Providing and Caring for Your Alpacas

Food

Primarily,  alpacas enjoy a simple diet of orchard grass or hay. Alfalfa is discouraged, or fed only sparingly, due to its high protein and calcium content that can be unhealthy for alpacas. Alpacas don’t eat much. We have 15 alpacas and we feed them approximately ten flakes of hay per day.   We give them a grain supplement called Alpaca Chews - about 1/4 - 1/2 cup either once or twice a day. (This is a product manufactured and distributed by a company called Mazuri, and can be found at select feed stores throughout the Treasure Valley.)  We also sprinkle  a teaspoon of salts and trace minerals (Stillwater Minerals 101 – available through Quality Llama Products) on their chews. Alpacas are ruminants with a single stomach
divided into three compartments, so they produce rumen and chew cud. They are very efficient food managers.



Shelter


Provision of a small two-stall barn with a breezeway (for storage) is a sufficient way to begin housing your animals, provided you are starting small.  The use of two stalls will provide well for separation of males and females, and the breezeway will give space necessary for hay storage, water usage, etc.  While alpacas enjoy being outside, the covered stalls within the barn allow them to come in "out of the elements".



Alpaca Health Management

We give an annual vaccination against infectious diseases, and we worm 4 times a year.  We shear once a year and trim toenails as needed, or approximately 4 times a year. We also give their topknot a trim, so their fleece doesn’t grow down over their eyes.  Finally, we check their eyes periodically for debris that may get stuck in their fleece or around their eyes.  This may cause irritation and possible infection.  Also, it's a good idea to check that the fleece around their eyes is not impeding their vision.



Alpaca Poop

Alpacas poop and pee in a single pile, so scooping is easy. Also, pasture clean-up is easy. The alpaca poop is one of the richest organic fertilizers available and doesn’t have to be composted before putting on your plants. Alpacas have a very efficient digestive system.   Alpaca manure "bean" piles are much smaller than traditional livestock such as horses and cows.  Therefore, there is significantly less odor in their manure, attracting fewer flies.


How many alpacas per acre?


One acre of grassland can support 5-10 alpacas depending on fencing, layout, rainfall, and other factors.



Reproduction


The courtship ritual of the alpaca is very unique. The females are induced ovulators, meaning there are no heat cycles, and that they can and do breed any time of the year. The physical act of breeding causes ovulation to occur. This is the main reason why most alpaca breeders will maintain separate male and female herds, so they can determine who breeds with whom and when.
To date there have been no artificial inseminations nor viable embryo transplants in the alpaca industry.



Breeding Methods


There are two different methods of breeding alpacas; pen breeding and pasture breeding.  Pen breeding is primarily used the United States because we are able to keep more accurate records of when mating occurs. We introduce the female to the male every three days for two weeks. This way we know there will be an egg present during breeding. If the female goes down (cushes), she is not pregnant. When she is pregnant she will reject the male by running away and spitting.


Gestation Period

 

 

 

 The gestation period is 11-12 months. Females have single births almost always and human intervention is rarely needed. The newborn (called cria) weighs between 15-19 pounds, with delivery occurring almost always during the daylight or morning hours. The newborn cria is usually standing and nursing within 90 minutes of birth, and will continue to nurse until weaned at 6 months of age. Twins are very rare, occurring only about every 10,000 births. The time between breeding and rebreeding is about 3 weeks, so females could spend their whole lives pregnant.

Life Span

It is not really known how long alpacas live. In South America, they live 15-20 years, however, it is believed that they will live longer than 20 years here in North America due to improved and consistent nutrition and care.
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


ALPACA INFORMATION

Providing and Caring for Your Alpacas






Walk softly upon the earth, being careful not to disturb the natural course of Mother Nature . . .





We hope that you will come and visit.  While you are here, you can soak up the calm, peaceful atmosphere.









We began with this modular 2-stall barn with a 12x12 breezeway.  This edifice is enclosed within the corraled area where the boys can be separated from the girls.







This view is f the "breezeway".  We brought water into the barn area for easier access.  That has really been a huge benefit!







Since we first built the barn/shelter, we have added on to it with an additional 2 stalls, and extended the breezeway.  This has allowed us to utilize one of the stalls for hay storage.  Very convenient . . . keeps it out of the elements!

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