We have owned Alpaca since 2005, starting with wethers to see how they would go 680m above sea level in the high rainfall Ruapehu area. They thrived and we had our first females a year later.
We find them rewarding animals, different from the usual farm and domestic animals, easy to look after, nosey, colourful and always interesting
We have both Huacaya (the fleece is crimpy, a bit like a sheep) and Suri (the fleece hangs in long, wavy locks and feels slippery). Our aim is to improve the quality of the fleeces, which are potentially very valuable, by judicious breeding. We also consider, temperament, mothering ability and regular breeding to be of paramount importance. We enjoy having a variety of colours and 22 are recognised by AANZ
When the two types are bred together, the first generation looks like Suri and in a further generation or two they are full suri. We were lucky to find a really good, proven Suri stud male in 2008 who is fathering some fine animals and we now have a young Huacaya male and so far he has one cria, a female.
The fleece industry is in its early stages of growth. If you have an interest in crafts, then alpaca fleece is excellent. It has almost no grease and can be washed, carded and spun at home, then knitted, woven or felted. It is lighter, less itchy, and has fineness akin to merino. There are plenty of small businesses who can card the fleece for you and just a few who can turn it into yarn or felt.
There is a Suri group of breeders who are working to open a mill for this very special fibre and another, (ABANZ) who are working to develop both a mill and further processing facility for the Huacaya.
There are a number of breeders who have their fleeces processed and then make a wide variety of mostly knitted garments of very high quality in both natural fleece colour or dyed. Fleece can also used for toys, blankets, rugs and insulation and almost anything that can be made from sheep wool.