Whether you’re raising alpaca in order to obtain the very finest fibers, or just want to enjoy a pair of them as pets, it is essential to learn exactly how to care for them. Lucky for owners, alpaca are low-maintenance animals. However, understanding how they function best can enrich your experience and theirs. If you have any questions regarding the care of an alpaca, the following information is a great start. For further tips, contact The Alpaca Group!
Alpaca are members of the camelid family, native to the harsh highland regions of Peru, where they experience snow and freezing wind at altitudes of as high as 17,500 feet above sea level. These medium-sized animals are mild-mannered and do not attempt to break through their fences. Their three primary needs include proper feeding, shelter, and space, as well as shearing, worming, and vaccinations.
Special note: alpaca are social creatures that will fail to thrive if denied the companionship of other camelids. Be sure to create a healthy environment by housing at least two alpaca together. Baby alpaca, or crias, in particular should never be raised away from other alpaca.
Alpaca are categorized as ruminants, or creatures who chew cud, similar to a cow or deer. These animals survive well on pasture grass or low protein hay, all of which offers up balanced mineral content. On a financial note, alpaca cost as much to feed per month as a household dog.
Alpaca can survive in harsh conditions, but thrive with quality pasture and access to long-fibered plants, such as hay. Owners of alpaca can purchase commercial alpaca feed mixes to act as support nutrition, in addition to the food alpaca take in through grazing. When introducing dietary changes, be sure to do so gradually over 2-3 weeks in order to allow the microbes in the animal’s gut to have time to adjust to these changes.
Feed troughs should allow for 18” per alpaca to eat. For 12 alpacas, approximately 18 feet is required. With approximately 16 feet of roof over their heads from the back wall to the eaves, alpaca can comfortably eat and enjoy protection from the elements.
Alpaca can thrive on a small amount of acreage, with five or even ten animals living comfortably on one acre of land. A few acres is plenty for raising a small herd and providing a decent return on your investment.
Alpaca do not require barns. They do well in corrals for protection during the night, which both keep predators away and prevent them from wandering and leaving the area. Open shelters provide the best possible support for these animals, who need protection from the wind and a dry place to eat and rest during stormy weather. Finally, these shelters should allow for alpaca to come and go as they like, within their fencing, creating a level of comfort and independence. Gravel provides superior flooring (much better than cement) for these animals.
In order to keep your alpaca as healthy and happy as possible, regular shearing, worming, and vaccinations are required.
Alpaca, like many animals, are susceptible to parasites, including worms. Making sure your alpaca remain healthy and vital is a full-time job for any alpaca owner. Alpaca require a Clostridial vaccination and worming regiment two times each year, once in the Spring and once in the Autumn. In addition, Vitamin D supplementation may be necessary for young animals, as well as females who are pregnant.
Shearing your alpaca each spring will allow them to enjoy short fibers in the summer heat and warm, longer fibers in the winter cold. Depending on the weather in your area, you may want to adjust your shearing time. If your region warms up in early May or even April, you may wish to shear earlier than if temperatures don’t increase until June. Professional shearers are available, but be sure to plan ahead, as other local owners may will be scheduling around the same time.
If you’re considering alpaca ownership, contact our farm today. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and walk you through the process of purchasing an alpaca from one of our champion bloodlines.