There are many reasons why people choose to keep alpacas and all of them offer a new dimension to daily life. Why keep alpacas? Are they a better option than other livestock species? Whatever the reasons, pure enjoyment and fascination with these remarkable animals is a given. Unlike any other species, they are often difficult to describe until you have spent some time with them. And even then, it is difficult to summarise them in one sentence…
The national herds in the UK and across Europe are steadily increasing. Selective breeding and increased fibre yields are ensuring a place in the world market for British alpaca fibre. As companion animals, alpacas are becoming more widespread as the most suitable ‘amenity’ animal, being kept for a wide variety of reasons.
Investment, business opportunity or lifestyle choice
Breeding alpacas can provide a long term investment opportunity within this growing industry. There are many people choosing to farm small herds of alpacas as a lifestyle choice whilst larger, commercial businesses steadily increase. There are exciting reasons to breed them apart from long term financial gain. There are opportunities to specialise in a certain colour or breed. This can offer a niche market and the opportunity to specialise within the growing alpaca industry. Most alpaca farmers have often not kept livestock species before. Reputable breeders should provide training and long term support.
Farming alpacas can be a sound business proposition. It provides an opportunity to cater for the diverse range of reasons for ownership. The fibre produced provides a sustainable product and maximises the viability of this luxury fibre. A long term business plan will help to maximise your investment in top quality breeding stock.
Pets / Companions / Grass cutters / Flock guards
Alpacas not used for breeding, are kept for a multitude of other reasons. This is the largest group of owners in the UK. Animals are usually young males and wethers or soemtimes non-breeding females. To begin with, most people want alpacas as grass cutters. They are efficient grazers and ideal for keeping small acreages trimmed. Alpacas live for about 20 years, are not eaten and come in a wide range of colours. Alpacas can live happily with other animals including sheep, chickens and horses (once introduced) proving useful as companions. Alpacas are gentle and should be respectful to other animals and people. They enjoy spending time with children.
A word of caution with flock guards
Not all alpacas are suitable as flock guards. However, with the right attitude some alpacas can protect chickens and lambs from foxes. There are no guarantees and alpacas should be selected very carefully if this is what you want them to do.
The main focus should always be on the end product, the fibre. A few pet boys can provide fibre for hand spinning, felting, natural dyeing and weaving. Larger volumes of fibre can be processed by the breeder or sold on to other processors. The options for alpaca fibre are only limited by volume and imagination. The long term viability of alpaca fibre is clear. South America and many countries around the world are growing national herds for high end fibre production. In the UK, there are several British companies buying fibre for a range of uses, providing a viable and sustainable market place.
Showing top quality animals in halter classes is a great way to promote alpacas in the UK. Some breeders attend as many shows as they can in a season. Bringing home the rosettes and sashes is a great reward for all the hard work. Meeting other breeders at halter and fleece shows provides social and networking opportunities.
Showing only the alpacas fleeces is growing in popularity. More owners are keeping their alpacas at home and not transporting them to venues mix with other alpacas. Once the alpaca has been shorn, the fleece is prepared (skirted) and sent to the show for judging. Fleece judging provides a score card of fleece attributes, providing a very useful tool in assessing the results of your breeding program.
Would you like to know more?
We are pleased to answer any questions you may have about alpacas. Visitors are always welcome by appointment. Come and meet the alpacas and spent some time with them!