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Flowerdale Alpacas

About Alpaca

Origins & History

Alpacas thought to be a cross between llamas and vicunas some 7000 years ago.

...treasured for its fibre by the ancient Incan herdsman

Alpacas have had a turbulent history. For thousands of years, the alpaca has resided in the mists of the high South American Andes, treasured for its fibre by the ancient Indian herdsman. Their wealth was measured by the number of alpacas they owned. These Peruvian people clothed their nobleman and royalty in multi-coloured garments made from the fabulous fleece of these wonderful animals. A thousand years before the Roman Empire, a thriving economy existed, based on selective breeding and the production of alpacas that are thought to have had even better fleeces than the finest alpacas today.

The Spanish conquest saw the decimation of the breed. The arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the 17th century resulted in the orderly genocide of the indigenous people and their alpacas. The alpaca, prized for almost 4000 years as a source of high quality fibre, was seen by the Spaniards as a competitor for grazing lands available to their sheep. The alpaca therefore became a source of meat and was slaughtered almost to the point of extinction.

The surviving indians were driven into the highest parts of the inhospitable Andes mountains, taking their most prized alpacas with them into exile.

In the mid 1800's, Sir Titus Salt of London "discovered" the remarkable fibre of the alpaca and began promoting its use in the finest textile mills and fashion houses of Europe. Charles Ledger was the first to import alpacas into Australia in 1858. None of these alpacas are believed to have survived.

Today, over 60,000 alpacas are registered in Australia

Then in the mid 1980's Geoff Halpin, a Victorian sheep farmer, imported a small number of these animals into Australia as the first breeding stock in modern times.

Three million alpacas exist worldwide, with over 90 percent still located in South America - Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. Today, over 130,000 alpacas are registered in Australia and the industry is growing at a rate of 17% per annum. By the year 2020 the industry predicts there will be over one million alpacas in Australia.

Future History

We have a view of the future. We can predict:

  • The valuable Pedigree Register of Australian alpacas will continue to be maintained, providing a reliable breeding resource
  • Selective breeding will produce a healthier alpaca with improved fibre and conformation. The fleeces will be finer, denser, heavier, more commercially viable
  • Quality management practices being adopted by the industry will lead to rapid rates of genetic improvement. Embryo Transfer technologies, selection based on the Across Herd Genetic Evaluation (AGE) and SRS® breed selection practices will accelerate these gains
  • Export of Australian quality breeding stock, already underway, will continue grow as countries such as China, United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, Italy and Germany come to appreciate the value of Australia's quality bloodlines
  • Quality breeding stock prices will remain high in the foreseeable future. Overseas breeders of quality stock see Australia as their opportunity to acquire the best bloodlines at competitive prices
  • Our fashion industry has recognized the importance and value of alpaca cloth. Alpaca fibre is again becoming a prized material for textile manufacturers and fashion designers
  • The percentage of the Australian herd made up of white and light fawn alpacas will continue to grow as a world-wide, commercial manufacturing industry, increases demand for fleece that can by dyed into every imaginable fashion colour. White will be the choice of breeders of the large commercial herds of the future
  • Colored alpacas, that have so far been the largest percentage of the Australian herd, will continue to be popular with smaller breeders and people wanting non-dyed natural fabrics
  • Our Industry Association and its regional chapters is well founded and will continue to drive the promotion of alpacas and the alpaca lifestyle to new potential investors and breeders

What is an Alpaca?

The alpaca is a member of the Camelid family. Camelids include Bactrian and Dromedary camels of Asia and Africa, as well as the South American wild Vicuña, Guanaco and the domesticated llama. There are two types of alpacas. About 90% are the Huacaya type and the balance the Suri type.

Why is Alpaca fibre special?

Alpaca fibre quality and colours are unique. On quality, Peter Weiss of Weiss Pringle comments "Luxury and excellence are sometimes linked together and I think alpaca fibre has those. It's a luxury fibre and we can get garments towards excellence with this fibre." Alpaca feels soft and silky and is very comfortable to wear. Alpaca garments hang well, keep their shape and don't easily pill. The fibre is very light yet amazingly warm. Alpaca has a higher tensile strength than sheep's wool; it's softer than merino, but a far more durable fibre. Although white alpaca can be easily dyed, it is the natural colours that contribute to the special appeal of the fibre. There are 22 recognised colours in alpaca; pure white; the most delicate fawns through to chocolate brown; grey tones from silver to warm rose grey and jet black. Alpaca makes beautiful suiting cloth for men and women and can be blended with silk, cashmere and fine wool.

Characteristics that make alpacas so appealing

Alpacas connect well with children and adults

Alpacas are very healthy and tend to be easy to look after. Having evolved in the harshness of the South American Andes, they have become adept at assimilating the nutrition from limited amounts of food; therefore, requiring fewer acres to sustain them compared to other grazing livestock. They have padded feet that don't harm the ground and their gentle grazing habits keep them from pulling grass out by the roots. Alpacas tend to have one or two communal dung piles, which make it easier to clean up and to control disease, providing a healthier environment.

Alpacas have a gentle nature, which makes them ideal for people to raise who are not already familiar with livestock. Alpacas connect well with children and adults. Because of their gentle disposition and small stature, children often train and show them.

Care and Diet

Alpacas are well suited to small acreage holdings as well as broad acre farms. They require only basic fencing (similar to the requirements for sheep). They are able to be sustained on pasture grasses with a balanced mineral content. Some grazing land can be deficient of Selenium (an essential mineral). If tests show this to be the case you will need to supplement for Selenium. This is easily done either in the form of pellets fed to the animals a few times a week or via herd drenching. Many of these topics are covered in our weekend workshops.

Joining the Australian Alpaca Association is an effective way to learn more.
Before joining you can obtain a FREE Information Kit by phoning +613 9873 7700 or writing to:
PO Box 1076 Mitcham North Victoria, Australia 3132.

Gallery of Flowerdale Estate Alpaca images
ALPACA WOOL COLOUR CODES
White W Alpaca Fleece Colours
Light Fawn LF
Medium Fawn MF
Dark Fawn DF
Light Brown LB
Medium Brown MB
Dark Brown DB
Black B
Dark Grey DG
Medium Grey MG
LightGrey LG
Rose Grey/Roan RG
BUYING ALPACAS - from the Flowerdale Alpacas herd and our Grand Flowerdale herd WORKSHOPS - Introduction to Alpaca STUD MALES - available for joining NEW ALPACA BREEDERS - budgeting and planning