On this page you’ll find the information you need to buy alpacas with confidence:
- how you can get independent help in selecting alpacas to suit your business aims;
- what to look for when checking an alpacas Conformation;
- how to judge Fibre Quality;
- what to look for in an animals Pedigree;
- considering an alpacas Reproductive History;
- what an alpaca will Cost you;
Issues to Consider when Buying an Alpaca
Most breeders will give you invaluable advice about how to keep and breed alpacas. However, it is also in their interests to convince you that the alpacas they have for sale are the ones that you should buy, when actually they may not be. Your largest financial investment will be in your foundation herd animals, so it makes sense to find the best quality individual alpacas you can for your budget. You are most likely to achieve this if you shop around and buy from different breeders. Of course you need to know what to look for and the pointers in the sections below will help you make the right choice. However, you can make sure you make the right choice and protect your investment by taking an independent expert along with you when you buy.
Pick your perfect Alpaca!
You may well have a personal preference for alpacas of a certain style e.g. compact animals with short faces. Whilst it is important to buy alpacas that you like the look of it is more important to buy an alpaca that is physically sound and able to do the job you are buying it for, for example if you are buying it to breed from it must be fertile. This physical make up is known as its conformation.
An alpacas neck should be 2/3rds the length of it’s back, and it’s legs should be the same length as the depth of it’s body from withers to chest. You should be able to draw a square from the point of the withers to the croup and down to the ground from both points. The topline in an alpaca should be level but slightly rounded with the tail set slightly below it.
Ideally the head should be triangular in profile and look straight when viewed from the front. The ears should be straight, spear shaped and fully open along their length. The eyes should be clear and bright. Many people avoid alpacas with blue eyes due to concerns that they may be associated with deafness. The jaws should be similar on both sides, feel along them for any unusual swellings which may indicate a tooth absess. These are quite common and can be difficult to treat effectively. The teeth should meet the end of the dental pad (in the upper jaw) and should not over or under shoot it as this will make it harder for the alpaca to graze effectively.
Legs & Feet
Should be straight when viewed from the front, back and sides apart from the normal angulation of the joints. Strong rear legs are essential in a stud male (substance of bone) as he will spend a good proportion of his time standing only on these as he tries to bring females down for mating. The feet should have two straight toes on each one and all be of a similar size. If the toenails are badly overgrown and distorted consider whether you will be able to correct this with trimming before you decide to buy.
Reproductive Organs & Tail
If you are buying a male for show or breeding purposes he should have two evenly sized testicles descended into the scrotum, which move freely when palpitated. In an adult male these should be bigger than 3cm in diameter. In a breeding female the vulva should be clearly separated from the anus and have an opening of at least 1cm. Any reputable breeder will provide a guarantee of fertility where they will accept the animal back and give a full refund should the animal fail to breed. The tail should be straight without any kinks (unless there is evidence this was due to an injury).
There are two main reasons to consider pedigree when buying an alpaca: to be certain of its provenance and to bring specific bloodlines into your herd.
To be certain of the provenance of your alpaca you should only buy ones which appear on a recognised pedigree registry such as that run by the British Alpaca Society. It has been known for stolen alpacas to be offered for sale at markets and bought by unsuspecting people who then lose both them and the money they pay for them when they are recovered. By buying a registered alpaca you will know its parentage and it will be microchipped.
When considering buying a particular alpaca looking at its pedigree and considering its parents, grandparents and bloodlines can give you valuable information that can help you to make sure they will fit into your herd and further your breeding plans and goals.
Buying proven breeding males and females will help you avoid alpacas that have breeding problems. For example ask whether a female has given birth to a live cria every year since she started breeding. If she hasn’t find out why. Does she conceive and birth easily? Do her cria thrive and grow on well, does she produce enough milk? If they are available ask to see her previous cria. For a breeding male ask how many live cria he has sired and how many matings have not resulted in a pregnancy, ask to see his cria, if they are similar to each other that is a good sign.
Personality - Issues to Consider When Buying an Alpaca
Alpacas vary in temperament with some being more easy going and easy to handle than others. Handle any alpaca before you buy it to make sure it’s personality fits with yours and you feel relaxed and confident handling it. Whatever alpaca you choose if you are uptight and stressed the alpaca will be too. Take a deep breath, let it out and relax before you start.
There are a number of characteristics used to judge the quality of an alpacas fleece and the purposes it can subsequently be used for, each of these is described below.
Measured in microns this is simply the diameter of each individual hair in the fleece. When you see micron values expressed for an alpaca they will be based on the average diameter of a sample of fibres taken from the alpacas blanket area. Ideally the sample should include fibre taken from the shoulder and rump as well as fineness may not carry through into these areas. The average diameter of an alpacas fleece usually declines as it ages.
This aspect reflects how the fleece feels to the touch. Poorer fleeces will feel harsh, whilst the best will feel silky and extremely soft. This will affect how a product produced from the fleece feels to the touch. Cria fleeces should always feel softer than adult fleeces. In good Suri fleece you should also get a cool, slick feel when you run the back of your hand down the front of their necks.
Statistically measured in hairs per inch of skin this is normally judged by look, feel, and the amount of fleece cut at the annual shearing. The denser an alpaca the more fleece it will cut and therefore the more potential fibre there is to produce end products with. A denser fleece will also keep cleaner and freer from debris, another processing bonus. Advanced Huacaya fleeces will show bundling of the fibre into defined matchsticks and pencils.
Brightness or Lustre
This is simply the amount of light reflected back by the fleece, called brightness in Huacayas and lustre in Suris. It is desirable because this quality will come through into any end product made with the fibre. This visual quality can be affected by the amount of dirt and dust in the fleece, although these should wash out when processed.
Degree of Guard Hair
Guard hairs are long straight fibres much thicker than the rest of the fleece which stand out above it. They give a halo effect around the alpaca. It is not unusual to see some guard hair around the belly or chest even of well bred alpacas, however you do not want much in the blanket as this fibre won’t take die or lay flat when processed.
This is a visual judgement of how consistently the: fineness; any character or crimp; the colour; and the length of the fleece carry across the alpaca. In the best alpacas you will see the same fineness, colour and character carried into the shoulder, rump, up into the neck and head and into the tail, whilst the length of fibre in the blanket area will not vary.
Character & Crimp – Huacayas
Huacaya fleece varies from being totally straight through to fully crimped. Many people prefer crimped fibre, because it is thought to be linked to fineness, and for the same length of staple there will be more fibre than in a straight fleece. Click on the thumbnail picture below to see an example of highly organised crimpy fleece.
Style – Suris
There are five recognised styles of Suri lock type as follows: Tight Ringlet where the lock twists into tight ringlets almost to the skin; Wave & Twist Ringlet where the lock shows a small wave combined with a twist into a ringlet; Corkscrew Ringlet where the fibre grows in a corkscrew like curl and also in a ringlet formation; Large Broad Wave where the fibre grows in a flatish broad lock that looks much larger than any of the above; and finally Straight Lock where the fibre shows no sign of a ringlet , wave or curl.
The longer an alpacas fleece grows over 12 months the more fleece you will have to process and the more end product you will be able to make.
The best alpacas carry longer fibre right down their legs, up their neck and onto the face, on Huacayas this gives them a teddy bear look.
Alpacas are available to suit most pockets. Depending on quality you can expect to pay anything upwards from £300 for a gelded male, and from £2,000 for a potential stud male, and £1,500 for a pregnant female. It is possible to pay considerably more than this for alpacas from well known breeders and top bloodlines.