Buyers' guide to alpacas

 
Buyers guide

Before buying alpacas, you are advised to join the British Alpaca Society and become part of the national network for all things alpaca. The Society strongly recommends that prospective and established breeders buy only BAS registered alpacas from BAS members.

All BAS members offering alpacas for sale should adhere to the British Alpaca Society’s Code of Conduct for Sale.

Buying alpacas is a matter of trust. If you are a prospective new owner, you will need support in your first few years as you gather experience. 

We would advise that you do your research by visiting as many farms as possible and asking the relevant questions. If you are not satisfied with the answers you receive, or the service offered, then move on – there are hundreds of breeders throughout the UK willing to offer support and advice.

Buying alpacas as pets

  • Before buying alpacas as pets make sure you join the British Alpacas Society and are part of the national network for all things alpaca.
  • Do not buy unregistered alpacas and ensure that on purchase the ownership will be transferred on the Society register.
  • All alpacas sold as pets should be halter trained and easy to handle.
  • Before buying handle your alpacas.
  • Before buying make sure you have tried trimming  their toe nails.
  • Before buying put them on a halter and walk your alpacas.
  • Before buying make sure you know how to vaccinate your alpacas.

What to look for when buying alpacas

  • It is important when buying alpacas that you buy one that is sound in conformation.
  • It is easier to breed in better fibre characteristics and volume than it is to breed out conformation problems or genetic defects.
  • To live a long and productive life as a fibre producer, alpacas need to carry their fibre on a sound frame.

There are many genetic defects that are undesirable in alpacas, most of which would meet with immediate disqualification if the animal was taken to a British Alpaca Society run show.

Alpaca faults in general can be categorised as being caused by:

  1. Genetic or hereditary traits;
  2. Nutritional or environmental factors;
  3. Injury.

Click here to download a pdf of the alpaca defects chart.

In relation to breeding stock, those faults thought to be hereditary (genetic) are the least desirable. For those falling under clauses 2 and 3 there should be no repercussions in further generations.

Also look out for:

  • Tall animals - may have llama genes, tall females may have reproduction problems (check breeding records).
  • Short animals - may just be stunted because of poor nutrition or a dwarf.
  • Base wide and base narrow - wide or narrow depth of chest affecting placement of feet on ground and size of chest cavity.

Make sure you get your hands on the animal:

  • Run your hands over its back and tail;
  • Look at the eyes;
  • Run hands over ears;
  • Look at the mouth and teeth;
  • Pick up the feet;
  • Look under the tail at genitals and feel how big males' testicles are (are they the same size?);
  • Watch the animal walk away from you and towards you, looking for freedom of movement and angulation of the legs.

The 'perfect' alpaca would have the following positive traits:

  • Short muzzle;
  • Triangular and symmetrical head;
  • Even jaw and bite;
  • Erect, spear-shaped ears;
  • Eyes should be bright and alert with no discharge;
  • Good back line slightly sloping over the rump, with no humps or dips;
  • Legs with correct angulation, and no deviations;
  • Good proportion of body, legs and neck;
  • Good strong base, ie good depth of chest which allows good placement of legs on the ground;
  • Will show itself well, with an erect, alert stance.

Not all alpacas are 'perfect', so their negative faults must be carefully weighed against their positive attributes before buying an animal, or deciding to include it in your breeding programme.