A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

January 17, 2009

The Element of Temperament


As mentioned in the previous post temperament is very important in an alpaca that will be working with children, or for one that is going to be entered into performance and obstacle classes.


Alpacas as a rule are docile, but like all species some alpacas can change temperament when under stress or uncertain of their surroundings or handler.  Some alpacas are definite home bodies enjoying nothing more than mooching around the pasture and eating hay, others are a little more outgoing showing natural curiosity and being quite happy to go to new places or be away from their herd for a short while, a few alpacas are more boisterous trying to crowd you and seeking attention.


It is good to observe any potential alpaca purchase in his or her home environment.  Typically that is when the alpaca is going to be at its most relaxed state and you will be able to see how it interacts with the other alpacas in the herd and also how it interacts with humans such as its owner or visitors to the farm.


For an alpaca that is going to be used for performance and obstacle classes though, it is good to observe that alpaca outside of its usual environment.  If you are brand new to the world of alpacas and want to purchase an alpaca just for performance and obstacle classes then a good place to look for a potential performance and obstacle alpaca is at an alpaca show.  Watch the alpaca as it is shown by its handler, is it relaxed and yet paying attention to its handler or is it nervous and concerned about the alpacas around it and the various noises of the show grounds. 


Ask questions of the alpaca’s owner as to how the alpaca has been trained.  Is the alpaca used to traveling?  Has the alpaca been in many shows, if so how did it behave?  How does the alpaca do when you trim its toenails?  How does the alpaca behave when you have to show its teeth (it is common practice in alpaca halter shows for the judge to look at the alpacas front teeth to check for correct bite).  Are there any things/actions that the alpaca likes or dislikes?  Does the alpaca have any bad habits (nipping. kicking etc.).  Has the alpaca had any health issues?  What kind of mentoring and after sales support will the owner provide to you if you buy the alpaca?  (More on mentoring and after sales support in a future post.)


Your questions and observations will help you get a feel for the alpacas personality.  Don’t be afraid to ask the owner if you (or whoever will be the alpacas handler) can take the alpaca for a walk, pick up the alpacas feet, look at its teeth, look at the alpacas fleece.  Ask if the owner is willing to take you and the alpaca to another location to show how the alpaca reacts.  A reputable alpaca breeder will happily answer your questions and work with you to make sure that the alpaca you buy is best suited to you needs.


Purchasing an alpaca for whatever reason is something that should not be done on a whim or on emotion.  Alpacas can live into their 20’s and need good care and attention throughout their life time.    If you are uncertain as to if alpacas should become part of your life consider asking a local alpaca farm if you volunteer time there helping with chores and working around alpacas in order to get a better idea of what life with alpacas is like. 


Finally remember one of the golden rules of owning alpacas – you cannot keep an alpaca on its own, it needs other alpacas around it to be healthy or happy.  At a minimum this means one alpaca buddy, two or more is even better.  If you cannot afford to purchase and maintain more than one alpaca look into agisting (boarding) the alpaca at a farm that already has other alpacas.


Take your time making your decision about alpaca ownership and which alpaca you is right for you.  




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