Alpaca Answers

Alpacas are very closely related to llamas. They are both from a group of four species known as South American Camelids. The llama is approximately twice the size of an alpaca with banana shaped ears and is principally used as a pack animal. Alpacas are exclusively bred as fleece animals in Australia.

How many alpacas can I run on my property?

That will depend on what sort of pasture and how much pasture your land is capable of producing. Different climatic regions and different soil types vary widely in their carrying capacity. A standard unit of carrying capacity is the Dry Sheep Equivelant per hectare (DSE). For example, in areas of good soil and high rainfall your property might sustain 10 DSE/ha, compared with dry land areas that might be 1.5 DSE/ha.

The DSE of your property can be determined by speaking to an agriculture consultant, or perhaps your neighbour if they are experienced farmers. As a general rule, one alpaca wether is equivalent to one DSE. The nutritional rquirements of a pregnant alpaca are half as much again as those of a wether. The nutritional requirements of a lactating alpaca are twice as much as a wether. If you are prepared to supplementary feed, you may be able to increase your stocking rate.

What sort of fencing do alpacas need?

Any fencing that keeps sheep contained is satifactory, preferably without barbed wire. Alpacas do not tend to jump fences but are quite capable of clearing a standard fence if sufficiently stressed.

Electric fencing is not very common but it may be used. Advice on the correct height settings of the hot wires is best sought from an alpaca breeder who has experience with alpacas and electric fencing.

If you live in an area known to have problem dogs it can be worthwhile to increase the height of the perimeter fencing. Dog attacks are not common but when they occur they have disastrous consequences.

Apart from the boudary fences, the most important structure is a small yard or pen to catch the alpacas. Some alpacas will allow themselves to be caught in an open paddock, but even the friendliest ones tend to step just out of reach when you most need to catch them (eg. shearing time).

The yard need not be elaborate, and often the easiest and cheapest one to construct is to place two 3 metre gates at right angles to each other inside the corner of the paddock. If the alpacas get used to being fed in this area it also makes it very easy to catch them. It is essential that shade trees are available in each paddock.

What do alpacas eat?

Alpacas are principally grazers but sometimes they enjoy casual browsing. They are fastidious food selectors that are highly adapted to eat small amounts of a variety of plants. Although they can survive very harsh conditions, alpacas do best on good quality pasture and benefit from having access to plant material with long fibres eg. hay.

There are a number of commercial alpaca mixes available but these are best thought of as supplying vitamins and minerals rather than the bulk feed which is obtained through grazing. One important rule to remember is to introduce and changes to the diet gradually, over a period of a couple of weeks. This way, the microbes in the gut have time to adjust to any feed changes.

Some gardens contain a number of plants that are toxic to most livestock (oleander, rhododendron, laburnum etc). Care should be taken when fencing off gardens that such plants do not overhang into alpaca areas. Likewise, there is a long history of calamites with other livestock that have inadvertently been fed prunings from such plants. Local nurseries can provide good advice on poisonous plants.

Although some people think alpacas don’t drink huge amounts, they do need to have ready access to good quality, fresh drinking water.

How often do you shear alpacas?

Alpacas are shorn once a year, usually in spring. Shearing is the biggest maintenance required and usually takes around five to ten minutes per animal for an experienced alpaca shearer. If you are purchasing your first alpacas, ask the vendors for the name of a recommended shearer, or ask if you can bring the aplacas back to the property on their shearing day. Most AAA regions hold regular workshops and demonstrations on shearing alpacas.

A very small percentage of alpacas are shorn standing up, but the preferred method of shearing is to lay the animals on their side and restrain their legs with a tether at each end. This protects both the shearer and the alpaca from being accidentally cut. One side of the animal is shorn and it is then rolled over and shorn on the other side. Depending on the density of the fleece, alpacas cut anywhere between 1½ and 4kg of fleece. Some of the high quality stud males will cut higher weights.

What do you do with the fleece?

Alpaca fibre is highly prized for its very soft feel (handle), its high thermal properties, its durability and its variety of natural colours. It is processed into high quality fashion garments such as suits, jackets, skirts and coats. Jumpers knitted from alpaca fleece are soft, light and warm. Because of its natural warmth, it is also used as a continental quilt filling. Coarser fibre is used to make luxury carpet and car seat covers.

The international market for alpaca product is enormous with demand always exceeding supply. Locally, commercial options for raw alpaca fleece in Australia exist with the Australian Alpaca Fleece Ltd (AAFL) and with local spinners. A few alpaca owners prefer to home spin their fibre. Commercial prices depend on quality with a premium paid for finer micron fibre. Sales to home spinners can be considerably higher.

