All about Alpacas
Since Neal and I moved ourselves and our fur family up to the Barrington Coast, I’ve had the opportunity to photograph some amazing animals, and none more so than those quirky alpacas.
This is a choc-a-bloc alpaca blog so go grab a glass of wine or whatever you like to drink, sit back, and enjoy.
I remember as a teenager going to Australia’s first ever alpaca auction in Berrima NSW. I went with my parents as my Mum adored alpacas and was curious about how an alpaca auction worked. The day also included a fashion show with models pacing the catwalk wearing various clothing made from alpaca fibre.
I do remember that the lowest sale for an alpaca that day was $10,000 and the highest was $40,000. All the females up for auction had an ultrasound photograph stuck to their enclosure confirming their pregnancy.
Topi Open Range
My friend Sue has an amazing herd of alpacas on her farm and I’ve been getting to know them over the past few months and they are all such fascinating and unique characters.
They are gentle animals that for the most part prefer to stick to their herd and don’t necessarily like human contact with the exception of Cuddles who is the extravert of the herd and who likes to come to people and greet them with a nudge, usually looking for a treat.
Here are some of Sue’s alpacas enjoying the serenity of a golden hour on the farm. The weather was slightly overcast and very gentle.
Baby alpacas are called “cria”. Choc Top and Miso are the cria of the herd are great buddies. You’ll see Choc Top in the second gallery towards the end of this blog, and I am still to photograph Miso who was only born a month ago. An interesting fact about the cria is that if the mother isn’t around anymore, the cria may get invited into a family circle.
When I posted on social media recently asking if you were interested in a blog about alpacas the response was a resounding “Yes Please”, and I also asked for any questions, so here we go in answering them as best we can.
Are they llamas?
No, Llamas are larger, with longer heads and curving ears. Their fleece, or “fibre” is also very different to a Llama and is prized for its softness and quality.
Do they need to be sheered like sheep?
Yes annually in October before it gets too hot.
How long do they live?
Approximately 15-20 years, but sometimes more.
What is the length of their pregnancy?
Alpacas have a gestation period of 11-12 months.
Like camels, do they have reservoir in the stomach?
No they don’t have a water reservoir. They are part of the same family Camalidae which includes llamas, vicunas, guanacos, dromedaris and Bactarian camels. They are herbivores and quasi ruminants with three-phase digestion ie, three-chambered stomachs. (Ref: “Alpaca Keeping” by Harry Fields)
What do they eat?
They graze on fresh grass which is in abundance this summer. Sue supplements the diet in Winter with chaff and pellets.
What do you use as a treat?
They enjoy some chaff or alpaca pellets as a treat.
Where do they sleep?
They have stables to sleep in at night, however they prefer to sleep out in the open up near the house at night where they are safe from predators (ie. foxes and wild dogs).
They form a defensive perimeter around the cria and sleep laying down but with neck and head up and on a sunny day they lay flat on their sides to sunbake.
What noises do they make?
They make a funny nasally humming sound, a little like a sheep.
I’ve heard they guardian animals, is this true?
Actually they are not a true guardian animal as they can’t easily defend themselves against all predators (eg. Wild dogs), but they will make a sound to alert other animals of any danger.
What are their toileting habits?
They are quite clean and form communal dung piles well away from their grazing area.
The females all tend to go to the dung pile together like girls on a night out, whereas the males tend to maintain smaller individual pile and go it alone.
What regular care do they need?
Alpacas require worming every 12 weeks to reduce the risk of worms and other parasites. Sue’s Alpacas receive Q-drench given orally.
They are vaccinated annually when they are sheared. Also get a pedicure (toenail clip), and a teeth and ear check.
Annual Alpaca Shearing Day
Shearing day this year was a little later being the beginning of December, so it was quite a hot day. Normally shearing is done in October, however specialist alpaca shearers are few and far between and therefore are in high demand. This crew of shearers travelled up from Victoria for the task, and undertook a number of alpaca shearing jobs in the region that week.
Being a large animal, a lot of safety measures go in to preparing the alpaca for shearing both for the safety and comfort of the alpaca, and the safety of the shearer and other handlers.
Once they are off the ropes and released, they are frisky and free to feel the breeze on their skin once again.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little about alpacas today and if you have any more questions that weren’t answered here, either comment below or send me an email and I’ll get the answer for you pronto.
ALL AROUND THE BLOG CIRCLE, ALL AROUND THE WORLD
Thank you for reading! Please head on over to check out Tracy Allard of Penny Whistle Photography fetching pet and family portraits in Coppell, Carrollton and the greater Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex. Click the link at the bottom of each post until you end up right back here. I’d love to hear what you thought of this blog. Do you have a white dog in your life?
If you have an ethical farm on the Barrington Coast and would like to commission me to photograph your animals, I am available for both private and commercial work. Get in touch and we can tailor a package to suit your needs.
Dogs’ lives truly are too short. I’m learning that now with my senior dog and ever-increasingly white dog Daisy. Don’t wait until it’s too late, make a date and come visit us for your dog’s very own farm photography experience. Let’s get some stunning artwork up on your walls for generations to come. Let’s create a visual legacy for your dog.