Husbandry

One thing that adds to the joy of raising and breeding alpacas is the ease of maintaining them, especially when compared to other livestock. One person can easily do the required farm labor for a herd of 20 alpacas in just a couple of hours a day.

Daily maintenance involves giving the alpacas fresh water, making sure they have ample hay, feeding them grain if needed and the easy cleanup of dung (alpacas make communal dung piles that are easily maintained in minutes a day.

Long term, the alpacas require their nails to be trimmed every 4 — 6 weeks, depending upon the ground and floor that they walk on, as well as some regular vaccinations. In certain areas you must also follow a strict deworming program throughout the warm months of the year. This is administered either through a subcutaneous injection, or orally with a paste. People either administer their own shots or hire a veterinarian to do it for them, if they don’t feel comfortable.

The infrastructure needed to keep alpacas is fairly simple. For shelter alpacas should have, at a minimum, a three-sided shed facing away from the prevailing wind with the ability to close it up during nasty weather. Alpacas also need a layer or bedding (hay or straw) when things get wet and chilly. This is particularly important to new crias who don’t have as much fiber and might have more trouble staying warm.

Fencing for alpacas has more to do with protecting the animals from outside intruders than it does keeping the herd confined. Domestic dogs pose the greatest threat. Alpacas will respect fencing as simple as two strands of electric “hot tape”. Unfortunately, predators seem to need greater discouragement. There are many types of fencing, some involving an electric component and others not, though in the case of the latter, it is generally wise to also use some sort of guard animal (llama, livestock guard dog or donkey) to add further protection for the alpacas.

Alpacas are light consumers, eating the equivalent of just 25 pounds of hay. This means that it takes very little acreage to support a sizable herd. Depending upon the quality of pasture, 1 acre can support 5 to 8 animals. The layout of interior fencing is therefore best set up in a manner that will take advantage of this and allow for rotational grazing practices. This is accomplished by creating several different subdivisions, or paddocks, within a given pasture. This provides for the best quality forage at any given time as well as giving the pasture a chance to recover after heavy grazing. The fencing for interior paddocks can be done using temporary electric rope or hot tape that will allow for changes in configuration as dictated by the growing season and the grazing habits of the herd.