What is an Alpaca?

Members of the South American camelid family, closely related to the llama, and more distantly related to the camels of Asia and Africa. They are roughly half the size of a llama and have a docile temperament. Alpaca are much smaller than llamas, and there are 2 basic types of alpaca classified by fleece character.

The Huacaya which has a sheep like wooliness and the Suri who’s fleece hangs in long spiral locks. There are 22 recognised natural shade of colour from whites, fawns, browns through to greys and black.Alpacas were bred over 6,000 years ago from the wild vicuna. Pre-dating even the Inca Empire, alpacas, and their cousin, the llama, were the only domesticated livestock in the New World before the arrival of the Europeans.

They were an integral part of the culture and lifestyle of their Andean caretakers, serving as a source of food, fuel, clothing and transportation. With the Spanish Conquest of the Incas came the almost total annihilation of the alpaca and llama, along with much of the human population. Bred to be survivors, these hardy camelids prevailed in the unforgiving conditions of the Altiplano.

What do people do with Alpacas?
Many people keep Alpacas as pets or to breed for their fabulous fleece, which can be sheared, then felt, or spun into yarn for their use or for sales to others. Most people make a business of it, by raising and selling animals to other breeders, and people who are entering the Alpaca industry for the first time.
How big are Alpacas?
Alpacas are approximately one metre tall at the withers (top of shoulder). Their neck and head is approximately half a metre long, for a total of one and a half metres from the ground to the top of the head.  Some Alpacas are larger, some smaller.  Weight varies, but 68kg is a good average estimate with some weighing closer to 56kg and some larger animals approaching 90kg.
Are Alpacas friendly?
In general, they could be described as “shy”. If handled properly they will get used to you but will generally not come running to be stroked like a dog or cat.
What do Alpacas eat?
Alpaca are instinctively foragers.  That means they eat just about any kind of vegetation that suits them.  They generally eat grasses, but may eat leaves and other vegetation.  To that end, Alpacas do need to be protected from plants that could harm them. However, all ornamental plants are potentially hazardous, therefore we do not encourage any feeding of our Alpacas unless we provide you with the feed.
What do you do with their fleece?
Alpacas are sheared once a year in the spring. We retain the fleece for our own use in the making of finished goods. At Velvet Hall we are developing our own clothing range and products.
How much do Alpacas cost?

There is no simple answer to this question.  The price is determined by the free market and is driven by the perceptions of quality, and value held by buyers and sellers.  A non-breeding male (that is gelded or still intact) that will be used only as a pet, fibre producer, or companion animal, can range in price between £300 to £700. A stud male from £15,000 to £40,000.

A proven breeding age female that has already given birth to a live cria, can generally range in price between £4000 to £20,000.  Age, conformation and fleece quality as well as her bloodlines, will determine the price.  Older females with fewer reproductive years ahead of them may be less expensive even if she has great fleece and conformation.

Proven mothers, who are three to five years old with great conformation, excellent fleece, great bloodlines and a show record, can sell for prices well in excess of £75,000.