Is it a sheep? Is it a llama? No, it’s an alpaca!
If you’ve stayed at The Coach House Farm you may well have seen our alpacas. It might be that they were inconspicuous lying amongst the sheep until a very long neck popped up and gave the game away. When in the field opposite the cottage, they often prompt questions, so here’s our Alpacas FAQ!
Are they llamas?
Alpacas belong to the camelid family so are closely related to the llama. Both species originate in South America with most found in Peru and (in smaller numbers) in Chile and Bolivia. Llamas and alpacas have been domesticated for thousands of years.
Alpacas are smaller than llamas and are easier to handle and train. They are happiest in a herd whereas llamas are often more independent.
Alpacas A llama
Do they spit?
Rarely. You will occasionally see them spit at each other when having a tiff!
Do you sell the wool?
Just like the sheep, the alpacas are shorn mainly for their own comfort – try wearing a thick wool jumper in the middle of summer!
Whereas sheep wool is worth just a fraction of what it was at the height of the wool trade (you might make some indent on the shearer’s fee), alpaca wool is more sought after as it makes a very soft and durable end product. This is also another difference between alpacas and llamas as the latter have quite a coarse fleece.
Why do you keep them?
The alpacas’ main purpose is to protect new-born lambs from the fox. We usually lamb in the spring so every March/April the alpacas earn their keep by fending off foxes. They are very alert to predators and although shy with humans don’t hesitate to scare off animals that pose a threat to the flock. This instinctive behaviour originates in their South American roots where the alpacas’ many natural predators include the fox, which will take an unguarded ‘cria’ (baby) especially if it is weak or unwell. The Australians have used alpacas for the purpose of guarding livestock for over 17 years and the method seems to have rapidly grown in popularity in the UK in recent years as word spreads about its effectiveness for keepers of both sheep and foul.