Central Victorian alpaca breeder chases lucrative stud male export market

Australian Brodcasting Corporation
By: Larissa Romensky and Nikolai Beilhartz    
Photo: Courtesy of ABC Central Victoria: Larissa Romensky

Photo Caption: Prue Walduck said alpacas are a herd animal with a pecking order in place.

While the export alpaca market has largely been about the fleece and more recently meat one central Victorian breeder is focusing on exporting genetics.

A stud male alpaca can fetch anywhere between $10,000 to $150,000, with interest from across the globe.

Alpaca breeder Prue Walduck from Harcourt in central Victoria recently sold her prized male alpaca, named MillDuck Oregon, to some Belgians who flew out to view the animal prior to the sale.

Specialising in fawn and brown alpacas, Ms Walduck said her brown stud males were in demand in Europe.

"People are sourcing our genetics, they want our bloodlines because we've proven we are consistently competitive over a number of years," she said.

Australia's only licensed exporter, Steve Ridout, estimates the Australian export market in alpaca stud stock was worth about $5 million.

He said although the demand from Europe for elite blood stock had dropped over the last 10 years, as people were starting to breed with Australian stock, he said breeders were starting to look at Asian markets.

"We've actually exported over 1,500 alpacas to China."

Two years ago his company chartered three 747 planes, each with about 500 alpacas, bound for China.

He said more needed to be done to "nurture" the relationship with Asian markets.

Tapping into a niche market

Ms Walduck has been breeding alpacas from her 35-acre Harcourt property in central Victoria for the last 24 years.

Although she only exported two alpacas last year, Ms Walduck sold about 15 in the domestic market and said she was happy to keep her niche business small.

"We're not big by any means in the export aspect - we just quietly work away," she said.

Rather than sell to the highest bidder at auction Ms Walduck has developed a strategic long term plan to see her stock spread.

    "It's not all about the money, it's about positioning your animals from a marketing point of view," she said.

"[The new owners] will put [MillDuck Oregon] over really good females and that will actually sell more animals for us in the long-term because it's better from a branding marketing point of view."

Australia's reputation for good genetics

Australia has a very good reputation for good genetics according to Ms Walduck.

"We've been able to leverage as an industry off the sheep's back, if you like - the hundred plus years of the knowledge of fibre production, pasture management, animal husbandry from the sheep industry."

The former human resources manager who grew up on a dairy farm in Tasmania said there is a breed standard which covers the confirmation of the animal and the fleece quality.

"We have animals that are known for having a great head, really good confirmation, and a 'square boxy' confirmation," Ms Walduck said.

"We've really focused on density for fleece quality, which is what we want to breed,"

The very long journey to Europe

MillDuck Oregon is currently in quarantine in New Zealand and will not arrive at his new home in Belgium till August.

His journey began with 30 days spent in a shed in quarantine, before he flew to New Zealand, where he will spend six months in a paddock, followed by tests "to satisfy Europe protocol," before jetting off to Heathrow.

From there he will be transported to Belgium accompanied by Mr Ridout.

Last year all the 250 exported alpacas were accompanied by the licenced alpaca exporter.

"To make sure the animals are looked after from day one and hand delivered in the best possible condition," Mr Ridout said.

Read the original and view the photos here.