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see West Melton

Alpaca Articles

Nic and Linda keep up-to-date with the latest in alpaca information, by reading widely, being a member of the New Zealand, Australian, British and American alpaca associations, and attending conferences worldwide.

They share this knowledge with others through holding industry training days and workshops, writing articles for industry magazines, and also through articles on this website and others.

Click here for more articles  


By Nic Cooper Southern Alpacas Stud (and Cup Cake the Alpaca)

In autumn 2006 the first shipment of alpacas from Christchurch, New Zealand, to London via Singapore with Singapore Airways was successfully completed. Since then shipments have been a regular feature from the quarantine isolation facility on our farm to all parts of Europe.


Whilst "firsts" always undergo some steep learning curves, and every shipment throws up new challenges, the routing via Singapore is clearly less time consuming, better logistically, and far less stressful on the alpacas than the previous routing through Auckland and Canada. 

New Zealand has the right to export to Europe, whilst Australia does not. The approval of a camelid import protocol (Overseas Market Access Requirement - OMAR) from New Zealand to Europe also provides a safe, easy to access, transit-haven, for Australian alpacas on their way to Europe.  

This has opened up new opportunities for New Zealand alpaca breeders. Stud males can be worked whilst in NZ, and this helps pay their way whilst giving New Zealanders the chance to gain the new transiting genetics.

And more and more New Zealand bred alpacas are also making the journey to Europe. 


First Step - New Zealand Citizenship

Australian alpacas going to Europe have to come to New Zealand and establish residency here for six months. To obtain entry to New Zealand, requires first a month long quarantine in Australia, and this is probably the most intensive of all the procedures required through this process.  

on farm isolation facility

Whilst our shipments have been relatively clear, some past shipments to NZ have seen problems, despite the protocol for shipping.


NZ born alpacas going to Europe of course don't have this time-consuming and expensive stage - they go straight to screening and into isolation on farm. We can get NZ born alpacas from NZ to UK in under two months.

Let's look at it from an alpaca perspective from a successful shipment -



"Hi my name is Cup Cake and as leader of my herd I have a story to tell about a big journey my herd has been taking recently. Cup Cake

I was born on the EP Cambridge farm in the Adelaide Hills; there were lots and lots of us, a very prosperous herd. However one day another human came to the farm and our own human (Matthew) brought us in to the covered areas. This new human pawed all over us, messing up our fibre. Then along with a group of my friends I was separated from mum and put in a separate fenced area called "quarantine". 

There followed 30 days of needles, blood taking, tests and general poking and prodding, followed by completely taking away all our fibre and washing us with nasty smelly liquid.  Very undignified. We were not allowed grass, and were fed only hay and supplement.  

Then we were herded into a big truck and headed for an "airport" where we were imprisoned behind wooden bars, lifted high in the air and put on another large truck that looked like a bird. It was a very noisy bird, and several hours later, we landed in New Zealand.  

New humans (Nic and Linda) met us at the airport and after another truck ride we arrived at our new home at Southern Alpacas Stud in Christchurch  -  although at that time I did not know that was just for 6 months.  We got to meet lots of other alpacas who spoke with slightly different accents, and some of the boys that were with us had a great time mating some of the local girls."


Screening, Isolation and Testing

Screening to the UK Registry (BAS)  is the time consuming part, whilst screening contracts are signed and set up, and whilst fibre is sent away to USA for testing.    

UK screening is undertaken by NZ accredited judges (phenotypic) and vets. It is an expensive process. Perfect conformation and health is a must. Fibre must be excellent and there is no allowance for age or colour. 

The one problem we have found is that it is difficult to ship weaners and "intermediates", however magnificent they are, because of the height/weight minimums that are applied irrespective of age. However cria at foot (whatever age) are not screened. 

MAF checksOnce they pass screening they are on to testing and isolation, supervised by AgriQuality. Two tests for those going to the UK - a Tb test and a Brucellosis test. As soon as the test is taken the alpaca must be isolated from those of a different status (i.e. those not tested).  Test results are back within the week and, if clear, the alpacas are free to fly. 

If any of the alpacas are destined for parts of Continental Europe, the whole herd has to have a further (expensive) test and the isolation is a full 30 days.

Getting the timing right for the changing of the seasons can be tricky. Our early shipments were blade shorn to leave some fibre on for UK winter. Mostly now we clean shear well in advance so they have a growing coat on when they leave NZ.


Cup Cake takes up the story again "We were just settling in to the new farm when more humans arrived and the prodding, poking and fibre stealing started again.  The humans were called "screeners" although one acted just like a Judge (I had seen one once when taken to a sort of circus) and the other smelled just like one of those "vets". 

These screeners passed comments (nice and not so nice) and spent a lot of time looking at our legs - most rude. They weighed us, and measured our height. And they stole a handful of fibre off each of us. 

Next came some humans with bright red overalls and big boots. They shaved some more fibre off and did what the humans called a "Tb test" and took bloods to check for Brucellosis.  The local alpacas were amazed. They told us the farm we were on had been clear of Tb since the inception of the alpaca Tb scheme (close to half the lifetime of an alpaca) and New Zealand had no brucellosis, but I overheard the Nic human saying it had been ordered by this special person called "OMAR" so it had to be done and not to worry about it.     

We were then taken straight into a new paddock well away from all the others. "Isolation" it was called.  All the gates were locked, important signs were put up at the front gate of the farm warning humans and other alpacas to stay away, and our humans washed their feet every time they came to visit and wore those distinctive red overalls. 

blade shorn alpacasA few days later things got traumatic again.  A man arrived with big sharp scissors and while our humans held us, he undressed us again.  Silly thing - we thought, it was still winter and very cold.  But he left a good deal of fibre on us so we could keep warm, so it was OK, if not the most flattering of coiffure. We still had lots of bald patches where those humans had stolen fibre."


