All about Keeping
Alpaca Food, Care, Health Guide and Videos
All about keeping alpacas,
looking at what alpacas
eat, general care,
We also have alpaca
knitting yarn for you to make those alpaca clothes you
liked, and some alpaca
books that will give you further information on
how to look after your herd.
Keepingalpacas for profit
used to be seen as a
sure investment for homesteading
and farming. High returns were promised with alpaca investment in
raising and keeping alpacas, and many believed that they would make a
lot of money in the process, without doing a proper alpaca business
plan and thorough investigation.
Unfortunately, those who
went ahead keeping
alpacas for profit,
outlaying thousands for top breeders in the
hope that they would get rich quick have found that this has not been
so, and the price of alpacas has become far more affordable for those
who just want to keep alpacas
as pets or raising
alpacas for wool.
There is money in keeping alpacas for
their lovely fiber, which is well-sought out, however, alpacas will not
make you millionaires.
What are Alpacas and what is the Difference between a Llama
and an Alpaca?
So what are alpacas and how are they different
The alpacas and llamas both
come from the camelid
family but they are not nearly as bad
tempered and smelly as their relative the camel, and are closer to
Llamas are larger than alpacas, but despite their size, alpacas give
more wool as their wool is fine and in a single layer, whereas the
llama has a rough outer coat, and a fine undercoat that doesn't yield
as much wool. Llamas were bred as pack-animals and have never been bred
for their fiber. Because of their straighter backs they make good
pack-animals, and the llama has curved ears and the alpaca has straight
There are 2 types of
which make up about 80
% of the US market and Suri.
The difference is in their fleece
structure. Where the huacayas have dense, short fleece, the Suri's
fleece is a lot longer and silkier.
The Suri will
produce about 2.5 kg of
fleece after being shorn, and the
will produce about 2-3.5
kg of fleece.
Naturally dyed alpaca knitting
yarn hanging up to dry
Keeping Alpacas as
So how to raise alpacas
successfully if they are to fit into your
homestead and farm?
Alpacas are ideal
animals for the small homestead. There really is joy in keeping alpacas
as they are an easy care livestock. They
are hardy, generally
disease-resistant and they thrive in every weather condition
imaginable. They are good with children and therefore alpacas make
excellent pets. They almost always give birth during daylight hours,
and is a novel experience for the kids, and also less stressful for mom
Because alpacas are such a gentle farm animal they are the ideal
homestead animal to keep as a pet and the nice thing is that they last
a lot longer than your budgie or hamster will - they
live 15-25 years.
Keeping Alpacas and
Although a female alpaca
can be bred
after a year old, it is better to
wait until it is 2-3 years old. It is fine to keep both males and
The alpaca is not bound by a breeding season like sheep, and so
therefore they will mate at any time and drop their cria (baby) after a
gestation period of about
11-12 months. Many alpaca births occur during
the rainy season. They usually only have single births, which makes
them more valuable and sought after and their pregnancies and
are usually without complications. The adults grow to a height of 5
If something happens to the mother, or she is unable to suckle her
young, other female alpacas who have recently given birth will take on
the cria and nurse it without complications. They are therefore
excellent surrogate mothers.
The Joy of Keeping Alpacas
Advantages of Keeping
have other advantages, mainly of course the alpaca wool that
they produce. Their lovely fiber is light-weight, less greasy than
sheep's wool, and is know for its softness, luster and warmth. In fact,
the alpaca's wool is seven times warmer than sheep's wool and softer
than cashmere.As a result alpaca knitting yarn
is well sought after by knitters and the fiber is used by those
interested in spinning
Alpacas come in a range of
which is ideal for
those who want to use fiber that is natural and free from chemical
dyes. In addition, they are eco-friendly with soft padded feet, not
hooves, which has a low impact on the landscape.
For those of you who are
wanting to keep alpacas
then it is useful to think of having 2-3 castrated males. As alpacas
are herd animals they need to have the company of other alpacas. Buying
whethers is a cheaper option than buying breeding quality alpacas. In
addition they can be shorn twice a year, and, as
mentioned, their fleece can be used
for home spinning,
felting or weaving.
Because of their excellent
vision they make excellent 'guard
dogs' and will keep predators away from your sheep and are
good at protecting their own young. Not only will alpacas protect your
sheep, but they will also protect your chickens
from foxes and wolves.
The best thing for the
farmer and homesteader is the alpaca manure
and their toilet habits.
Alpacas are very obliging in that they choose one place to relieve
themselves and soon you have a manure heap of good, non-smelling,
slow-releasing manure which is ideal for your vegetables,
orchards and flower gardens.
Alpaca Food and What to Feed Alpacas?
alpaca food consists of pasture and hay
Alpacas are cud-chewers,
they need pasture and hay.
An acre of pasture will support 5-10 animals. They
are both browsers and grazers so will also nibble on shrubs and bushes.
Because they are economical in what they eat, alpaca food doesn't cost
anymore than it would to feed your average farm dog.
