Alpaca Care

Alpacas are relatively easy animals to look after and present few problems. These notes provide the basics – we’d recommend you purchase one of several guides on the market. We have found Gina Bromage’s Llamas and Alpacas: A Guide to Management very useful.

Land and fencing

Alpacas can be kept in a ratio of about five animals per acre, depending on the quality of the grazing. Note that you cannot keep a solitary animal, as they will quickly become very stressed. Three is a sensible minimum. Whatever size your plot of land, it’s worth sub-dividing it so that you can manage grazing and recovery of the grass.

Alpacas will not challenge fences so a one metre-high post and rail or post and wire fence is quite adequate. If you’re just keeping pet males they can stay together, but if you have males and females they must be kept apart so that you can control who gets together with who, and when! It’s worth having a few alpaca hurdles (moveable fence panels) so that you can create a small enclosure for handling the animals.

The animals will normally defecate in defined middens (poo-piles) though the females are less tidy than the males. You should collect the poo regularly in order to defeat the natural life-cycle of the parasites that can infect alpacas. It makes excellent garden and allotment manure, and can be used straightaway as it doesn’t need rotting-down.

Feeding

When the pasture is quite lush alpacas need little more than grass, though it’s a good idea to keep hay available so they can get some extra fibre. Pregnant and nursing females should have a supplement (see below). Alpacas won’t eat really lush, long grass (it’s not what they’d eat in the Andes) so you may need to top the grass in the summer. In the winter months when the grazing is less good they do need hay – we’ve found about 3 or 4 normal size bales per animal will see them through to the Spring, depending on whether there’s any grass left in the paddock.

They should always have access to drinking water though they get much of the moisture they need from the grass. Do keep the water trough reasonably clean and the water fresh.

You will need to give a little feed supplement – breeding females all year round, the rest in the winter months. We use GWF Nutrition products. Camelibra provides a mineral supplement and Hembra and Cria is an enhanced version for breeding females and their cria. Fibregest gives them the extra fibre they’d get from the coarser grass in the Andes but don’t get from our more lush grasses. We also give the breeding females and any other animals that look a bit under-weight some extra protein in the form of re-hydrated sugerbeet which you can get from any horse feed supplier.

Shearing

Alpacas need shearing once a year, in the late Spring or early Summer. Don’t even think of attempting this yourself – it’s a professional job, and these days there are several specialists around the UK. Your shearer will tell you what modest preparations are required for shearing day.

Teeth and toes

Alpacas’ teeth and toenails don’t get worn down naturally as they would on the harsher terrain and feeding in the Andes. Teeth may need trimming (not all do) once a year and your shearer will do this. Toenails should be inspected about once a month and will likely need trimming about three times a year. This is not complicated, but it is a two-man job – one to hold the animal (me), the other to do the trimming (my wife). It takes less than five minutes per alpaca. The shearer will normally trim nails if required and you can get a vet to do the other occasions.

Healthcare

Like most pets and livestock, alpacas need vaccinating once a year (we use Lambivac). We do it ourselves but you can ask a vet to do it.

The animals may need treating for parasites, but only if poor health and analysis of a poo sample indicates high infestation rates. Good paddock hygiene (see above) is the best way to keep parasites under control.

Our short, gloomy winter days means alpacas may not get enough Vitamin D, so it’s a good idea to give them a monthly vitamin injection or drench between December and March. Your vet can help with this, too, though we do it ourselves. A drench entails squirting a bit of orange gunge into the mouth – some alpacas like it more than others!

Handling

Handling alpacas is one of the joys of owning them. Animals should be halter-trained after weaning and thereafter benefit from regular handling (with and without a halter and lead). They are naturally reticent animals (they take their status as prey for large cats very seriously!) but will learn to readily accept close interaction with humans, especially those they know.

Contact Us

Please call us on 01788 890920 or 07914 922211
Or email willoughby.alpacas@gmail.com

British Alpaca SocietyHeart of England Alpaca Group

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