to adequate shade and shelter along with clean drinking water. Alpacas are classified as a browsing animal as opposed to a grazing animal. They enjoy moving and walking around their paddock each day. It is advisable to have more than one paddock available to be able to rest a paddock and graze another.
  • The lifespan for an alpaca is 15-20 years.
  • The gestation of an alpaca (how many days the mother is pregnant), is 335-365 days. A baby alpaca is called a cria. A cria lives with their mother for 3-6 months before weaning. The average weight for a cria at birth is 6-8kgs.
  • Alpacas use body language (with their ears and tail) and sound (humming) to communicate.
  • Alpacas are inquisitive animals but also very cautious. They have distinct personalities and have a herd hierarchy.
  • Do alpacas spit? Yes, they can, but it is usually used as negative communication to other members of the herd at feeding time and is not directed at humans (but you may be caught in the crossfire if you are not aware or prepared!).
  • Alpacas need shearing once a year, usually in Spring. At this time it is important to provide routine health checks including teeth, ears, toenail clipping, vaccinations and supplements.
  • Adequate fencing is an important aspect for any livestock ownership and it is the responsibility of the owner to protect their animals on their own property and from potential predators.
  • You need a Property Identification Code (PIC) to have alpacas on your property. Contact your relevant state department of agriculture to obtain a PIC registration.
  • Again, most importantly, remember alpacas are livestock.