Alpacas are small camelids, native to the South American countries of Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and Peru, although breeding programmes and farming now shows populations of these animals all over World including the UK.
Looking like a miniature Llama, Alpacas are famed for their soft, warm wool which because it doesn't contain any Lanolin makes the fibre perfect for those who are normally allergic to animal fur. Shearing of Alpacas should be carried out in Spring especially if the animals are kept in warmer climates as the wool coat has excellent insulation properties and can lead to the animal suffering if shearing is not done.
Low Feed Costs
Alpacas make excellent animals for livestock farming as they are naturally able to survive on low quality natural vegetation. Being a relative of the camel, Alpacas have a three chambered stomach allowing the extraction of the maximum amount of nutrition from even the lowest grade grasses. For those with open grazing land, a couple of alpacas can act as a very effective and 'green' alternative to a lawn mower!
Feed costs for the winter are generally low for Alpacas, with typically two bales of hay per month per animal being required over the winter months. This means a small herd of Alpacas can be kept for a relatively small amount of money - perfect for the smallholding farmer!
In the early 1980's there was an explosion of Alpaca farming which petered out in just a short decade. The actual money yield in farming Alpacas became much less once supply of these animals met and exceeded demand, leaving many Alpacas in need of re-homing due to failing businesses. Nowadays it is not an easy ride to make money from Alpaca farming, but money can still be made from both wool farming and from the supply of breeding animals to the market.
Alpaca meat is known to be a favourite of those in Andean regions and can command high prices, but to be honest these animals are so cute, good natured and efficient it might be a crime to send animals to the slaughterhouse!