Alpacas have adapted very well to life in Northern Ireland and are generally hardy, healthy animals that are relatively easy to keep. However, it is important to be aware of acceptable ways of keeping this class of animal, including basic knowledge of their nutrition, exercise needs, breeding regimes, normal and abnormal behaviours etc.
Alpacas are sociable, herd animals, therefore a single alpaca cannot be kept on its own. Many people start by keeping a small group of gelded males (wethers) or a small group of females.
As semi-ruminants, alpacas eat grass throughout the year. They are browsers rather than grazers, so you can keep 3-5 alpacas per acre, depending on conditions. Their diet is supplemented with hay and other feeds, particularly in winter.
Alpacas are hardy, healthy animals and live outside year round. However, they need a shelter for protection from the rain and (occasionally in our climate) the sun. They need annual vaccinations and regular worming.
Alpacas need shearing once a year, although suris are sometimes sheared every other year. On average, a fleece will weigh 2.5 kg but some alpacas have the potential to produce up to 5kg. It is also necessary to regularly trim toenails and teeth, depending on growth. Our local alpaca shearer Matthew Kyle can be contacted on 07709782957, shearing will take place from April until July. Ballymac Alpaca also hold a shearing day in April in association with the NIAG.
Insurance for alpacas and alpaca related activities including showing, trekking or farm insurance can be purchased from a few companies.
Most commonly this is through;
‘Insure My Alpaca‘ (t/a) H&H Insurance Brokers Ltd, contact Paul Graham on email@example.com or on 01228406310 – currently unable to insure alpacas but hope to resume service later in the Summer (June 2022).
‘NFU Mutual‘, contact Richard Perrin on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 02891814218
‘Cliverton’ contact on email@example.com or on 01328857921 .
WHAT TO DO WITH THE FIBRE (WOOL)
Alpaca fibre can be used for a multitude of things including spinning, carding, felting and insulation.
The BAS website sums this up perfectly in this post; Alpaca fibre processing – The British Alpaca Society (bas-uk.com)
For more information consult the British Alpaca Society website