Promoting understanding
and compassion for animals

Alpacas

We have four alpacas – Marco, Polo, Troupador and Heathcliff.

Alpacas are amazing animals to look at and have always reminded me of the Push-Me-Pull-You from Doctor Doolittle. They come from the high altitude areas of South America and are extremely hardy animals. Being a herd animal they need to be kept in a group or at least in a pair. They are inquisitive and fun loving and spend many hours a day simply playing.

Alpacas

In my experience, alpacas are quite timid and do not like being handled. They especially do not like hands. If you want to say hello to our guys you have to keep you hands by your sides and put your face to them. They will then quite happily come over and nose and smell you. While they do have a reputation for spitting, we never had a problem with it until recently.  They also do not usually kick but again, one of ours does (Marco).

I bought our alpacas (all castrated males) because I wanted to have a variety of animals and because they are quite unique. A lot of people have never seen an alpaca and are fascinated by them. This provides a great opportunity to open up conversation about animals, their personalities and welfare issues.

Talking of personalities, one of our alpacas is an amazing character. Troupador likes to consider himself ‘the boss’. He is the one who always runs over first whenever there is any activity or new person to inspect. The tough guy image that he projects is incredibly convincing except when it comes to shearing.  Then ‘Troup’ becomes a crying, trembling baby who can’t walk and has to be carried. Meanwhile the other three are stoic and brave. Troup also is our resident spitter and has recently disgraced himself by spitting on two of our visitors.  However despite all of this, Troup is a firm favourite with our youngest daughter Alana. Alana appreciates his bravado and (fake) confidence and he seems attached to her also.

Shearing time is in November and like sheep, alpacas need to be shorn once a year. However the actual shearing process is quite different. Because of their size and body structure (especially their long neck which would be easily broken) they are tied down onto a table when shorn. When one side is complete, they need to be swapped over to the other side. Although it looks barbaric, utmost care is taken with the animals and they are not injured in any way. Our shearer, Glenn is extremely careful and in the seven years that he has been shearing for us, has never cut one of the boys even slightly. They are also given two injections at the same time – one Ivomectin for worms and a  5 in 1 vaccination. We also trim their toenails while we have the opportunity.

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