In the meadow behind our B&B, you’ll find our 11 alpacas, 7 females and 4 males. Five of them were born at our farm. Alpacas are camel-like animals, originally from the South American Andes mountains. The male are called stallion, the female mare and the young are called cria. Alpacas have a soft, woolly fleece. Per year, an alpaca produces 4 to 5 kilos of wool, or 3 to 4 if kept as a pet.
The animals make a soft humming sound. If approached calmly, they may become friendly. But they will keep their flight instinct, which means that they will walk away from unknown people. On the other hand, they’re curious, and will come back to investigate. Alpacas ressemble horses in their behaviour; better not stand behind them, as they might kick. Educating alpacas is rather time consuming. But it’s important to win their confidence, as their hooves must be trimmed and their fleece sheared each year. Grass, lots of hay and some nutritive pellets keeps them happy. A 1.20 meter high fence is all that is needed to keep them inside their pen, an electric fence won’t work because of their thick fleece. Shearing is not only necessary to strip them of their wool, but also to check whether they suffer from parasites or infections and verify their general condition.
In the Netherlands, we know 2 kinds of alpaca, the Suri alpaca and the Huacaya alpaca. Our alpacas are the latter type. Mares can be bred all year round; the gestation period is between 340 and 345 days. Birth is a mothers’ task. Humans usually do more harm than good. Even if they mean well, human carers are generally not welcome and only cause stress. Jokingly, it is said that as a carer, you should carry two items, namely binoculars and a piece of string. The binoculars serve to observe the birth from afar, and the string to bind your hands to keep you from interfering. Carers tend to interfere prematurely in the birth process. Of course, it is their duty to help in case of problems, but usually, the animals are capable of doing everything themselves. Because of her short tongue, the mare is unable to lick her cria to help it dry. This is the reason why crias are usually born in daytime, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., to get the sun to dry their coat.