Our Alpaca Babies (Cria) Born May/June 2014
Introduction to Alpacas
Alpacas- a member of the South American Camelid family. Originating in Bolivia, Chile & Peru, alpacas have formed an important part of pastoral life for 5000 – 6000 years .
It is believed alpacas were effectively created through selective breeding heavily influenced by the wild vicuna, itself a member of the camelid family. Alpacas were revered by the Incas & their predecessors, large herds being kept on the best pasture & being selectively bred for the fibre that was worn only by royalty & the aristocracy. In fact, such was the reverence for the buttery soft, luxurious alpaca clothing it became known as “The Fibre of the Gods”
The alpaca population suffered terribly at the hand of the Spanish Conquerors in the 1500’s. The Spaniards failed to recognise a civilisation that was based on textiles. Inca weavers made everything from bridges to roofs from fibres & they recorded their wealth in patterns of knots. Carefully tended herds divided by colour & quality; cloth was the currency of the Andean people & the alpaca fleece was one of the most valuable.
The Spaniards blinded by the abundance of gold, silver & precious stones embarked on a wholesale slaughter of alpacas & llamas in an effort to conquer the native people. Peruvian historians estimate 90% of the entire world’s alpaca population died as a result of this annihilation. Herds were dispersed with small pockets of animals being saved by the native population when they were secreted off to the highest, most inhospitable region of the Andes known as the Altipano, effectively a mountain desert that is very dry, windy and barren having only sparse vegetation
Alpacas faded in to the background of history……………..
In the late 1700’s and early 1800’s Europeans rediscovered alpacas during the Industrial Revolution
Sir Titus Salt, an Englishman, discovered alpaca fleece bales in Liverpool. Owning 4 textile mills Salt experimented with the alpaca fleece discovering it wove into an exquisite cloth, one highly suitable for making high quality, expensive dresses for the English upper class. Unlike his competitors who were processing sheep’s wool Sir Titus Salt designed his mills to accommodate the unique characteristics of processing alpaca fleece. Having a monopoly on taking raw alpaca fibre from South America the campesinos (poor native alpaca farmers) benefiited from a cash crop earned simply from shearing their alpacas & Salt went on to earn a fortune, becoming one of the richest men in Yorkshire.
Salt campaigned for cleaner, better working conditions in the textile industry. In 1848 Salt became Mayor of Bradford & after unsuccessfully trying to reduce pollution from local mills built an entirely new mill and company town dedicated to processing alpaca fleece – Saltaire was born, built on the banks of the river Aire in 1850, the new facility provided much better working conditions for his employees & eventually became the world’s primary producer of alpaca cloth
Salt became a Baronet in 1869 by Queen Victoria & died in 1876 & is widely recognised as plaing an important role in changing the working conditions of 19th Century England
By the late 1800’s almost the entire South American clip came to Yorkshire & alpaca maintained its lustre until the development of synthetic fibres in the 1900’s at which point both alpacas & their fibre once again largely faded from public awareness. Instead the world market became dominated by the expatriate companies based in Peru through which nearly all of Peru’s clip then passed
It is believed that alpacas were first introduced into England during the 1850’s and for a while at least it is known that Queen Victoria had a small herd at Windsor but alpacas failed to thrive. In England Alpaca became an exotic species and even in the late 1980’s probably the largest herd within the UK was at Twycross Zoo in Warwickshire
Major changes occurred in 1996 when large numbers of alpacas were imported from Chile & today it is believed more than 14,000 are registered in the UK
Alpacas have one of 2 fleece types; Hucaya or Suri but 95% of alpacas in the world are of the Hucaya type
Alpacas come in 22 different colours some solid coloured from white to black including fawn, brown & grey or multi-coloured
Alpacas make great pets & flock guards . They are alert, curious, calm & generally quite predictable. They are herd animals needing the companionship of other camelids & will huddle together or move en masse when frightened or wary
Communication is oftem made via a soft hum & with body language such as neck posturing, ear & tail postioning, & \ or head tilt. They have excellent eyesight & hearing and will alert the herd & their human keepers with a staccato alarm call of perceived danger.
Unlike the llama they rarely spit at people unless frightened or threatened but will spit at each other to register discontent – particularly at feeding time!
We are delighted & feel most priviledged to be able to feed most of our alpacas by hand & watch \ see them come to call
They are a sheer delight to own & watch at play & although relatively expensive to buy in the first instance, they are hardy animals & cost much less to feed than traditional domesticated animals
Alpacas are often kept for guarding chickens & young lambs against dog & foxes etc
Alpaca dung makes great manure & allegedly briquettes for the fire or woodburner!