Do they stay the same colour that they are born?

Compared with other livestock, alpacas are relatively disease free. Because of their dry fleece and naturally clean breech, fly strike is not an issue with alpacas. They do not require mulesing or crutching. They are vaccinated twice yearly with the same ‘5 in 1 vaccine used for sheep and goats to protect against tetanus, pulpy kidney, black leg, black disease and malignant oedema.

Some geographic locations also vaccinate against leptospirosis, so check with other experienced alpaca breeders in your area or with local agriculture authority on it presence. Likewise, alpaca owners need to be aware if they are in a ‘sporidesmin’ area. Sporidesmin is the toxin in a fungus that causes facial eczema and can be fatal. However, it is confined to specific geographic locations and is easily managed by not allowing animals to graze on affected pastures during warm and humid weather.

When buying alpacas for breeding purposes it is advisable to arrange a veterinary check to ensure you are buying a healthy animal.

Do they make good pets?

Most alpacas make very good pets if they are treated well and the owner sare realistic in their expectations. Like any livestock, the more handling they receive as youngsters, the quieter they are as adults. Given time, most alpacas will eat out of your hand and training them to lead by a halter is a straightforward process.

Although alpacas look cuddly they generally don’t like being held, and are particularly sensitive to being touched on the head. Alpacas are naturally curious and intelligent and if you let them approach you, rather than rush at them and expect an affectionate response, the interactions can be very rewarding. The best thing to remember is that they are alpacas, and not dogs or cats, and should be allowed to be alpacas.

Alpacas spit don't they?

Spitting is perhaps the least endearing feature of alpacas. It is one of the few defence mechanisms and alpaca has and it is quite an effective deterrent. The material is basically regurgitated or recently chewed grass and it brushes off when dry. It does have a distinctive and somewhat offensive odour and it is best to avoid being a target.

However, it is quite rare that alpacas spit at people. It is normally used as a pecking order mechanism with other alpacas. If a human hit occurs, it is usually becuase the person has not read the signs properly when stepping between two squabbling alpacas.

Do alpacas kick and bite?

When interacting with humans, kicking and biting is highly individualistic. Alpacas are usually sensitive around the hind legs and will instinctively kick backwards if they sense a threat from the rear. Most alpacas do not kick at humans but there are individuals that can be quickly identified as being more prone to kicking. This is more evident in a pregnant female that wants to deter the advances of an amorous male.

Fortunately, becuase the foot is a soft pad, injuries to humans are minimal. Most alpacas respond very well to desensitisation of the hind legs if they receive good handling as youngsters. Alpacas that bite people are exremely rare and is not a general problem. If it does occur it tends to be an attention behaviour by spoilt pets rather than an attack.

Can I just have one or do I need to have lots?

It is possible to have a single alpaca, but it is not a pleasant existence for the animal. Alpacas are herd animals and are instinctively gregarious, as are other domestic livestock. They obtain security and contentment from having at least one other alpaca for company. For this reason, it is usually recommended that two alpacas are the desirable minimum. Sometimes if a single pregnant female is bought for breeding, a wether can go with her for company.

How do you transport alpacas?

Alpacas travel very well in a van, covered trailer or a horse float. Most alpacas will sit during the journey and travel best in the company of another alpaca. On long trips over two or three hours it is advisable to plan for a stop so the alpacas can have a toilet break. Clean hay on the floor of the vehicle helps to absorb jarring on rough roads and also provides feed for the journey.

Can I run alpacas with other livestock?

Alpacas can bond well with other types of animals. Naturally, alpacas and large aggressive dogs are not a good combination, but there are many cases of quiet dogs mixing well with alpacas. Individual alpacas have been very successfully run with sheep and goats to act as fox guards. The alpacas tend to bond with the foster herd and they are naturally aggressive towards foxes.

If running with different livestock, alpacas will pick up the internal parasites associated with the other animals and should be put on the same drenching regime. Because of the risk of the alpacas being kicked, caution should be used if running them with cattle or horses.

At what age do alpacas start breeding?

Females become sexually mature at around 12 to 18 months of age and once they reach 45-50kg in weight. Males can display sexual interest from a few weeks of age but are not sexually active or fertile until 18 months to 3 years of age (there will be individuals that fall outside this age range). Libido in males is not a criteria of stud quality in alpacas.

