New Zealand Alpaca Industry Growing

by Al Williams
The alpaca industry is starting to pick up after a quiet couple of years, Waimate breeder Ineke van Neuren says.

More breeders are making their fleeces into yarn and several fibre pools have started up, she says.

"Fibre quality is improving every year and returns for fibre are getting better; this year has been very good compared to last year."

The recently established South Canterbury A & P Association featured alpacas for the first time in 2011, where the animals were led into the show ring by exhibitors and judged on conformation and fleece.

Ineke and Jacob van Neuren farm 30 alpacas with five births scheduled in the coming weeks.

"Last year the industry had problems with ryegrass staggers and a nasty virus," she says. "All the sunshine this year has been very good for the alpacas; they love sunbathing, and with enough feed around, they have spent a lot of time out in it this summer."

She says the animals originate from the Altiplano in South America and are used to very intense sunlight, which creates a high level of vitamin D for them. "At lower levels and climates with less sunlight we need to supplement them with Vitamin D."

They are born late summer and early autumn in the lower South Island because the weather is settled with plenty of sunshine and low rainfall, she says.

"Alpacas do not have lanolin in their fleece like sheep and their mothers do not lick them dry; this make them very susceptible to the cold.

"Alpaca babies are normally born on a fine day between 9am and 2pm; any earlier in their country of origin and they may freeze, and any later and they won't dry out before night time and may suffer from the cold."

Alpacas Association of New Zealand donated two trophies to the South Canterbury A & P Association in 2011.

The Murray Bruce Perpetual Trophy for champion huacaya alpaca was named after the man who started the paperwork for the importing of alpacas from Chile to New Zealand in 1984.

In 1989, Mr Bruce imported 270 alpacas and many of the animals in New Zealand now are descendants of those first arrivals.

The Erik van Schreven Memorial Trophy is awarded to the champion suri. Mr van Schreven was the vet in charge of alpacas from day one. He researched the animals and set the standards for New Zealand.

New Zealand has about 12,000 animals, the United States 60,000 and Australia more than 100,000 - the largest alpaca population outside South America. To learn more about alpacas in New Zealand, visit the Alpacas Association of New Zealand website at http://www.alpaca.org.nz/.