It seems that with more and more frequency lately, I’m get messages from people who inherit alpacas, get them for free on craigslist, or somehow find themselves with alpacas in their care and don’t have any idea how to care for them. So I decided to put together a basic bare-bones guide to caring for your alpacas. If you purchase alpacas from Blue Moon Ranch, my support and knowledge sharing for you is free and unending, this is just a basic guide for people who have nowhere else to turn.
This is my opinion only, I am not a vet, I am sharing 18 years of experience of what has worked and has not worked for me while owning alpacas.
#1 Alpacas need shelter! This comes as a surprise to people who have had cattle and horses who are fine being out in the weather 365 days a year. Alpacas need shelter. They need protection from rain wind and sun, and you will have a much healthier happier herd if you provide them with good shelter. Your shelter must be big enough for all animals to enter without one dominant animal at the main door. Alpacas do not like dark closed in places, the shelter with a wide opening or several doors will be much better for them. Think of it like this, an alpaca is a prey animal, they will not go into a place that looks like a trap. Big doors make them comfortable as they can see their escape.
#2 Males and females do best when not kept together. Females are induced ovulaters, they do not have a heat cycle, therefore they can always be bred, and the males are always ready to breed. Even a gelded male might try to breed a female and cause her uterine infections and a pretty unhappy life. In my opinion, females should always be kept with other females. Also in my opinion, four females are a mini herd, less than four might be stressed out. I used to think two alpacas were fine together, until I observed more closely and noticed that they actually are stressed out, but seem content when there is a total of four.
#3 Alpacas need shearing. Heat stress can kill, and just imagine standing out in the summer sun wearing your heaviest winter coat and you’ll know why these animals need to be shorn. We use Biosecure Alpaca Shearing who comes here from Ohio.
#4 The main part of an alpaca diet should be forage. That means hay or pasture. They are not weed eaters, except for dandelions which they love. They can have species appropriate supplemental pellets in small amounts, but in my opinion, most do not need them. They DO NEED mineral supplementation. We use alpacas minerals from Custom Milling in Georgia, sheep minerals from Tractor supply are less expensive if you do not want to pay for shipping. In my opinion, the alpaca specific minerals from Custom Milling important part of the diet for our herd.
#5 Stress opens the door for disease. Stress is caused by being separated from the herd, being handled inappropriately, or by extremes in weather. (reread #1)
#6 Alpacas can live for up to 20 years. Please do not breed alpacas if you are not prepared to care for them or find someone else who will! The world really doesn’t need any more unwanted alpacas. Also, it might be a really good idea to attend a few alpaca shows to see what high-end alpacas look like before you even consider breeding.
If you have more questions, send them in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add them to this list as time permits.