Hi Alan. I am jealous of you living in Spain. Been there a couple of times and just love it.
Thanks Jeffry 🙂 We love it here, although it can be pretty hot sometimes, although I’m sure that is the same for you over there 😉 The questions will be the same as Robyn, so let’s get going. Why and how did you get in to alpaca breeding?
In 2000 we saw alpacas in Peru and fell in love with them.
On returning to Australia we were surprised to learn there were over 1800 alpaca breeders in Australia. We had no farming experience. We had recently bought a farm (no animals) and decided to try them out by buying 4 to start with. 12 years later we had over 400.
We focus mainly on white and grey alpaca and have good success in the major shows with them.
Bloody Hell, 4 to 400. Of course show success is amazing 🙂 Tell us a bit about the business where you live.
Our farm is 80 minutes north of Melbourne in Australia. We earn alpaca income from sale of animals, agistment of other people’s alpacas, sale of fleece, mating fees to our top stud males and sale of finished garments in our conference retreat.
That sounds very good. What are your main objectives as a breeder?
Our principal aim is to improve fleece fineness, density and uniformity through genetic benchmarking as a tool for making breeding decisions. Means we only breed with the stock that meets our specification for genetic gains. This is ultimately about improving the commercial viability of the alpaca product.
We have seen real, measurable gains in recent years. Our herd average this year is 20.8 micron. Down from 24 micron a few years ago. Our fleece weights are higher also due to increasing density.
Does the area you live in provide any specific difficulties or challenges?
Our climate (southern hemisphere) is similar to Peru, other than altitude). It is ideal for raising alpacas. A reasonably dry climate, hot but not too wet. Sheep do well in southern Australia and so do alpaca.
One of the greatest challenges at this time is not having enough quantities of the finest quality fibre to be commercially viable. This will come in time. The Australian herd has grown to over 160,000 alpaca in 20 years. This compares with 100 million sheep currently. Good opportunity.
Another thing holding the industry back is the reluctance to cull (shock, horror) poorer quality alpaca as they do in all other livestock industries. This means the meat market. This is changing. To improve the breed we need to be breeding from only the best quality animals with the traits to raise the bar. Otherwise we just have a pet market and the supply of buyers will dry up very quickly. I know this is controversial. This is the challenge.
I understand it can be controversial, and I know a lot of breeders get in to alpacas because they don’t have to send the animals off to slaughter, but maybe that will have to change. Hopefully in Europe we are some way off that yet, it is hard enough to part with the animals as it is. What do you do with your fleece?
We spin some into wool balls for knitting and for sale. Our best fibre is offered into the Premium Bale (160kg of white, under 18micron quality fibre). Last year one bale sold for AUD $7000. The balance goes to our Co-op.”
Wow, $7000 for fibre! Amazing. What are your plans for the next year?
Continue to focus on measurable quality improvement in our herd and achieve greater success in the major shows.
Hope also to get to Spain again. Love the climate, the food, the dancing, the culture . . . well just about everything about Spain.
That sounds like a plan 🙂Thank you so much for joining us Jeffry from your lovely part of the world. Why don’t you plug your web site again now 🙂
For more see our website at www.flowerdalealpacas.net