What are alpacas and why do people keep them?

Updated: Mar 13

What is an Alpaca?

Alpacas are herbivorous, fleeced animals that come in a wide variety of colours – from snowy white through to fawn and chocolate browns, to ash greys and midnight blacks. Alpacas are extremely friendly and docile animals, standing at an average height of just 3ft.

Originating from the mountain ranges in southern America, alpacas are descendants of the vicuñas. They belong to the ‘Camelid’ family, alongside camels, guanacos and llamas. Alpacas are very sociable animals – they have been completely domesticated since their beginnings (around 6000 years ago), so you will not find alpacas in the wild. Alpacas are accustomed to being around people and they thrive in groups.

What is the difference between alpacas and llamas?

You can tell the difference between alpacas and llamas their size and fleeces: alpacas are smaller and are bred for their fibre (fleece) quality, whereas llamas are bigger and shaggier, and were bred for carrying goods across the mountains. Another key difference is their ears: llamas have banana-shaped ears, whereas alpacas have much straighter ears. Alpacas are descended from vicuña whilst llamas are descended from Guanacos.

Why Keep Alpacas?

People keep alpacas for all sorts of different reasons – from field pets to show stock to commercial herds. Just like humans, alpacas have a variety of personalities – whether cheeky, bold or loving! Alpacas can help to reduce stress and bring happiness into your life and are an absolute pleasure to watch at dusk when they play; leaping and prancing across the field! Whatever your reason for keeping alpacas, we promise you that it will be a rewarding and positive experience!

Here are some specific reasons why people may choose to invest in these kind and docile creatures:

  • The calm and gentle nature of alpacas makes them the ideal field pet (if you have some spare acreage). If trained from an early age, alpacas can be walked, so you can go out on a stroll and explore together!

  • There is a recent trend of farmers incorporating alpacas within their herds. This is because alpacas make excellent flock guards for turkeys, chicken and sheep, as they are really good at chasing away uninvited wildlife.

  • Alpaca breeders keep alpacas to produce annual stocks of crias (baby alpacas) to maintain their own breeding herd, to improve genetics, or to sell to other breeders, smallholders and hobby farmers etc.

  • Their fleeces can be used to produce soft fibre products, including cosy blankets, socks and hats.

​Why we chose alpacas at Fostings Farm

Here at Fostings, we decided to keep alpacas as Alice has been fascinated by llamas and alpacas since her school years. She worked with a small group of alpacas over several years, and she discovered first-hand how humans could build strong relationships with these caring creatures. We wished to dedicate more time to individual animals rather than traditional farming, and so looked to alpacas. Our friendly alpacas also work well alongside our adult only glamping business at the farm.

We provide stud services for alpaca keepers who do not have enough space and/or females to warrant keeping their own stud male. We also rear healthy and friendly crias from happy adult alpacas, which make wonderful field pets for fellow avid alpaca keepers.

How to begin your alpaca journey

If you are interested in keeping alpacas, we recommend you visit a few alpaca keepers in order to discover first-hand how herds are managed and cared for. You will receive some much-needed advice and guidance, and may even get some personal experience in handling them!

Here at Fostings Alpacas, we offer valuable guidance and support to individuals who are considering keeping alpacas, as well as welcoming you to visit our stunning herd. Please get in touch for further information or to arrange your visit.

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