Alpaca Care and
By Linda K. Davis, Owner, Alpaca.com L.L.C.
Of all livestock you can own,
the alpaca is one of the easiest and most inexpensive to
maintain. This factor contributes significantly to their
overall investment value and the quality of life of those
who care for them. Small wonder that the alpaca is now considered
the world's finest livestock investment.
Their physical needs are simple
and "user friendly" for the new owner as well as the experienced
Since alpacas have survived
several millennia in the harsh cold of the high Andes, they
have developed a remarkable ability to be comfortable during
the worst of our winters (if only the same could be said
of their human caretakers). A three-sided shelter with the
open side facing east-southeast is usually adequate. The
maximum number of animals you plan for that area should
determine the size of shelter.
In warm weather, alpacas need
shade and airflow. Make sure your shelter and/or barn has
adequate ventilation and be prepared to use fans in these
areas on warm, muggy days.
Clean, fresh water should
also be available in or near the shelter. Alpacas do not
consume much water, but they will resist drinking stale
or dirty water.
The efficiency of the alpaca
is especially noticeable when you consider that they are
highly developed ruminants and require much less food intake
than most animals their size.
If your pastures have adequate
natural, non-fertilized grass, they will content themselves
to simply graze there. Alternating them between pasture
areas allows the grass to re-grow and fecal parasites to
die before reusing the areas. Ideally, rotation schedules
at least two weeks long will allow these desirable events
You can supplement grass intake
with a low-protein grass hay. A little alfalfa is okay,
but you need to watch protein levels. Remember, your alpacas
are designed to utilize their food in a very efficient manner.
Put their hay in an area where it can stay dry and in a
container that minimizes waste.
Finally, most alpaca owners
will add a small amount of commercial grain prepared for
alpacas to their animals' daily diet. The important value
of this is to provide selenium and other necessary vitamins,
which cannot be obtained from grass and hay in the United
The general rule is that five
to ten alpacas can be easily and efficiently maintained
on one acre of usable land. This will vary depending on
your farm layout, the nature of your land, and other factors.
Obviously, if your pasture has a little grass and a lot
of alpacas, you will need to provide additional high-quality
grass hay for your herd.
Alpacas are non-aggressive
animals that do not "challenge" fences like other types
of livestock. Indeed, your fencing should be designed more
toward keeping predators out than keeping your alpacas in.
This suggests a height of at least five feet and mesh openings
no more than four inches wide.
Alpaca.com L.L.C. will
be happy to provide consultation regarding the type of fencing
best suited for your alpacas. Contact Alpaca.com.
Under normal circumstances,
your medical expenses for your alpacas will be minimal.
These are essentially hardy and healthy animals, toughened
by 5000 years of life in the hostile environment of the
high Andes, and protected by stringent import guidelines
maintained by the US government and AOBA.
The standard regimen of care
for the alpaca includes annual inoculations and monthly
worming. Toenails need to be trimmed every six months. As
you become more experienced, you may want to handle most
of these procedures and utilize your veterinarian only on
an as-needed and consultative basis.
One of your first tasks in
researching your alpaca options should be to locate a qualified
veterinarian near you who has specialized experience in
treating camelids, preferably alpacas. Your state veterinary
association will be able to assist you in this search.