Alpacas originate from Altiplano (Spanish for High Plain). This covers areas such as Peru, Bolivia & Chile. They are members of the camelid family, related to their bigger cousins the Llama. They are thought to be domesticated versions of the Vicuna found in large numbers in South America. The Alpaca was selectively bred primarily as a fleece producing animal. Alpacas have been in the UK since the mid 19th Century. Originally only found in Zoo’s and exclusive collections there are now thought to be over 42,000 in the UK. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert owned 2 Alpacas, one white one black. There are currently about 3 million Alpacas worldwide and bred in 17 different countries in addition to their native South America.
There are two types of Alpaca:
Huacaya – These look like cuddly teddy bears. This is due to the fibre growing vertically out of the skin in small bundles with a tight crimp wavy look.
Suri – These Alpacas are more like the Wensleydale sheep with their dreadlock appearance. Without any crimp the fibre hangs and twists as it grows.
Alpacas have a lifespan of about 20 years. They stand about 1 metre tall at the withers (highest part of their back). On average they weigh about 45 – 60kgs as adults. Alpacas are very easy to keep eating mainly grass throughout the year and hay is also provided ad lib all year as well. We also feed them supplementary specialist hard feed with added minerals and nutrients.
Alpaca fibre is on the most luxurious fibres in the world. Also known as “the gold of the Andes” Alpaca cloth was once reserved only for royalty. There are 22 officially recognised colours of Alpaca. Alpacas must be sheared once a year. The average weight of fleece produced from an Alpaca is about 2.4kg although some Alpacas have been known to produce up to twice that amount. Alpaca fleece is one of the lightest and strongest natural fibres known to man. In terms of softness it on the same level as cashmere and even more rare. Compared with modern synthetic non-biodegradable fibres Alpaca fleece has superior breathability, low static electricity and wicks away moisture from the body. Alpaca fleece is extremely soft against the skin and hypoallergenic. It is also naturally flame resistant therefore not requiring any additional chemicals in the processing. It truly is an amazing natural renewable fibre with so many uses.