Alpaca - the fibre of the gods

Tadam with the Alpacas
Tadam with the Alpacas

On a fieldtrip to the Wairarapa, ELTO officials met some strange looking animals they had never seen before. Do Huu Phuong, from the Livestock Production Division in Vietnam reports.

A visit to an alpaca farm in the Wairarapa, Paretai Alpacas, has made a big impression on me. That was the first time I had seen real alpacas. Their wool is very soft, strong and unique. Therefore, it is called the most luxurious and valuable fibre in the world and is known as “Fibre of the Gods”.

Although the nine acre farm has only 17 livestock, the owners, Richard and Miriam Williams have been thriving from their business. Richard explained that they try to maximise income from diversifying the commodities. He sells stock, wool and provides a breeding service. One mating session costs $750. It is unbelievable! Mr. Borey was right when he said that alpaca males are happy if compared to other types of livestock. Thanks to his talk, I got some basic information on alpaca such as feeding, mating, gestation length, vaccination and worming.

The alpaca belongs to the camel family and originates from South America. Unlike the true ruminant they have three compartments to their stomach not four. I misunderstood as I had thought an alpaca is a llama. But they are quite different. Llamas are used for carrying loads on their backs in special packs while alpacas are mainly for wool.

In addition, the Williams’ business includes farming and tourism. They have joined with a local tourism agency and it is successful. I think this is a good example of ecotourism. Visitors could be trained and given useful information on alpaca. Some information is quite new and strange to me even thought I am a specialist in livestock production. For example, a pregnant female will reject any further amorous advances from the male by spitting at the poor chap! I love her clearly and but get a strong reaction! It also provides us with a very natural and easy pregnancy diagnosis method.

New Zealand ’s alpaca industry has been developing for a decade. There are about five thousand alpacas in New Zealand. Although this is a low number compared to other types of stock, New Zealand has quickly penetrated the worldwide market and exported successfully many sires and top stub boys. Alpaca breeding enables the farmers to not only diversify their livestock breeds but also earn more benefits from their farm.