There are a number of commercial
alpaca food mixes available, but these are
best thought of as supplying vitamins and minerals rather than the bulk
feed which is obtained through grazing.
How to raise alpacas successfully with few health problems when they
first arrive onto your farm is to introduce any changes to the diet
gradually over a period of a couple of weeks. This way the microbes in
the gut have time to adjust to any feed changes.
Keeping Alpacas and
that alpacas are very
easy animals to keep, and really don't need much
maintenance. They have a low-protein diet of grasses and
pasture plants. Because they have a clean breech they do not suffer
They do, however, need a
lot of water, particularly in the summer,
where they can drink up to 4 liters of water a day. They will need some
shelter, usually a 3-sided structure is sufficient so that they can get
out of the wind, sun and rain when required.
Also, make sure that their field has a fence of at least 4 feet
to keep stray dogs
and coyotes out.
Always make sure that
have shade and water
at all times.
Shade created by trees, shade cloth or better still, a tall barn that
will give shelter and ventilation. Having fans fitted is also a
solution in areas of high heat and humidity.
Plenty of water should be
available, and it should be kept out of the sun in a shady spot.
Keeping alpacas also
includes shearing. Shearing alpacas
is hot is
another way of reducing the possibility of heat stress. A full shear is
better, although barrel cuts are acceptable.
Make sure that your
animals are well
fed, but not overfed, as overweight animals suffer more from the heat
than those that aren't obese. Proper nutrition of the animals is also
important of raising heathy alapacas. In particular, providing
adequate selenium, vitamin E,
copper, zinc, and B vitamins such as thiamine can increase the
tolerance of environmental extremes.
Keeping Alpacas and
The alpaca is not used to
temperatures and humidity. As a result, if they can suffer from heat
stress, which can lead to illness and ultimately death if
not caught in
Commonly used is the heat
is simply a formula to estimate the risk of heat stress. The Heat Index
can be estimated by adding the temperature (F) and percent humidity
(%). Typically, a heat index of less than 120 is safe,
120 to one 180
creates possible problems, and greater than 180 is the range where
animals are in the most danger.
When raising alpacas keep
a close eye
your animals during
the hot summer months and look
for the signs of heat stress. Nasal
flaring, open-mouthed breathing, increased breathing rate and effort,
drooling, depression or dullness, not eating feed, scrotal swelling in
intact males, weakness, trembling, a rectal temperature greater than
104 degrees F, a heart rate over 90 beats per minute, or a respiratory
rate over 40 breaths per minute are all signs of heat stress in alpacas
and show that things are not well.
Move the animal into a
shaded area of
your homestead and hose
the animal down with cool water, making sure
that the animal is thoroughly soaked and not just wet on the surface,
as the fibers can trap the heat and make things worse. Try and get the
animal to drink some water, and call your vet immediately.
Keeping Alpacas and Other
An alpaca can suffer from:
* mange, tick paralysis
and ring worm
* foot and mouth disease
* rabies which they can
pick up from
dogs and foxes
* Hydatid disease
Looking for Alpacas for
So you have decided that
you would like to keep alpacas but
you are not
sure where to buy your herd from. There are a number of options for
securing your herd when raising alpacas:
1) From a registered Alpaca Breeder
2) From an Alpaca Rescue organization
3) From Alpaca Auctions
Unless you know what you
are doing, stay
away from alpaca auctions.
Animal auctions are notorious for places where you get rid of poor
stock to unsuspecting buyers. Don't be one of those that gets suckered
into a bad buy.
Of course, you are always sure of buyihng quality stock through a registered alpaca breeder,
but unfortunately, it comes with a cost. Buying alpacas are not cheap,
and one of the better deals is to buy pregnant dam.
your flock up slowly, but if you are using your own breeding stock be
on the look out for weaknesses in the herd and be aware that multiple
births when raising alpacas is very rare, and so you will be building
your herd very slowly.
Finally, you can look at buying your alpacas through an alpaca rescue organization.
There are many organizations you offer this service in order to keep
the animals out of the auction ring. Not all these animals have been
abused, but through changing circumstances owners find that they can no
longer look after the herd and so they end up at the alpaca rescue
centers. There are many alpaca rescue organizations on the Internet, so
see if there is a center in
your area first. In my opinion, this is the cheaper option, and you are
also doing a good deed by rescuing these animals and offering them a
Alpaca Books for Further
Information on Keeping Alpacas and Experiencing the Joy of Alpacas in
Alpaca Knitting Yarn for
Videos on Keeping Alpacas
An excellent video on an
introduction to the Suri Alapacas
A Video on 4H Training Alpacas
A great video for your
kids on 4H training and keeping alpacas as pets.
A Video on Alpaca Shearing - Shearing a Cria
A comprehensive guide to
shearing a cria is a video by Mary Jane Fox that takes you
from the tools and supplies you'll need to step-by-step instructions
and techniques to make your shearing day a success.
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