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About Alpacas - History & Future

History

In South America alpacas were domesticated over 5000 years ago. Whereas the llama was the ‘beast of burden’, the alpaca was selectively bred for its luxurious fiber. The garments woven from this wool where only worn by the Incan royalty.
The Spanish conquest in the middle of the 16th century saw much of the alpaca population slaughtered to make way on the low lands of South America for sheep and cattle. The animals that did survive did so on the high plateau of the Andes, the Altiplano, at 3000 - 5000 m above sea level. They did survive here, as no other domesticated animal is able to survive at such high altitude and under such climatic conditions.

Present

The small number of alpacas in South Africa means that the industry is still in its beginnings. The limited amount of wool supplies hand spinners and weavers.
There is now also a small mill in Wellington specializing in the processing of alpaca fiber into high-quality yarns.
Because of the alpacas slow reproduction rate, the farming of alpacas solely for their fiber is still several years away. In the short term, the industry will be breeding-based. The fiber marketing and added value aspects of the industry (yarns, fabrics, clothing) will grow as the number of breeders and alpacas increases.

Future

The ultimate commercial objective is to see alpacas being farmed in large numbers purely for their fleece. In addition to these fiber herds, there will also be breeders who continually strive to improve the quality of their herd. These alpacas will be for the improvement of the quality of the commercial fiber herds, and for showing.

We’re in for the long haul: The amount of high quality stud animals worldwide is very limited. American breeders estimate that there are only 200.000 - 300.000 animals suitable for stud worldwide. Experts prognose that the industry should be growing for the next 15 - 20 years, guaranteeing high returns. Insiders consider the alpaca to be ‘the worlds finest livestock investment’.
 

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