Alpacas can be farmed for fibre, meat and leather but in Australia, are grown mainly for their fibre. Alpaca fibre is soft, light, warm and comfortable when worn next to the skin and is categorised as a luxury fibre, being processed into a range of high-quality garments and home wares. Farming alpacas for meat is new in Australia and very small scale with farmers usually selling directly to restaurants.
Alpacas are grazing animals and can be run under the same climate and conditions as merino sheep. Alpacas are relatively easy to care for and cause minimal damage to fragile soils as they have soft feet rather than hooves. In addition to farming for production, alpacas can be run with sheep and goats as guards to protect the herd against predation from foxes.
The industry organisation for alpacas, the Australian Alpaca Association (AAA), can provide comprehensive information on all aspects of alpaca farming including sales and marketing.
Facts and figures
- Alpacas are a grazing herd animal native to South America
- There are two main types of alpacas – Huacaya and Suri
- In Australia, alpacas are farmed mainly for fibre production, with small markets for meat and leather
- In 2011-12 an estimated 188 tonnes of alpaca fibre was produced in Australia with a gross value of AU$2.6M
- Alpacas thrive under similar conditions to merino sheep
- Alpacas are considered ‘green’ as their soft feet cause minimal damage to fragile soils, they do not suffer from flystrike or require mulesing and have similar nutritional requirements to sheep
Alpacas are currently farmed across the temperate and cooler parts of Australia. As at 2011-12, the registered herd size in Australia was around 132 000 with an estimated fleece production of 188 tonnes of fibre with a gross value of AU$2.6M.