Alpacas do not have a breeding season and, providing they are receptive, females can be mated at any time of the year. Like rabbits and cats, female alpacas are ‘induced ovulators’ which means it is the act of mating that causes them to ovulate. It is preferable, though not essential, to avoid mid-late summer matings. Given the 11 to 12 month gestation, this reduces the incidence of heavily pregnant females and new cria (alpaca babies) in very hot weather.

Alpacas mate in the ‘cush’ (prone) position and if a female is not receptive (e.g. already pregnant) she will refuse to sit down and probably spit at the male. This rejection response, known as a ‘spit-off’, is used in the management of the female to regularly monitor the progress of her pregnancy.

How long is the gestation?

The average gestation period is 11½ months, but pregnancies that go for over a year are not uncommon. Births are generally trouble-free and most occur before the middle of the day. Cria should be 6-8kg at birth and most will be on their feet and drinking within 2 to 3 hours. The mothers are often very protective and the cria will stay with it’s mum until weaning at 5 to 6 months of age. Females are usually re-mated 2 to 6 weeks after giving birth.

Do alpacas ever have twins?

Twinning in alpacas is extremely rare (approximately 0.0001% of births) and should not form any part of a breeding plan.

They're really expensive aren't they?

At this stage of the industry’s development, price is directly related to the individual breeding potential, and the potential quality of the offspring. For example, a wether (castrated male) has no breeding potential and is therfore the cheapest alpaca to buy. On the other hand, a high quality male with many good progeny on the ground has a very high breeding potential and can be worth many thousands of dollars. He can also command a high income from the stud services he provides.

Female prices are a reflection of quality, age, breeding history and to which stud male she is mated. Females can be worth anything from a few thousand dollars to a few tens of thousands of dollars. Income from females is derived from selling the offspring. However, breeding plans should be made so that long term depreciation of the older breeders and increases in quality of offspring are taken into account. Although the average gestation is eleven and a half months, a projaction of three offspring in four years per mature female is more realistic than expectations of one offspring every year.

How do I get started if I want to breed alpacas?

There are a number of things to consider before launching into the breeding industry. Firstly, it is best to talk to as many experienced breeders as possible. You will gain lots of useful information from people who have already done the leg work.

If you are serious it is advisable to develop a business plan and if you don’e already have one, find an accountant who is used to dealing with primary industry clients. To be able to register your offspring you will need to become a member of the Australian Alpaca Association and apply for Herd Registration (Herd Prefix and Herd Code). The National Office can send you the appropriate forms.

Also ask which region you will belong to and attend any workshops or seminars that are being held. The more you can educate yourself about all aspects of breeding, the more informed your choices will be. Some people have bought a couple of wethers to begin with, and once they feel confident that alpacas really are extremely easy to manage, they then take the next step to start a breeding herd. For most breeders, they simply want to get going as soon as possible and enjoy the experience as they learn along the way.

Dr Sarah McCabe - BVSc

Veterinarian

Sarah graduated from James Cook University in 2023. Sarah’s enthusiasm for animals knows no bounds, extending from small domestic to large farming animals to the intriguing world of exotics.

This diverse interest certainly keeps things lively and engaging. Outside of her veterinary duties, Sarah shares her home with two beloved cats, Cricket and Remmy, and a golden retriever named Chester.

Ashleigh Hendersen

Ashleigh Hendersen

Veterinary Nurse

Ash is one of our multi-skilled nurses, with a love for anything from horses to small animals. She enjoys the amazing variety of patients in our mixed practice clinics, and goes from anaesthetising a cat for surgery to wrangling a lame goat without skipping a beat.

She joined us in 2017 with a wealth of knowledge, having worked for Veterinary Specialist Services as an oncology nurse. Her dogs (Reeva and Ralph) and horses (Holly and Dolly) keep her busy outside of work.

Andrew Marland

Dr Andrew Marland     BVSc (hons)

Practice Principal

Growing up on a local cattle property Andrew developed a love of animals and desire to become a veterinarian at an early age. After graduating in 2000 he entered mixed animal practice in western Queensland before working in the United Kingdom for 2 years.

Andrew is an Australian Cattle Vets accredited Bull tester and National Pregnancy Testing accredited examiner. Although spending much of his time working with cattle and horses Andrew enjoys all challenges of mixed animal practice.

Susan Carroll

Dr Susan Carroll     BVSc (hons)

Senior Veterinary Associate

Susan joined Vet Cross in Bundaberg in 2004. After graduating in 1998 Susan started her veterinary career in a country practice in regional Queensland later travelling overseas. After the birth of her 2 children she has continued studies and has now completed a course with the Centre for Veterinary Education in animal ultrasonography.

