Alpacas were introduced into New Zealand in the 19th century. W. B. Rhodes acquired alpacas from the Wellington provincial government in 1869 and kept them at his Banks Peninsula farm. At shearing time they were found to be ‘exceedingly troublesome’, especially their spitting, with which they displayed ‘considerable range and accuracy’.
Alpacas and llamas have adapted well to New Zealand conditions. Most are found on small hobby or lifestyle farms and they are relatively easy to keep.
Alpacas need to be monitored for the health problems they are susceptible to. Alpacas should be shorn every one to two years, and they produce 3–5 kilograms of fibre. They are shorn in late spring, either standing or lying down and restrained in a rope harness to keep them as still as possible. They are shorn with electric clippers or a normal sheep-shearing handpiece.
Alpaca fleeces are soft, silky and very warm. Garments made from the fibre keep their shape and won’t pill. Alpaca fleece is softer than wool and has higher tensile strength, resulting in more durable garments.
White fibre can be easily dyed, but natural colours are the most popular. In the high plains of Chile, alpacas produce a very fine fibre; whereas in the lusher pastures of New Zealand their fibre is coarser. The fibre from a young alpaca’s first shearing is the finest and brings the highest price. Virtually all fibre is sold on the domestic craft market.
There is a robust export market for alpacas and showing results are the gold standard by which European importers can gauge the quality of animals they are selecting. Our Show also provides an important forum for our exhibitors to gauge how their genetics measure up against those of their fellow competitors and facilitates inter stud purchases and stud services.
The Alpaca Section of The New Zealand Agricultural Show is a highlight on the New Zealand Alpaca showing calendar. We draw a large entry of competitors in fleece and breed from all around the country who are attracted by the quality of international judges and the facilities our Show provides.