The notes below are based on our farm alpaca management and breeding over many years and it is recommended that owners seek veterinary advice pertinent to their situation and conditions.

Overview:

The alpaca is a member of the camelid family. Whilst they may appear rather fragile they have been found to be stoic, possessing such strength that they are capable of trampling foxes and wild dogs. They may also raise their donkey-like distress call to alert the herd if there is something untoward happening nearby.

Biologically alpacas have a rather complex three-compartment stomach capable of regurgitating and, if so desired, spitting. They do not forage in the same manner as goats, preferring pasture to lantana or blackberries. They have soft padded feet and graze in an efficient and non-destructive manner. Their grazing is rather like a high set lawn mower. This is due to the structure of their mouth; teeth on the lower jaw and a hard palate on the top. As they graze they do not destroy the root system thus minimising pasture stress and allowing rapid regeneration. Whilst their gastric digestion is similar to that of a ruminant it is not identical. They will establish communal dung piles which makes paddock cleaning a lot easier and minimises parasite infestation.

Farm Management:

It is recommended that prior to stocking your property a soil analysis is undertaken in order to correct any deficiencies. Some supplementary feed may be required if your soil type is lacking in essential minerals. Alpacas rank high in digestive efficiency and do well on lucerne hay but good quality pasture is always preferable.


Alpacas are very easy to maintain especially when compared with most other types of livestock.

It is essential that sound perimeter fencing is used to discourage predators. Five strand plain wire is adequate for internal fencing.

It is essential to have adequate shade, shelter and fresh water and whilst alpacas love to sunbake they can also be seen straddling a soaker hose to keep cool in summer!

Alpacas are extremely 'earth friendly' and depending on the quality of the pasture you may be able to run five animals to the acre. It is advisable to sub-divide the acreage in order to ensure good farm management/ practice and to rotate stock on a regular basis. Despite having good pasture, we supplement the feed, particularly the nursing mothers and those who are pregnant, our philosophy being 'you get out what you put in'.

Health:

Alpacas are free from problems such as fly strike. They will however need monitoring for parasites, require bi-annual vaccination with 5:1 or 7:1(seek veterinary advice) and, if in a tick region, tick control eg, "Cydectin".

Toenails require trimming at regular intervals depending on the ground. Also at shearing, it is desirable to check the alignment of the top palate with the lower teeth and if necessary, trim the teeth to facilitate effective grazing.

Fleece:

The fleece characteristics are assessed much the same as for sheep with a low micron count, comfort factor and spinning fineness being major factors for consideration.

Alpacas are shorn annually usually in spring or early summer. They are not groomed per se but rather brushed by hand to remove vegetable matter and dust.

How do you transport alpacas?


They travel very well. A family minivan, station wagon, utility vehicle, or trailer can be adapted to transport alpacas. Once they are in transport, they lie down and relax. Generally they are more at ease when transported in groups of two or more. Alpacas learn to jump into their transport and will lie down, look out the window and enjoy the ride.

While alpacas are usually good travellers transporting them should not be undertaken lightly especially over long distances. They may not show obvious signs of stress but none the less transporting can be a stressful activity for these animals.

Alpaca owners need to be very aware of temperature extremes. Heat is more of a problem than cold in Australia and it is absolutely essential that the travelling space is adequately ventilated or air conditioned. Summer temperatures can cause life threatening conditions inside a space that may be cool enough while moving but deadly once stopped for even very short periods. If it is necessary to move alpacas in summer, in less than ideal transport, night travel is a safer alternative.

In colder regions, transporting several animals together builds up body heat to help keep each other warm. Adding a thick layer of straw on the floor adds insulation and if the trip is very long they need adequate food and water to process to help maintain correct body temperature.
Overcrowding increases stress and may lead to dominant animals intimidating subordinate ones. If the journey is a long one this may mean that the more timid animals do not get adequate food and water. Animals with a history of not liking each other should not be travelled in the same compartment. It is advisable to stop to check the animals every two hours to allow them to stretch their legs and to feed their young.
Should an emergency occur it is essential that you have a lead rope for each animal and that every one has a halter prefitted ready for rapid unloading.

Getting Started:

Remember alpacas are a herd animal and must not be kept in isolation. Where you start depends upon your level of interest. If it is purely because you like them and do not intend to becoming a breeder then it is preferable to purchase two or more wethers (castrated males). This is also a good idea if you are unsure you can manage them and is also less expensive than purchasing a breeding female. When purchasing any breeding stock there are some criteria which one is wise to consider such as your breeding goals and how you intend to achieve them eg, genetic background, fleece qualities etc. Few breeders will consider purchase of a stud male initially as it may well be more cost effective to use the services of a specific male and also to gain bloodline diversity. It is also highly recommended that you only purchase breeding stock from members of the Australian Alpaca Association.

BEWARE: Alpaca are intelligent, curious and lovable creatures and can prove to be addictive.