How much land do I need to raise alpacas?
You can have a few fiber males on as little as one acre, but a breeding farm you will need several acres, the more the better! Males and females need separate pastures, and crias need lots of room to run. In my opinion 5 acres is a minimum for a long term plan for a breeding farm.
Can I buy just one?
No, no and no. The biggest stress for an alpaca is being away from other alpacas. I’m aware that there are stories of single alpacas that have been raised as pets, but I can assure you there are many more stores of single alpacas dying from stress or becoming difficult to handle as they mature to adulthood. I used to sell them in pairs and even then the stress can be very hard for them. So my policy now is to be sure there are at least 3 or 4 alpacas in any new group. Goats, ponies, horses or sheep don’t count. You will enjoy them more and they will enjoy living with you if you understand this concept.
Can’t I just buy a breeding pair and make my own herd?
I’d have to say no. Because the females are induced ovulators, I don’t believe they should be kept with males. Even geldings can cause uterine infections and generally make the female miserable. Girls should have a few female friends to keep them happy, the same goes for the boys. Most serious alpaca breeders will keep two separate herds, one female herd, one male herd.
How much fleece do you get from one animal?
Our best animals produce more than 10 pounds annually. But I am primarily interested in the prime blanket fleece which will be more like 5 or more pounds. Leg, neck and belly fiber can be used for felting, rug making and many other projects.
How often do you shear them?
Once a year, we generally try to have our herd done the first weekend in June. Then they are cool and comfortable during the heat of July and August, but they will have enough growth to feel comfortable in the winter months.
What do you do with the fleece?
At Blue Moon Ranch we do many different things with our fleeces. Some are sold right off the animals after shearing to hand spinners. Some are sent to processors for making into rovings and yarn. Some is sent to fiber co-ops and we get finished products back. Some is kept here for my own spinning and dyeing projects.
Is it hard to take care of alpacas?
Not at all. We help our customers learn to care for their animals and how to keep them happy and healthy.
Do you have to show them?
We retired from showing in 2008 and our sales have been great since then. We believe there are other ways to get your herd noticed with out the stress of showing. These things are covered in our business classes. If you enjoy the show ring, we will support you and be thrilled when our “kids” win ribbons!
Do I need livestock guardian dogs to protect them?
That all depends on your area. Alpacas are defenseless animals and when we fence them in, we take away their only natural defense which is to run. Loose dogs pose the biggest threat to most alpaca farms, although we have cougar and bears added to the mix here. We employ 3 great Pyrenees dogs who live with the herd and keep them safe. It is my opinion that a llama is not an appropriate guard for alpacas. I have seen too many photos of llamas being ripped apart by dogs to recommend them as guardians.
Do they spit?
Occasionally alpacas will spit at each other if they are being fed in close quarters or to tell another alpaca they are having a bad day – but they rarely spit at humans.
How long is their gestation?
A female will be pregnant for an average of 345 days. After delivering a cria, a female will be ready to be breed again in about two – three weeks.
Do you eat them?
Our answer is here
How can I learn all this stuff?
We mentor our new owners to make sure they know everything they need to know to have a healthy happy and successful business. We offer free classes on herd management and are always a phone call away. When you buy your alpacas, you should be sure that the seller will provide mentoring for you so that you will know how to care for them.