Alpacas del Alto Pas is a newly founded alpaca farm situated in the southern valleys of Cantabria (N. Spain). It is fruit of several years hard work, planning and training which has come into being in the tail of the most serious economic crisis of the last 80 years, in a period in which negative incomes are pressuring traditional farmers out of the market.
but the owners of Alpacas del Alto Pas, Ciano and Alison, think otherwise. The River Pas Valleys (or Valles Pasiegos, as they are known locally ) are made up of abrupt hillsides of lush pastures which are steeped in livestock tradition. Alpacas de Alto Pasaims to capitalise on the abundant natural resources and the know-how and expertise of the local workforce and merge this with the quality culture which characterises its owners in their other projects, to introduce and breed a new livestock species - the Huacaya alpaca.
Not just any alpaca, however; our intention is to breed coloured animals (as opposed to whites) and our objective in the medium to long term is to attain quality in terms of fleece weight, colour solidness and overall fibre quality on a par with what is currently available in whites and which complies with the demands of the select textile and craft industries.
Overly ambitious? Perhaps, but we are leaving no stone unturned in our quest. We have sought the collaboration of some of the most knowledgeable experts in alpaca farming in Europe, we are immersed in intense training and marketing activity, and our initial herd has been achieved, not with little effort and to a demanding specification profile, in order for us to start with some of the soundest foundation stock in this continent.
If our project is of interest to you, watch this space!
I’m not a sheep!!
Look at me. Do I really look like a sheep?
Most people have heard of my cousin, the llama, but in general they know very little about me, where I come from, my history or what makes me different. They just take one look at my fleece and say, “What an odd-looking sheep!”
It’s enough to give anyone an identity crisis. And don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against sheep, or goats for that matter. Many of my friends and family graze with them on a regular basis, but hey… just look at us … we are continents apart!
Pakita is an alpaca and she wasn’t joking when she said alpaca and sheep are continents apart. Alpacas originally came from the high plains of the Andes in South America. They were domesticated (some say produced) many thousands of years ago and there is now no such thing as a wild alpaca. Today, however, alpacas are bred all over the world (N. America, S. Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, to name but a few), which just proves how versatile and adaptable they are.
Pakita mentioned having a crisis of identity and it really is small wonder. Alpacas (like their cousins the llama, the vicuña and the guanaco) are actually camelids, i.e. they are relatives of the camel, an animal we are more familiar with. Take a look at their toes or their muzzle with its split upper lip. All camelids have a tendency to spit, although alpaca tend to spit more at each other than they do at people (thank goodness!).
Alpacas are often said to be ruminants like cows. But while it is true that they are strictly herbivorous and can often be seen leisurely grazing and chewing the cud, they are not actually true ruminants - they only have one stomach with three chambers. Their digestion system is highly efficient so they only need to eat 1-2% of their body weight (dry) per day - an evolutionary feature deriving from their Andean origins, where the pastures are very poor.
So Pakita looks like a sheep, eats like a cow and is a relative of the camel.
There are actually two species of alpaca. Pakita whith her short, dense, crimpy fleece is a Huacaya. Huacayas account for over 90% of the alpaca population (in some places 100%). The other kind of alpaca is called a Suri. Unlike Huacayas, they are relatively rare and their fleeces are different. They have long, silky, ringlets with a much envied natural sheen.
So why did man domesticate the alpaca and why do we still breed them today? Being mammals they do produce milk, but neither in the quantity or to the quality to make it commercially viable. Likewise their meat is suitable for human consumption and is considered a delicacy both in South America and in Australia. It is however not yet available in Europe (so Pakita can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for now...)
Alpaca fleece is made up of very fine hollow fibres, varying in thickness from 12 to 35 microns. It is three times warmer than merino wool and is oil and lanolin free, which makes it a hypoallergenic fibre. Demand for good quality fleece exceeds supply and the textile industry is always in search of new producers. The fleece is also much appreciated by craft spinners and manufacturers because of it is easy to handle and the finished product has a luxorious feel which makes it suitable for manufacturing all kinds of garments.
There is some discrepancy about the number of colours alpacas come in, but 22 is a much cited figure; ranging from pure white to true black with a full range of fawns, browns and greys. Fleece can used in its natural tone or it can be dyed; whites being particularly suitable for this.
Did you know that...?
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The British Alpaca Society
La Asociación Española de Alpacas
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Much interesting information is available for breeders and the general public on internet. Below is just a sample:
Alpaca World Magazine
A library of articles offered by North-West Alpacas (USA)
(AOBA) Alpacas Magazine
British Alpaca Futurity
Shows organised through BAS or its regional groups
Shows in Europe
Alpacas del Alto Pas is located in San Pedro del Romeral, in southern Cantabria (N. Spain) at an altitude of approximately 600 m. It lies in an area known as the Valles Pasiegos (The Pas Valleys), after their most important river - the River Pas. Alpacas del Alto Pas is located beside the Barcelada, a tributary which runs into the Pas, high up near its source in the Barrio del Burnalón.
If you would further information about our farm, our animals, products or services, or to arrange a visit please call us or send an e-mail:
Telf:(+34) 942 595 405 - 650 969 421
Fax:(+34) 942 577 439
Alpacas del Alto Pas
Bº Bustaleguin s/n
39686 San Pedro del Romeral
Cantabria - Spain