Time to pack the bags (again)

At Southern Alpacas Stud we are 15 minutes from Christchurch International Airport -  with daily non-stop flights to Singapore, connecting directly to Heathrow. Initial exports went this way, taking just 30 hours in transit.

However protocols around plane routes now mean that the alpacas leave on a flight from Auckland. There the alpacas are loaded on the plane late at night for an early morning flight, and the  alpacas are at Heathrow within 36 hours. The flight to UK is 28 hours, including a stop-over in Singapore and Sharjah. It is a similar timeframe to Germany.

transportationAfter a check by NZ Agriquality Services, the alpacas are loaded into a horse truck which is quarantine sealed for their journey by road to Auckland. They have hay and water en-route and two drivers take it in turns to drive through the day and night to arrive in Auckland.

Here there is an isolation transitional facility where the alpacas stay in nice green pastures for a few days. It too is subject to bio-security scrutiny and is kept locked.

The check in time for alpacas is 3 hours.  So after a final check by NZ Agriquality Services, it is into the horse truck again for the short ride to Auckland  Airport where we are met by MAF clearance officials.  The alpacas present their boarding passes, we present the biosecurity clearances (a lot of work goes into getting these signed), the shipper presents the travel paperwork, MAF seals the crate and we all breathe a sigh of relief.  


"One morning the vet man came back and checked our tags against his list for the third time (these humans cannot get it right first time it seems) and  a large truck was backed in and we were encouraged to get inside. We sat down on the hay and waited. After a sunny day and a dark night we arrived at dawn at a green paddock.

There were a lot of those long-legged creatures there that humans climb on. They said that we were in Auckland. We spent a few days there in the sun gambolling freely in the paddocks, watching the horses go around in circles with their humans. We have a much better understanding with our humans than that.

Then the large truck came again - we knew it was called a horse truck now - and one of those vet men. Again he checked us against his list  and we went on a short ride, to the place where the big noisy birds fly from.  And amazingly there were our wooden slatted prisons again.

 alpaca air freight crates

There was another vet man there and an associate vet girl, looking very official with clipboards, and a "clearer" in a white shirt. He did not want to get it dirty. I tried to spit in his direction but he kept clear! 

I looked into the prison and led my herd in, as we had a comfy carpet and hay, food buckets of treats, and water bowls, and plenty of space, so it was better than coming from Australia, where we got nothing to eat or drink for hours. 

Then off we went again.  It was a very long night, so we sat and waited.  We got off for a while in a hot place called Singapore, and our water was replenished. Our Linda human had written for that to happen on the side of the wooden prison. This was followed by another very long night (what had happened to the world, had it stopped turning?) 

Finally the big bird stopped and we were able to get out of our prison. More vet humans and clearer humans checking we were who we said we were, and checking our passports. We got good food and water in a place where the ground did not move.  All of a sudden it was summer, and warm. We were at last glad we had lost our coats".  


Arrival in UK

UK receptionThe alpacas arrive and start to get over the jet lag. They are fed and watered in reception facilities, import checked, and collected for the home farm. 

The alpacas have to remain on their destination farm for 30 days before becoming citizens of the UK - or undergoing additional testing and language lessons to move to continental Europe. 

There are glitches - like the official quarantine seals not fitting the crates. In the first shipment the screener's paperwork from NZ was sent to BAS and never arrived, and the whole exercise had to be repeated. We could write an entire story on glitches in import and export! Vigilance is still required to avoid those quirky problems (check everything twice).   

With  15 shipments done and further crates booked, the export business is now taking a fair share of our time and effort.  But it is rewarding.

Cup Cake concludes her story "We made a short trip to another new home. There was green grass, and it was warm. There were also other alpacas there - with very different accents. We introduced ourselves but felt a bit embarrassed by our coats which, being blade shorn, did not show us off in our best light.new home in UK

 Our new humans, Bob and Lesley, seem very nice, and we are happy here, settling in well.    

Rumour has it that some of our friends from Adelaide and Christchurch will be coming here to England to join us. It will be good to catch up with them again and hear their stories."


Finally why move alpaca around the world?

Alpaca have been farmed for 18 years or so in NZ and Australia, and there is quite close co-operation between their respective alpaca industries.  Australia originally sourced most of their base stock from or through New Zealand, and New Zealand breeders have been sourcing quality genetic stock back from Australia since 1996.    

Serious breeders in both countries have steadfastly applied the best of their sheep wool technology to the development of the alpaca herd - with great success. A solid common registry, the IAR, linked to a breeding values programme, AGE, has allowed gain to be recognised genetically and consolidated.   

Europe on the other hand is a fledgling industry.  Despite some excellent alpaca already in the UK, improvement can still be made by buying. From Australasia (and the Registry) the buying can be genotypic, not just phenotypic. And there are some very exciting proven genetic fibre traits to be sourced in antipodean alpacas.

Alpacas on the earlier shipments have birthed successfully and Brutus, Irraquoy and Encounter offspring are now running around English fields. UK clients have been impressed with the quality of stock shipped from NZ. Even the UK clearer commented positively (“best he had seen”) on two young cria that were shipped.  

One of the cria born in UK from an exported female, pregnant to our stud male Encounter, has gone on to win Champion Intermediate at the Royal Bath and West Show in England.

Wellground Close Encounter, from Australasian genetics, sired by our stud Encounter.

  For more on imports and exports, and our isolation facility,
see Imports and Exports

Updated January 2009

Nic Cooper and Linda Blake
Main West Coast Road, West Melton, RD1, Christchurch, New Zealand
Phone 0064 3 318-1917 | fax 0064 3 318-1927 | email alpacasnz@xtra.co.nz