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Would You Consider An Alpaca?

August 7, 2015

Would You Consider An Alpaca?

Normally I write to you on a more equestrian theme but, based on the fact that 80% of people who ride also own a dog, I figured that most horse loving people actually enjoy most animals. Therefore, if you haven’t yet had the chance to be acquainted with an alpaca, I urge you to do so, as soon as the chance arises.
I can only describe them as teddies with long legs! They have the most comical faces and are terribly inquisitive and make great companions for horses and humans!
Once my children have finished their education, I am hoping to buy a small-holding and start my alpaca journey, alongside luvponies of course!
So, here’s a few facts that you might not know about these delightful animals and how to go about discovering them!
1. They’re ancient
Alpacas were domesticated by the Incas, more than 6,000 years ago and raised for their exquisite fleece. Due to its quality and all of its superhero characteristics, alpaca fibre was reserved exclusively for the elite and nobility.
2. They’re trendy
In 1984, a small group of importers brought the first of a carefully selected herd to the United States and Canada, and they’ve been dotting the bucolic landscape ever since. The North American herd has grown from a few alpacas in zoos and private farms to about 20,000.
3. They grow superlative, hypoallergenic fleece
Alpaca fibre is much like sheep’s wool, but warmer and not itchy. It is lacking in lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic and also allows it to be processed without the need for high temperatures or harsh chemicals in washing.
4. They're flame-resistant!
Well, technically their fibre is flame-resistant, meeting the standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's rigid testing specifications as a Class 1 fibre for use in clothing and furnishings.
5. They're water-resistant
Like wool, alpaca fiber is water-resistant, but it can wick away moisture because of its unique ability to mimic cotton in moisture regain. These attributes are what make alpaca feel lighter than wool, but warmer than cotton in cool and damp climates.
6. They come in a rainbow of hues
Alpaca fibre comes in sixteen tones, that are recognized by the textile industry, from white to light rose grey to dark fawn, in addition to the blends that can be made from those, thus minimizing the need for pollution-intensive dying.
7. There are two types of alpacas in this world...
Alpacas come in two types: Suri and the Huacaya. The Suri has fibre that grows long and forms silky dreadlocks. The Huacaya has a woolly, dense, crimped fleece — like a teddy bear — giving it a very woolly appearance. About 90% of all alpacas in the North America are Huacayas.
8. They can mix and match
Alpacas and llamas can successfully cross-breed. The offspring they create are known as Huarizo, which are valued for their longer fleece.
9. They share a bathroom
Alpacas use a communal dung pile (where they do not graze, thankfully). Because of their predisposition for using a dung pile, some alpacas have been successfully house-trained.
10. They hum and haw ... and orgle
Humming is the most common sound that alpacas make, which has been described as a kind of musical purring. Alpacas hum when they are curious, content, worried, bored, fearful, distressed or cautious. When startled or in danger, a staccato braying is started by one animal, then followed by the rest of the herd in the direction of the potential threat. During breeding, the male alpaca Romeo emits a unique throaty vocalization called “orgling.”

Tempted? Well wait until I tell you that the babies are called a Cria and are extremely cute!

Fancy having a baby alpaca? Here’s some helpful facts;
The average gestation period for alpacas is 350+ days. The best time of year to have female alpacas give birth is either Spring or early Autumn.  The birthing date is hard to anticipate so you have to be prepared in advance. Close to the due date it is recommended that you move the pregnant female to a pasture close to the house so you can monitor the female’s progress. The males should be kept in a separate pasture so that they don’t harm the female or Cria when it is born. Crias are normally born during the morning or into the early afternoon and will usually be born with no required intervention. Births in the late afternoon or into the evening may indicate a problem.   
So where can you find out more about these intelligent and gentle creatures? I came face to face with my first alpaca at a show held at the NEC in Birmingham two years ago. How I didn’t come home with one, there and then I’ll never know. My husband started getting very worried when I started pacing out my garden to see if we had enough space! Due to Alpacas being very sociable and affectionate they need to be in two’s, so sadly the garden wasn’t big enough.
If you’d like to attend a similar show then you can sign up for email updates with the British Alpaca Futurity be prepared though, you’ll be smitten!
Some of you may remember a very comical advert that ran on television last year by Honda? It featured a lovely lady on a sit-on mower herding up her alpacas! Her name is Philippa Wills and I was fortunate enough to meet her at the show I attended at the NEC. She is truly delightful and absolutely passionate about her alpacas.
You can go and visit Philippa at her home in Oxfordshire and meet her alpaca family. She’ll even let you take one for a walk! Visits are by appointment and here’s a link to her website where you will find all the details you’ll need.
The ‘Great House’ in Oxfordshire

There are many events on during the year, that you and your family can attend. I’ve listed some of the below for you. What a perfect way to spend a summer day with the kids!
The Ellingham and Ringwood Show is on the 8thAugust 2015.
A friendly and informal short fleece halter show, held as part of The Ellingham and Ringwood Agricultural Show in the country estate of Somerley Park. It is a very well attended show, and the alpacas always create a great deal of interest. It is an outdoor event and exhibitors will be parked around the show ring. You will need to bring your own penning/hurdles, and anything else that is dependent on the weather forecast.
On the 10th September there’s the Westmorland County Show being held at Westmorland County Agricultural Society Ltd Lane Farm, Crooklands, Nr Milnthorpe , Cumbria LA7 7NH
On the 27th September there’s the Heart of England Fleece Show being held at Ford Farm Barn Chapel Road Ford Bucks HP17 8XE.
On the 24th October there’s the Yorkshire Alpaca Group Show being held at Thirsk Auction Mart, Blakey La, Thirsk YO7 3AB
Then something for your future diary – the BAS National Show 2016 details can be found here -

Well, if you’d made it to the bottom of the page, then you must be thinking ‘mmmm – could I have some alpacas??’ Here’s some facts you’ll need to seriously consider first.

  • You have a pretty good idea on what alpacas are like, and that they won’t be like having a dog or having a horse.
  • You are ready to commit to their care and feeding for the next fifteen to twenty years. That’s as long as a child, you know! With no university breaks!
  • You have the space to pasture them and means to protect them from harm.
  • You’ve thought about what you will do when you want to go somewhere for a weekend or a vacation. They can’t feed and water themselves. You’ll need a caregiver that comes daily.  If you like to travel a lot, are you really prepared for a 24/7 responsibility that you can't carry along with you?

Alpacas are amazing! They are unlike any other creature I have met before, and I’ve met quite a few! They deserve you taking a carefully considered five days to make sure you are making the right decision before signing on the bottom line. After all, any alpaca breeder worth their salt will be very glad to hold those darlings for you while you try very hard not to think about how those eyes looked at you, and think about poop scooping, hay purchasing, hauling water in bad weather, and especially the long term commitment you are making to these creatures. And at the end of those five days, if you’re as sure as you were the week prior, welcome to the fold! The alpaca community will be there for you, helping you learn about these soulful creatures, as there is so much yet to learn! The next twenty years will be some of the most peaceful in your life.

Happy ‘Alpaca-ing’!!!

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