The Globalisation of Alpacas
 An article published in "Alpacas Australia" Magazine Issue 18, 1997 of the Australian Alpaca Association Ltd. by Nick Veltjens

A business plan needs to set a clear path for the future; it needs to be reviewed in the light of new information and a changed business environment. In fact, where possible the business plan could even aim at changing that environment to further the business.

Australian Alpaca breeders are in a position to plan a strategy for their breeding with a view to establishing a long term future for a market that is unique and sustainable.

Alpaca breeding  in the world is starting to change and is becoming more competitive. Breeding for colours is part of this change, even in Peru. Breeders there have in the past aimed at and succeeded to increase the percentage of white (39.2% of Peruvian herd) over the last few decades. The price they paid is the drastic reduction in coloured animals, particularly black (0.3%), grey (3.8%), fawn (5.1%) and brown (6.3%). A by-product seems to be the very large number of multies (45.3%) .

(Source: "Alpaca, its Markets and its Uses" by Robert A. Weatherall in "Cria to Criation 1995" seminar proceedings.)
In its short history of Alpaca breeding Australia has gained the reputation of producing the best coloured alpacas in the world. The difficulty of achieving solid colours may be frustrating, but the improvement is outstanding.

Australia is however not alone in this endeavour. Some Chilean breeders in the South of the country are breeding for solid colours. The herds are not very large (about 100 or so each), but have government support. The main breeding aim is for environmental reasons, as they want to produce robust Alpacas for areas with problematic soil erosion, and where other grazing animals including sheep have not been successful. The colour aspect is secondary, but quite important. The breeding program is based on selecting black, white, grey and fawn, with special emphasis on avoiding blood relationships, one reason why males are brought in from the North of Chile .

    (Source: "Veraenderung der chilenischen Kamelidenhaltung" by Peter M. Dietz, article in "Lamas" Winter Issue 1996, magazin of the "Verein  der Zuechter, Halter und Freunde von Neuweltkameliden e.V.", Germany)
These breeding stations do not breed for immediate export, but will one day represent an excellent genetic pool for coloured Alpacas.

The situation in Australia is changing as a result of the importation of predominantly white Alpacas. If this trend continues on the current basis of between 600 to 800 Alpacas a year, the colour distribution of the Australian herd will gradually change. Over recent years (1994 - 1996) the percentage of white Alpacas in Australia has declined from 20.19% to 17.85% , but with current imports and those already announced white animals will increase and could reach over 25% in four or five years and rising. By corollary the percentage of other colours (with the exception of light fawn) in the total herd is likely to decline.

Source: International Alapaca Register
This is not in our interest, as it will have the effect that Australian breeders are more and more developing a product for a market already dominated by our competitors, dominated by over 99%. It should be in our interest to go completely the opposite way, i.e. to develop more and more what our competitors do not have: Colours, particularly the rarer colours.

This is not to say that the genetic input of Alpacas imported from Peru could not be extremely valuable, but the shift to white will prove to be counterproductive.

It seems that the USA is aligned with Peruvian breeders, and therefore will tend to expand in that market.

If we want to have control over our own future without playing increasingly into the hands of those currently controlling the alpaca breeding and fibre markets, Australia should align itself with breeders in countries with a similar interest, such as Europe and Chile.

Breeders in Europe are remaining very interested in Chilean Alpacas, and are continuing to import from that country. Australian Alpacas are however of better quality, and as soon as quarantine restrictions are lifted, which is likely to happen this year, the export of top breeding stock to Europe will be inevitable. The important aspect of that is that we would only be successful in that huge and developing market if we provide the best coloured animals in the world; anything less would close all the doors we are trying to prize open.

There is no reason why Australian breeders could not form a close alliance with breeders of coloured Alpacas in Europe and Chile, which is confirmed in discussions with breeders in a number of European countries and Chile. This would encourage an exchange of stud males and breeding females, and of knowhow in fibre handling and value adding. It would be the basis of a strong worldwide commercial structure that could exist in a niche market not dominated by anyone else at present nor in the future.

The growth of the Australian herd is, for reasons I have outlined before, likely to be faster than in other countries, to the extent that our national herd could well be the largest in the world in 25 years time, even outgrowing that of Peru. This will put Australia in a most influential position. The total number of Alpacas in the world by 2020 will, according to my estimates, be close to 16 Million, of which Australia (6.5M), Europe (1.7M), and Chile (60,000) would have a combined population of a little over 8.2 Million, North America (2.8M) and the remainder of South America (4M) would have a combined 6.8 Million Alpacas. The rest may be in Asia, South Africa, Israel, etc.

This shows the opportunity Australian breeders will have and should prepare for even now, because the alliances and management structure required for us to reap the benefit from this growing influence must be built now. If we don’t do it, someone else will.

The difference is between drifting into a white alpaca market dominated by others for which the trend is visible now, or creating a coloured alpaca market dominated by us. It is vitally important to plan for it earlier rather than later. As in any business plan, Australian Alpaca breeders need to agree on their mutual aims and objectives for the longer term, and determine the immediate and medium term action to be implemented.

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