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April 22, 2017

Basic Alpaca Care

Minimum Standards of Care

Alpacas do not require much in the way of day-to-day care.  However there are some basic standards of care to keep your alpacas healthy. 

1. WATER: Alpacas should have continuous access to clean drinking water.

2. NUTRITION: Alpacas do well eating orchard grass hay.  They will eat approximately 1-2% of their body weight per day.  So the average alpaca of 130 pounds will eat approximately 2.6 lbs. of hay per day.  That is approximately 38 servings from a 100 pound bale of hay or little less than one bale of hay per alpaca per month.  Pregnant and lactating females require additional calories usually supplied by alfalfa. There are specially formulated mineral supplement for alpacas that can be used to add extra nutrition.  They can also be fed free choice minerals formulated for sheep.

3. SHELTER: Alpacas rarely require more than a covered area to protect them from rain or heat.  Many alpaca owners use lean-tos, canopies or pre-manufactured car shelters.  In colder areas a three-sided covered shelter protecting them from rain, wind or snow is often the only shelter they will need.   The sheltered area must allow for the ability to stand, lie down, rest and reasonably move about.

4. LIVING QUARTERS: Animals should have a large enough living area (pasture/field, paddock, corral) that allows them to move and exercise freely.  Overcrowding of alpacas should be avoided. 

5. PROTECTION FROM INJURY: The living quarters should be free from potentially harmful objects that could cause injury to the alpaca.  These objects could include sharp objects on the ground or protruding from buildings/fences that could cause punctures or wounds on the alpaca.  View the area as if you were turning toddlers loose…if there is something they could injure themselves on they will!

6. PROTECTION FROM PREDATORS:  Fencing is primarily used to keep predators out…not alpacas in.  Suggested fencing is five foot no climb.  Barbed or electric strands of wire should be avoided because they are not only dangerous for the alpacas but they easily allow predators in.  The number one predator of alpacas and other small livestock (sheep, goats, etc.) are domestic dogs running in packs (a pack is two or more).  In some areas predators include coyotes, mountain lions, and even bears.  We recommend the use of Livestock Guardian Dogs (LGDs) who live with their herd.  We use LGDs to guard our alpacas.  Note: as a general rule alpacas should not be used to “protect” sheep or goats.  Alpacas are prey animals and fall victim to predator attacks the same as other small livestock.

7. SOCIALIZATION: Alpacas are herd animals and should not live alone without a companion animal. A cria (a baby alpaca under six months) should not be raised apart from other alpacas.  We recommend keeping a minimum of two alpacas to keep each other company.

8. SHEARING: For the health of the animal alpacas must be sheared annually in the spring to avoid the heat of summer.

9. REMOVE TOXIC PLANTS: Eradicate any Oleander bush from your property or neighboring property.  Oleander is deadly…even one leaf can kill an alpaca.  Avoid burning the bush…the smoke is toxic.

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