Alpaca Husbandry

How hard is it to care for an alpaca?

Compared to other large livestock, they are quite easy. If you start off with healthy alpacas and learn a few of the basics musts for proper care, they really are very little trouble.
The Basics:
1) You must have at least two alpacas together if you expect them to be healthy and happy.

2) They need either quality orchard grass hay or good amount of pasture land for grazing, ideally, both. The rumor was, you could put 10 on an acre. However unless you have that acre divided and you are rotating pastures, they will eat one acre pretty darn quick
3) Clean source of water at all times.
4) Access to free choice minerals
5) They have to be shorn once a year. The fiber grows perpetually, so unless you shear it off, they will suffer and most likely die from heat stress
6) Shelter from inclimante weather. Could be as simple as a roof to stand under or as elaborate as a four sided barn.
7) Herd health day every4 to 6 weeks. Trim toenails, put your hands on them to feel back (body condition scoring) to be sure they are not too skinny or fat, check famacha (skin tone in eye lids) for paleness, showing anemia caused by parasites.
8) Parasite Control (have your vet, or learn how to do fecal floats yourself, to check parasite levels) Always do this if poo is runny (mud butt) or as a precaution in wet warm weather when parasites thrive.

Alpacas are extremely mild mannered and easy to handle unless very threatened. They are extremely intelligent and curious as evidenced by their complex social and communication behavior.

Alpacas communicate by humming and with body posture. Generally they seem to humm more if they are for some reason uneasy or unsure about something, or when they are curious about something, like a new person, or animal on the farm.

Alpacas are a prey species meaning they have natural predators, such as wild dogs, big cats, etc. Speed, agility and the fact that their is safety in numbers are the alpacas only defense against such predators, hence the strong herding instinct.

Because the alpaca’s region of origin has limited forage, they are among the most efficient utilizers of food on earth.

Alpacas have soft padded feet making them gentle on your pastures. An adult will consume around 2 1/2 lb. of forage a day In the US, most breeders will supplement forage with a grain and mineral mix.

There is no need to groom or bath alpacas. All fiber care is done after it is shorn off the alpaca. However they do enjoy a good belly bath when it is hot out.

Alpacas share a communal dung pile, and it seems once one goes they all line up behind the other to take their turn on the bean pile. Cleaning up after your alpaca is very easy, due to their digestive efficiency, their solid waste looks like large rabbit pellets, or black beans, and is primarily composed of indigestible fiber. This means, unlike other livestock, they are relatively smell free and their beans make fantastic fertilizer for flower and vegetable gardens. It is even mild enough to use on house plants.

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