Basic Alpaca Care 101

The following information provides guidelines about the basic care for alpacas:

 Shelters:  Shelters are mostly needed to provide shade in summer and haven from winter’s cold wind and snow. For most climates a three-sided loafing shed that does not face into the wind or sun will serve the needs of your alpacas. Colder climates might need a barn. There are several excellent plans available in alpaca and livestock magazines that have storage areas configured into the shelter. See your local lumber supplier for price estimates and other suggestions. 

Fencing:  A perimeter fence, which provides adequate protection from predators, is a basic requirement. Most alpaca breeders prefer 5-foot no-climb fence. Since alpacas rarely challenge a fence, its primary purpose is to keep predators out. However, in areas of high deer population, eight-foot high fences or electric top wires may be needed to keep deer out. The most widely used fencing is welded or unwelded field fencing that has smaller holes on the bottom to keep out dogs and other critters. 

 Pasture Requirements:     The pasture land requirements are minimal, except it would be a kindness to offer them sufficient room to run. The rule of thumb is no more than 8 animals per acre. There should be a number of separate areas for segregating the males from the females. Ideally, you would have separate pastures for breeding males, breeding females, and weanlings/juveniles. You will also need to clean up the poop piles daily. Alpacas are very neat animals and their dung piles are often places for socializing. They all go in the same area and frequently at the same time. Clean up is a breeze!

Feed:   Good grass hay (such as orchard grass) will do. Each alpaca will consume 1-2 pounds a day, depending on pasture. Also you may feed a grain mixture with a mineral supplement included 1 – 2 times a day. Fresh, clean water must be available at all times. It is not a good idea to have a source of water such as a pond or stream within your pasture area. They may stand in it in hot weather causing the constantly wet fiber to rot. It grows back, but you will have some unsightly animals until it does and the loss of valuable fiber!

Feeding/Watering and Hay Containers:  Durable heavy plastic containers work well for water and feed.  Also you will want some kind of container for hay, such as a wooden hay box that holds a standard bale.

Catch Pen: This is a small area to catch your alpaca in to perform necessary procedures. It should be in a location that is readily accessible for you to herd your alpaca(s) into with a simple gated entry. A size that affords your alpaca room to pace but a comfortable reach to the alpaca for you is ideal; typically 8 by 10 foot.

Veterinary:  Alpacas are basically healthy animals and there is no disease that is specific to them. They are, however, subject to some diseases carried by other animals and require annual vaccination. All areas east of the Mississippi have large populations of white-tail deer, carriers of the meningeal worm, which is a most dangerous parasite for alpacas. This worm attacks the central nervous system and can be devastating to the animal’s health. If you have white-tail deer, you will need to worm monthly. A typical vaccination for this worm is Ivomec.  Also a yearly worm vaccine is Panacur. Most alpaca breeders also vaccinate for rabies and CDT.  An experienced alpaca vet is a valuable friend. Treat them well.

Shearing:  Alpacas of course are fiber-producing animals and are sheared once a year. Most alpaca breeders will sheer in the spring, which helps the animals deal with our hot, humid summers. You will need a good set of shears.

Teeth:  Alpacas with excellent bites seldom need their teeth trimmed. Front incisors that protrude beyond the top gum line may need to be sawed. Mature males that have developed fighting teeth in the back of their palates may need these cut off to prevent injury to other alpacas. If you are uncomfortable with these procedures, have your veterinarian perform them. Check for swelling along the gum lines and for tooth abscesses, which may be caused by course hay. Also, be aware that alpacas will loose their baby teeth at approximately two years of age.
Feet:  Alpacas have a padded foot with two toes. Alpacas toenails grow and may require periodic trimming if they are not worn down naturally. Check nails by picking up the alpaca’s foot and looking at it from the bottom. If the nail bends over the side of the pad or protrudes, it needs to be trimmed. Most alpaca breeders trim their alpaca’s toenails, if needed, when doing their monthly worming. The regularity of trimming does vary from animal to animal and according to the surface they walk upon. Grass pastures do not wear the nails down, so most alpacas will require a trim every month or so.
Scales:  You will need to have scales to weigh any cria when born.   You should also have scales for weighing the adult alpacas as well.

