You adore the soft, fluffy fleece of the alpaca, that magical alpaca wool yarn, and you’re considering investing in a small herd for yourself. Maybe you already own a few of the animals and want to add desirable qualities to your herd. Here’s what you need to know about choosing the best alpaca breeder to buy from.
Are the animals fit, healthy and good natured?
The first sign of a good breeder is the condition of the animals. If the alpaca looks healthy and well-cared-for, you’re onto a good thing. Make sure you check each animal’s vaccination and worming records, and check they’re properly registered with either the British Alpaca Society or British Camelids, which in turn means you can check their parents and their pedigree.
Alpacas are usually good-natured, but it’s wise to get some face-to-face contact with them just in case they’re bad tempered. You can also check they’ve been halter trained by putting a halter on and leading the animals yourself.
Alpaca wool colours and quality
The colour of an alpaca doesn’t affect its temperament, of course, but white fleeces are more flexible for fibre production. Multicoloured animals make great pets but they’re not as good for wool because it comes out more than one colour. Whereas a white or solid-coloured animal’s fleece can be dyed. As you can imagine, white fleece is more desirable and costs more as a result.
Fibre tests are good, but there’s nothing quite like a hands-on test. Is the animal’s coat soft, lustrous and silky or harsh and scratchy? Is the fleece consistently thick? Is the skin in good condition too? Older animals provide coarser fleece, and their baby fleece is the most valuable of all.
Bad diet and poor nutrition can wreck an alpaca’s coat. Overfed animals produce coarser wool than those on a normal diet. And stress also makes their coats less than perfect. If their coats aren’t looking really good, the animals aren’t in their best condition.
How to read fibre test data
Have you asked for a fibre test? When you also know the date the sample was taken and the date of birth of the animal, you can make sensible judgments about its fibre. Never judge an animal on its fibre test results alone. Knowing the animal, seeing it in action, makes it much easier to interpret the test results and understand the strengths and weaknesses of the individual.
The animal’s proportions
If an alpaca has poor bone structure it’ll show up in its shape and proportions, and can affect its movement. Poor bites, where the bottom teeth don’t meet the top plate properly, can result in problems eating, and if their genitals aren’t quite right it’ll be a struggle to get them to breed. Look at them from the front or back and you can see they have straight legs, not too close together, with forward-pointing toes and a straight back. Their bottom teeth need to meet the top plate neatly.
Ask an expert
We’re experts in alpaca welfare and breeding. Spotting good Alpaca conformation takes practice, but not to worry, if you’re not 100% confident we can help you through the process. We always choose our animals with good conformation in mind, and our love for these quirky beasts means you can trust us to put their welfare – and yours as an owner – first.