Six myths about alpaca
Alpaca farmer David Bridson explains why a few myths are somewhat unfair to the sweet-faced alpaca.
THEY SPIT AT PEOPLE
They do spit at each other, but not usually at people. If you are unlucky enough to be spat on by an alpaca, chances are you have been caught in the cross-fire when they are confined, or a mother has given birth and she is protecting her newborn.
ALPACA DON’T RESPECT ELECTRIC FENCES
They can and they do, but it helps to train them after shearing when their skin is bare (alpaca fibre is a poor conductor of electricity).
YOU HAVE TO KNOW A LOT ABOUT FARMING TO KEEP ALPACA
Some knowledge of animals helps but you learn and build confidence as you go. Joining the New Zealand Alpaca Association and registering as a breeder is a good first step.
YOU HAVE TO FUSS OVER THEM
You don’t! They are remarkably hardy and tough animals and are easy to look after. If you are not sure about something, ask! We were lucky to have the support of Graeme and Kay O’Dea from Ridgedale Alpacas who sold us most of our animals. Graeme is endlessly patient and kind and his stockmanship builds confidence.
ALPACAS ARE AGGRESSIVE ANIMALS
They are – for the most part – gentle, placid animals that are inquisitive but they don’t like to be touched suddenly. They are farm animals, rather than domestic pets, so if you must pat one, stroke its neck.
ALPACA NEED EXPENSIVE SHELTER
For most of New Zealand the climate is mild enough that alpaca don’t need shelter, but like most animals they do appreciate some shade trees in the heat of summer. They are tough animals, well used to the extremes of climates like southern Peru, northern Chile, northern Bolivia and Ecuador where they are farmed at altitudes of 3500-5000m (11,500-16,000ft).