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HISTORY OF ALPACAS

Alpacas are rare and precious animals, that were originally treasured by the ancient Incas for their fine fleece, with the animals being owned by royalty only and the people owning their cousins the Llama.

Together with their close relatives, the llamas, guanaco and vicuna (collectively known as South American Camelids) alpacas provided clothing, food, fuel and companionship as domesticated animals as long ago as 5,000 years.

During the Spanish invasion in the 1500s, the majority of alpacas were slaughtered. The remaining alpacas retreated to the high mountain regions where the newly introduced cattle and sheep could not survive. It was only their resilience and tolerance of harsh climates that saw their continued existence in the Andes. Their value was rediscovered and again utilised during the 1800s.

Today, alpaca farming is concentrated in the Altiplano - the high altitude regions of Southern Peru, Bolivia and Chile where life is difficult. Alpacas not only battle a harsh climate - burning sun by day, freezing conditions at night - but also receive few of the benefits of modern animal husbandry. Yet they survive, although in relatively small numbers with high mortality rates due to the harsh conditions and little knowledge of modern approaches to farming. In their homeland of South America, Peru has approximately 2.5 million, Bolivia around 500,000 and there are only some 50,000 in Chile and Argentina combined.

There are approximately 120,000 alpacas in Australia increasing at approx 20%pa. While the outlook for fibre sales is excellent, the emphasis in this young Australian industry will be on breeding for the foreseeable future.

Again, Australia finds itself at the forefront of a new rural industry development. Alpacas, for a whole host of reasons, are one of the most exciting herd options available in this country today. With Australia now boasting the largest herd outside of South American and we are emerging as the best breeders in the world!

5 Jan 14



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