Kate Schroeder

Dr Kate Schroeder     BVSc (hons)

Veterinarian

Kate grew up in Bundaberg and studied at the University of Queensland, Gatton. Kate loves all aspects of mixed practice, in particular equine medicine & surgery. She has a passion for horse training, which comes in handy with her more fractious equine patients.

She enjoys spending time with her gorgeous Labrador, Walter, her many horses and accidentally-adopted cat, Gizmo.

Meghan Schibrowski

Dr Meghan Schibrowski     BVSc PhD

Veterinarian

Dr Meghan graduated from the University of Queensland in 2005 and started her career working in general practice and veterinary livestock consultancy. In 2015, Meghan completed a PhD investigating the epidemiology and pathological agents involved in the bovine respiratory disease complex in feedlot cattle and returned to her family’s property in Childers. Meghan joined the Vet Cross team in early 2020 after returning to general practice.

Meghan is an Australian Cattle Vets accredited Bull tester, holds PennHip certification, is a ParaBoss WEC QA Service Provider and is an Accredited Veterinarian with Animal Health Australia for provision of Market Assurance Programs including GoatMAP, SheepMAP and AlpacaMAP.

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Dr Jacqueline Greiner     BVSc

Veterinarian

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Dr Alanah Evans     BVSc

Veterinarian

Georgia Taylor

Dr Georgia Taylor     BVSc

Veterinarian

Dr Georgia studied at JCU in Townsville and moved to Bundaberg with her sister Kate and their cavoodle Spock.

Lilli Glass

Dr Lilli Glass     BVSc

Veterinarian

Doctor Lilli is from Harvey Bay and studied at JCU in Townsville. Dr Lilli has a keen interest in cattle reproduction and pretty much all aspects of the veterinary industry. In her spare time Lilli loves going to the beach with her beautiful boy Lenny who is pictured here with her.

Amy Cox

Dr Amy Cox     BVSc (Hons)

Veterinarian

Welcome Dr Amy. Dr Amy studied at UQ Gatton and graduated in 2017. Amy started working at a clinic in Maryborough before moving here in 2022. Dr Amys special interests are surgery and cattle.

Anna Logan

Anna Logan     QVN (Cert IV)

Senior Nurse

Anna has been working as a veterinary nurse for the Vet Cross team since 2008 graduating as a qualified veterinary nurse in 2011. Anna is a key team member being actively involved in training junior nurses, 2013 saw Anna take time off to start a family. Anna has a dog called Moose who is a rescue dog.

Amy Jensen

Amy Jensen     QVN (Cert IV)

Senior Nurse / Practice Manager

Amy has been working at Vet Cross since July 2009 and qualified as a Cert IV veterinary nurse in January 2014. Amy is a talented nurse and is often found helping clients on the phone or at the front desk. Amy is an asset to the Vet Cross team. She has a Shih Tzu called Penny and a Labrador called Norman.

Bec Nicholson

Bec Nicholson     QVN (Cert IV)

Senior Nurse

Bec joined the Vet Cross team in 2015. She is most happy nursing for our bovine patients, with cattle medicine and surgery being one of her passions. She also enjoys being able to provide physiotherapy for our small animal orthopaedic patients. Bec has been in the veterinary industry for 9 years, having started as a kennel hand when she was 14 years old. Bec successfully completed her Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing in 2016. Outside of work she is kept busy with her hobby farm and dogs as well as her 2 sons Charlie and Tommie.

Sarah Manderson

Sarah Manderson     QVN (Cert IV)

Senior Nurse

Sarah is our resident ‘Crazy Cat Lady’. She joined the Vet Cross team in 2016, having been a qualified vet nurse since 2012. Her special interests are radiography, orthopaedic nursing and anything feline, with a special ability to calm even our most anxious kitty patients. Sarah has two extra fluffy, extra lovable cats, Felix and Cooper, and enjoys playing the cello.

Courtney Milne

Courtney Milne     QVN (Cert IV)

Veterinary Nurse

2021 was a busy year for nurse Courtney, she finished her studies and became a qualified veterinary nurse (QVN) and gave birth to her and her partner Mat’s first child Hailey. Baz the cattle dog and Jax the Border Collie are very excited about their new sister.

Brooke Jackson

Brooke Jackson

Veterinary Nurse

Brooke is currently studying her certificate 3 in veterinary nursing is looking forward to starting her cert 4. Brooke has 2 very energetic dogs named Maloo and Maggie.

