If you plan to keep alpacas, you’ll have to know how to take care of them. They are not hard animals to raise, but you do need to have some knowledge of their needs.
Alpacas need to be fed grass and hay and perhaps a bit of grain as a supplement.
Alpacas tend to eat one to two pounds of food per day, depending on their age and size. They only have to be fed once daily and will take care of some of their own feeding by grazing.
You should also make sure they have access to plenty of fresh water that is changed frequently. Water that stands still for too long (such as a pond) is a bad option for drinking water because stagnant water tends to draw bugs, parasites and bacteria.
Luckily alpacas are strong and healthy creatures. There aren’t really any health concerns that are specific to them. The main health concern facing alpacas are parasites from other animals. This can be other livestock they are kept with or wild animals.
An infamous contributor that you will want to watch out for is wild deer. Wild deer are bad about spreading parasites such as worms. You will want to talk to a vet about getting your alpaca vaccinated for certain parasites as well as take precautions against worms.
Veterinary care for your alpacas can be rather expensive and i recommend that you always insure your alpacas. It can be hard to find a company that offers insurance for alpacas but if you call around to different insurance companies you should be able to find one that does. It is usually better to contact a company specializing in farm insurance rather than a company that focuses on pet insurance. If you want to save money you can often chose a cheap insurance that only covers medical expenses and not the value of the animal in case of death. If you have an expensive pedigree alpaca i recommend that you also get breeders insurance on top of your regular insurance. A breeders insurance will compensate you if you are set back by the death of one of your breeders ( source: husdjursförsäkring.se – fetched: Nov 2016 – Language: Swedish)
Alpacas help take care of their own cleanliness because they are smart enough to have a designated corner for waste. They will eliminate waste on this pile rather than just going wherever. This makes cleanup much easier; which is good because you will want to shovel the waste daily for optimal cleanliness. Waste that is left for too long will attract insects and is a breeding ground for bacteria.
Washing your alpaca is simple and easy. Most owners just use a water house and give them a gentle but thorough spray. The only thing to keep in mind is that you’ll want to stick to their underbellies and don’t spray off their top half too much.
The reason for this is that the sun beats down on their back during the day and the water stuck in their fur will actually cause them to feel hotter due to a sort of greenhouse effect. And in cold weather, all the extra water in their fur could cause them to get too cold. Their bellies have less fur and this is the part of them that get the most dirty.
Protection From Predators
It should be noted that alpacas have almost no natural defenses to speak of. They can’t fight or scare off predators in any way. Like any livestock, wild predators like wolves can sometimes become an issue.
The only real defense an alpaca has against a dangerous predator is to run away from it. But sadly, you have to keep your alpacas fenced in. If they wander off they could get themselves into serious trouble and you may never see them again. It’s a sad irony that they have to be fenced in for their own protection; but in doing so you take away their means of retreating from threats.
When building your fence, you need one that will not only keep your alpacas in; but predators out.
The fence should be made of a material that is difficult to climb, perhaps even with barbed wire at the top. Digging is also an issue. Some predators are skilled diggers and can get under most fences. Using an electric fence even if just along the base is a great way to deter any digging.
Some owners help protect their alpacas by pairing them with livestock more apt to fight against predators.
Alpacas are better off if they have an enclosure with walls and a roof, somewhere within their fenced area. This doesn’t have to be anything too extravagant or complex, a wooden shed-like structure is fine as long as there is plenty of room for your alpacas.
Your alpacas will eat and defecate outside. The main reason you will want an enclosure for them is so that they have a place to find shade in the summer. This will help keep them from getting overheated.
Alpacas tend to do well in the cold due to their natural affiliation with high climates. But depending on just how cold it gets where you live, you might want to invest in a full barn for a shelter and possibly a safe space heater.
Most alpaca owners will shear their alpacas once a year. The best time of year to do this is in spring. This way your alpacas will have less fur as they approach the hotter months of summer and their coats will be at their thickest during the months of winter.
Shearing your alpacas is not only good for them; but you will be able to sell the wool.