by GLAA members Lorrie and Randy Krause of Alpaca Acres (retired)
Alpacas are gentle on the land and efficient users of feed. A couple acres of good pasture can support 4 to 8 alpacas. Feeding consists of pasture and/or hay. We also feed pellets and mineral supplements. In order to be sure your animals are getting the nutrition they need, we recommend continuously monitoring the weight, frame/body score, and conditions of the alpacas and adjust feeding as needed. You can also have your local agricultural agent seasonally test your pasture, water and hay.
Alpacas do well on a combination of pasture and clean, grass-type hay. Overfeeding or dependence on protein-rich hays, such as alfalfa, are unhealthy. Our pastures consist of a mixture of orchard grass, timothy, clover, and alfalfa (no more than 20%). We periodically check pasture for poisonous grasses such as fescue.
The alpacas’ pasture should be kept free of harmful debris and regularly inspected for dangerous mole holes and such. Keeping dung piles mowed will help battle parasites by allowing sunlight to reach the larvae and deter alpacas from grazing near them.
Alpaca or Llama Profile made by Land O Lakes is a well-balanced feed with excellent trace minerals. We prefer the crumbled pellets because there seems to be less incidence of choking caused by the larger pellets. If unavailable in your area, other excellent feeds are produced by Buckeye and Mazuri.
Feed approximately 1/2 pound of pellets per day per alpaca. Slightly more for lactating females, weanlings between 3 months to 1 year, under-weight or ill alpacas. Less for over-weight alpacas. Alpacas like cold weather and are well equipped to deal with winter. However, they may require more nourishment for severe cold.
Select supplements that are prepared to balance the nutrients deficient in your forage and according to your alpacas needs. We leave free-choice minerals available. Growing crias, lactating females and ill alpacas are given vitamins with probiotics. Some alpacas may need to be grained with crimped or rolled corn, crimped oats and molasses.
Fresh, clean water should be available at all times. In winter months, ensure water buckets are not frozen over. Also, ensure water temperature is palatable to the alpacas. They may refuse water that is too warm or too cold. This is of special concern with heated water buckets warming the water too much or keep full systems that do not pump enough cold water into the already warmed water.
Alpacas are hardy creatures that adapt well to all climates and have minimal requirements in the way of shelter. Access to an open barn, a simple overhang or a 3-sided shed is adequate shelter from the weather during adverse conditions and provides shade during warmer seasons. Your facilities configuration should promote easy care and handling of your alpacas.
The perimeter fencing’s main purpose is to keep predators out, rather than keep the alpacas in. Some ranches use five-wire high-tensile fencing; this may not be secure enough to keep herdsires away from breeding females or from having crias stand up on the wrong side of the fence after cushing next to it. The most widely used fencing is welded or unwelded field fencing that has smaller holes on the bottom to keep out dogs and other critters. Usually five foot high is enough to keep unwanted animals from jumping over. However, in areas of high deer population, eight-foot high fences or electric top wires may be needed to keep deer out.
Shelters are mostly needed to provide shade in summer and haven from winter’s cold wind and snow. Typically, a simple three-sided shelter is all that is needed provided it does not face into the wind or sun. There are several excellent plans available in alpaca and livestock magazines that have storage areas configured into the shelter. See your local lumber supplier for price estimates and other suggestions.
This is a small area to catch your alpaca in to perform necessary procedures. It should be in a location that is readily accessible for you to herd your alpaca(s) into with a simple gated entry. A size that affords your alpaca room to pace but a comfortable reach to the alpaca for you is ideal; typically 8 by 10 foot.