Caring for Alpacas: 7 Things you Need to Know

Learn how to care for your alpacas

Alpacas’ are often times mistaken for llamas, but generally speaking alpacas’ tend to be noticeably smaller. That said, these two species are very closely related and can successfully crossbred. Thinking about keeping alpacas? Here’s 7 things you need to know.

Shelter

When adding a shelter to your property, consider seasonal climates and weather protection for your herd. Alpacas enjoy shelter that keeps them out of the heavy sun, away from wind and rain and close to a water source. Place your shelter in a direction that will break wind gusts and keep blowing snow and rain away from your alpacas. A simple 3 sided shelter will often do the trick but if you have something more elaborate, they fare well in barns too. Alpacas are most comfortable in shelters when they have clear and open exits. Shelters that coop them up with only one escape route can make them uneasy.

Pastures and Fencing

If your alpacas are out in the pasture keep them safe with layers of fencing and security. An alpaca’s only line of defense is to run when confronted by predators so creating a safe living environment for them is important. When identifying security options consider local threats to the area and prepare a solution against them. A perimeter fence around your regular fence is a good start but investing in other means such as guard animals may also be necessary. Learn more from a Tennessee alpaca breeder.

Feed and Forage

Alpacas can generally feed off of healthy pastures, averaging 10-20 per acre. Because they don’t eat at the root of the grass rotating your acreage for regrowth is fairly simple. Alpacas can also be supplemented with hay.

picture of a happy and healthy alpaca

Water

Alpacas need a continuous supply of fresh water. On average, alpacas will drink two to five gallons of water each day and more on hot days. To save time and energy hauling water to and from your pasture, invest in an automatic watering solution. Our livestock automatic waterer is a great solution for alpaca farming. Check out how these Iowa alpaca owners use our automatic waterer.

Shearing

Sheering should be done once a year and often during the spring to keep alpacas cool. You can do this yourself with some training and research, or hire a travelling sheerer to come to you. Before your first sheering though, be sure to read up on how to sheer for selling or reuse, if you are looking to do so. Sheered fibers can be graded and processed yourself, sent to a mill for processing or sold.

Alpaca that has been sheered

Alpaca FAQ's

Are alpacas’ easy to keep? 

Generally speaking, yes. One of the great things about alpacas is they’re generally happy, hardy, resistant to diseases and great with kids. Owners of alpacas’ generally find them to be great pets and work well for both big and small farms.

Can alpacas’ be kept alone?

Alpacas are considered herd animals therefore they should never be kept alone. At the very minimum you should keep at least two. Expert breeders recommend about 5-6 per acre of land.

How long do alpacas’ live?

Alpacas can live well past 20 years of age and have the capability of breeding for most of those years.

Veterinary Care

Just like other livestock, alpacas should be on an annual care plan with your vet. Read up on potential health threats for your alpacas and keep emergency numbers and a symptoms guide on hand and near their living quarters. An alpaca “first aid kit” is also important to have on site.

Record Keeping

Tracking your alpacas’ feeding, sheering, breeding, vet care, budget and daily habits will make managing your herd much easier. Pen and paper is preferred by some while others like to manage with computer software and spreadsheets. The preference is yours, just make sure to stay on top of it!

Alpacas’ are amazing animals and by keeping them happy and healthy isn’t all that difficult. Just be sure to keep an eye on them and give them the space they need to explore and thrive.