Dr April Fegredo - BVSc (hons)

Veterinarian

Dr April pursued her studies at UQ in Brisbane, earning her degree in 2023. Her professional interests span a wide spectrum, with a particular focus on behavior, emergency and critical care, neonatal care, soft tissue surgery, and weight loss consultations.
Sheridan Philips

Sheridan Philips

Veterinary Nurse

Sheridan started with Vet Cross in October 2020. Sheridan is born and bred in Bundy, her family have been living in the area for over 130 years. Growing up on a hobby farm Sheridan has had many different pets over the years and enjoys riding the family horses. Sheridan’s most treasured pet is Annabelle the 14 year old Mini Foxy.

Brooke Land

Brooke Land

Veterinary Nurse
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Sarah Boersch     QVN (Cert IV)

Veterinary Nurse
Leah White

Leah White

Nurse

Welcome Nurse Leah. Leah and her Husband Blake moved to Bundaberg from North Brisbane in 2022. Leah has been in the veterinary industry for 2 years and is currently studying her certificate 4 in Veterinary Nursing. She is the loving fur mum of Cinders the Bull Arab X.

Rachel McGregor

Rachel McGregor

Veterinary Nurse
Rachel is a Bundy girl and her family have cattle properties out at Mt Perry. Having grown up with large animals Rachel has a keen interest in them and is looking forward to starting her studies in 2022.
Amanda Polizel QVN

Amanda Polizel

Nurse

Amanda Bickmore

Amanda Bickmore

Marketing / Receptionist

Amanda started her Vet Cross journey in 2013 as a receptionist. However, she soon demonstrated her creative talents and is now primarily our marketing manager. She loves the ability to tell the stories of our furry and feathered friends, as well as being able to inform and educate clients, both old and new.

She has a Labrador named Molly.

Jo Logan

Jo Logan

Gin Gin Receptionist

Jo is the face of Vet Cross Gin Gin. She loves being able to greet our clients and is always up for a chat. She joined us in 2011 and she has become a massive part of the Gin Gin family.

Jo is kept busy by her three big dogs Ruby, Zip and Zeus.

Jackie Sergiacomi

Jackie Sergiacomi

Receptionist

Jackie Joined the Vet Cross team in 2016. Jackie has over 24 years experience and says she couldn’t imagine her life without the excitement and satisfaction that comes from being in the veterinary industry. Jackie’s experience has ranged from a nurse right through to accounts and management. Jackie has been competing in endurance racing for the past 30 years and loves that the sport takes her to beautiful parts of Australia that otherwise she may have missed.

Jess Raines

Chloe Hancock

Receptionist

Chloe joined the Vet Cross team in 2018. Chloe and her now Husband Guy were married in May 2019, they moved here from Ballarat. Chloe has a Foxxy named Maggie and a ginger cat named Milo.

Jade Switzer QVN

Jade Switzer QVN (Cert IV)

Veterinary Nurse

Jade has been with Vet Cross since August 2021 but her career in the veterinary industry started 24 years ago. In that time Jade has worked as an equine nurse and has experience with all large animals. Jade has a particular interest in working with anxious dogs and loves providing physiotherapy to small animals.

Kirsty OG

Kirsty Jansen

Receptionist

Kirsty splits her time between our Bundaberg and Bargara clinics. At home, she’s the proud companion of Nudge, a delightful character who wasn’t exactly thrilled about the idea of a photoshoot. In her spare time, you’ll find Kirsty behind her hooks, enjoying knitting and crocheting.

Jess OG

Jess Raines

Receptionist

Before joining us, Jess embarked on an adventurous journey, exploring every nook and cranny of Australia for a whole year. On top of her wanderlust, Jess proudly calls herself the parent of a charming cockatiel named Monty. In addition to her love for travel and animals, Jess is a keen runner and trains most days.
Tammie 2

Tammie

Melbourne

Tammie joined Vet Cross in 2022, bringing with her a rich farming background. Over the years, she has cared for horses, cattle, and pigs. Currently, Tammie is the proud owner of two horses, Mia and Nikki, as well as two dogs, Gordo and Ruby. On weekends, she enjoys taking joy rides on her Vulcan 650 Cruiser.
Tim Hill

Dr Tim Hill     BVSc MACVS

Practice Principal

Tim graduated from University of Queensland in 1993 and, because of his interest in soft tissue and orthopaedic surgery, gained Membership of Australian College of Veterinary Scientists in Small Animal Surgery in 2006.

Tim completed the PennHip certification in 2009 enabling accurate assessment and evaluation of hip screening, he also has a diploma in animal ophthalmology. Tim travelled throughout Australia and the United Kingdom and gained extensive experience in mixed and dairy practices.

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