Record keeping:  Impeccable records must be kept on each animal. The records should include vaccinations, deworming, nail trimming, dates of breedings, births etc. Many do bimonthly evaluation of animals, checking general health and condition of each. Cria birth records to evaluate the health of the newborn are important. Check general strength of cria, breathing, teeth erupted, general appearance, time until nursing and walking etc. Record birth weight, daily and weekly gains for the first few weeks. All cria vaccinations and medicines given must be recorded. It may be helpful to keep birthing reports describing activities of each dam before birthing to look back on as her due date approaches with each birth. Yearly records of each alpaca’s fiber analysis are important to see yearly change. It is important to track males fiber micron, weight and length each year to evaluate him as a breeding male. If he blows out (gets course) fast you may want to reconsider using him. All breeding male’s offspring should be evaluated as well as a rating of the dam.

 Odds and Ends:  You should have halters and leads for each animal  The only other routine care is during the hotter months, as these guys are subject to heat stroke. This is a particular problem in the east where we have such high humidity along with high temperatures. You will need to provide shade and air movement for the hottest days. We use large industrial fans in the barns, placing them low to cool the alpacas’ bellies. Watching the alpacas hanging out in front of the fans, chewing their cud, will make you want to join the herd!

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14 Responses to “Basic Alpaca Care 101”

  1. Tara Says:

    Can anyone tell me what the 22 colors of Alpaca fleece are? My daughter is in a Llama/Alpaca 4-H group trying to do a demonstration and every site I have come upon mentions 22 colors but none list the colors.

  2. Jeff & Cindy Says:

    The 22 natural colors are:

    1. White
    2. Streaky White Black
    3. Streaky White Fawn.
    4. Light Fawn X
    5. Light Fawn Y
    6. Light Fawn Z
    7. Streaky Light Coffee
    8. Light Coffee or Brown
    9. Maroon
    10.Indefinite Grey
    11.Dark Coffee or Brown.
    12.Light Grey
    13.Dark Grey
    14.Medium Grey
    15.Light Silver Grey
    16.Medium Silver Grey
    17.Dark Silver Grey
    18.Light Piebald Z
    19.Light Piebald
    20.Light Piebald X
    21.Black
    22.Streaky Black White

    If you want a picture of a Light Silver or Medium Silver Grey
    alpaca let me know because those are the kind I have.

    If you have any more questions, feel free to let me know. I also
    am in 4-H. Are you here in Maryland?

    Erika Watkins
    Huggable Humming Alpacas
    alpacas.wordpress.com

  3. lauren barber Says:

    we have one male who has apparently gotten lazy & makes dung piles in the barn; the others follow suit. is there any way to get them to stop?

  4. Lisa Wintler-Cox Says:

    Hi,
    Do you offer alpaca manure for sale? If so, how much is it?
    Thanks
    Lisa

  5. Virginia Farnham Says:

    LOVED reading this. My husband just surprised me with 3 five year old boys. I spin (but make soap for a living) and they will be pets and fiber animals. I’m hoping that since they did not recieve much handling at their former home to have them tame enough to use in my senior citizen’s ministry as a petting time animal when I visit and spin with some of my elderly friends.

    How far are you from Olney? My brother is there.

    gini

  6. Dorine Says:

    The CDT, have you found a good place to get it, how much do you give them and how offten? Is this similar to Ivomec?

  7. Carrie Says:

    We are considering getting two male alpaca. Is there any problem raising them with seven lab-mix dogs? We have heard this could be a problem.

  8. Carroll Kleiboeker Says:

    Awesome Information, thanks for your great Post. I will come back soon . Great tips also : stop picking

  9. Lana Blanca Says:

    Im happy I discovered this blog, I couldnt get any info on this subject before. Also manage a site and in case you are ever serious in doing a bit of guest writing for me if possible feel free to let me know, im always look for people to check out my weblog. Please stop by and leave a comment sometime!

  10. Ness Says:

    Do Alpacas protect deer?

  11. jasmine Says:

    i wanna alpaca do you have any breeders you no

  12. Chloe Says:

    I don’t own alpacas, but I am doing a report on them and need to know their basic needs.

  13. Amanda Glen Says:

    In Australia, how do you protect Alpaca from ticks?

  14. Dabelar Says:

    I am considering buying a pair. This is a good blog to give me the information to buy or not to buy. I think I will buy. I just want them for the wool, and maybe light back packing with the kids. Mind not made up yet. Still looking in to it.

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