Starting your own herd Part 2: How to choose my alpacas and what to avoid

Updated: Feb 17

We hope our previous blog on ‘Starting your own herd: How many alpacas should I have’ helped you decide on the quantity and genders of alpacas you intend to keep, as well as providing you with different budget options. So, let’s discuss next steps…

Selecting your alpacas

Ideally, the alpacas you purchase should be registered with the British Alpaca Society and the owner should be able to provide you with a copy of their health records, including details of any recent vaccinations and treatments. We highly recommend you visit your potential alpacas before purchasing; this will allow you to view the herd first-hand, as well as assessing their health and temperament when handled.

TOP TIP: Where possible, assess and purchase alpacas soon after shearing so you can really easily see their conformation.

Ideal criteria:

  • General good health, alertness and temperament

  • Good conformation with similar length in the leg, body and neck (with each making up around 1/3 of the alpaca’s height)

  • Straight legs from the front view

  • Correctly shaped head (like a wedge with a good top knot!)

  • Straight back

  • Sound feet

  • Sound teeth (alpacas do not have upper teeth, but their lower teeth should reach the hard upper palette evenly)

  • Good body score (not too overweight or underweight)

  • Healthy, supple skin

  • Good fleece covering

Things to avoid:

  • ‘U neck’ (where the neck dips down before heading up and along the back)

  • Sickle-hocked or cow-hocked legs

  • A back that is humped, sway (dipped) or too short/long

  • Legs too close to each other (this indicates a narrow chest)

  • Short or long muzzle

  • Overshot or undershot jaw

Blue-eyed whites

A special mention should be given to blue-eyed white alpacas. The vast majority of blue-eyed white alpacas (around 80%) are deaf and are typically considered as carrying a fault; therefore, they are not suitable for breeding.

If you are seeking a friendly alpaca that you do not intend to breed, you do not need to worry about blue-eyed white alpacas, as they can happily live their lives as part of a herd. However, if you do intend to breed your alpacas, we recommend that you avoid purchasing blue-eyed whites. Most breeders will automatically ‘list’ any blue-eyed white cria with the British Alpaca Society, preventing any young they produce later in life to be fully registered.

Other considerations

Cria should be at least 6 months old before they can leave the Dam (Mum).

If you are intending to walk your herd, make sure you select alpacas who have a friendly temperament, have already been halter trained, or are young enough to be trained (about 6-12 months of age).

It is a good idea to make contact with your vet before purchasing your alpacas. This will allow you to establish if they have any experience dealing with alpacas, or if you need to contact a specific camelid specialist.

It is also worth reaching out to alpaca shearers before bringing your new herd home. This is especially important if you will be purchasing alpacas during the early spring (before they have been shorn), so that you don’t end up with very hot alpacas during the summer months – alpaca shearers can get booked up a long time in advance! Do not be tempted to use sheep shearers on alpacas, as they are not suitable for camelids.

Still interested in keeping alpacas? We highly recommend building a basic knowledge of their husbandry requirements as a starting point. Amazing Alpacas near Monmouth in Wales offer a wide range of fantastic courses on keeping alpacas, providing you with practical experience on handling camelids. If you have any questions or require further support, please get in touch with us here at Fostings Alpacas – we would be happy to help!

P.S. Did you know that you can stay with our alpacas at Hush Hush Glamping? Click here to discover more.

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