Alpaca industry seeking to double Australian herd numbers within years

ABC News
By: Jennifer Nichols
Photo: By Jennifer Nichols/ABC Rural
Photo Caption: There is little not to love about alpacas, from their fleece, to their personalities and their meat.

Original content from ABC News.

A transformation is underway within Australia's alpaca industry as it attempts to double the size of the nation's herd within the next few years.

The attractive animals, characterised by long, graceful necks and expressive eyes fringed by ridiculously long lashes, are farmed for their genetics, meat, and fine fleece.

Once the domain of hobby farmers, the industry has become fully sustainable and has never been stronger, according to Australian Alpaca Association president Ian Frith.

"It's really on an upward curve [and] fleece sales are excellent at the moment," he said.

"Supply can't even meet demand which is very, very encouraging and the prices are good.

"We had a lass out from China the other day to talk to us, from one of the mills, and they're 3,000 tonnes short annually of alpaca fleece.

"There have been some very, very good animal sales into Asia by some of our breeders who've done an excellent job of promoting the alpaca industry overseas, and the meat side's going well so all up the industry is thriving."

Around 2,300 alpaca breeders have registered more than 200,000 animals in Australia but Mr Frith estimated the national herd would already be twice that size, with plans to top one million alpacas by 2021.

"Now we've got people [with] large farms that are really doing exceptionally well for themselves," he said.

"You can be a successful alpaca farmer with 50 to 60 good genetic animals or you go the broader acreage and run them just like sheep.

Read the rest of this story and view the photos at ABC News.