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.