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  THE LEARNING CURVE... every day it's something new

It seems there will always be something new to learn about caring for Alpacas.  We would like to thank all of the people who have so graciously shared information so far.  This has been one of the aspects of joining this community that has been so refreshing to us.  Everyone has always seemed genuinely interested in our success.  I have told many people before, but I am still intrigued by the idea, that this is the ONLY industry that I can name that thrives on creating and supporting competition.  So it is with that thought in mind that I do my part here by sharing the things we have learned along the way. 

     We plan to extend this learning site with multimedia modules as we go, since that IS the business we're in. We invite you to come back often, both here and by visiting us on Face Book.  And along the way, if you have information you'd like to share, please let us know.  We'll pass it along.


Our Alpha Female and the neighbor dog spar across the fence.

     The first consideration in choosing appropriate fence material is deciding what you need to keep OUT.  Alpacas, except for aggressive males and unknowing Crias are not known for testing fences.  So your decision for how secure your fences should be is based on known and suspected predators in the area.  Surprisingly, common housedogs are some of the most dangerous predators for Alpacas.  With spitting, kicking and running as their only natural defenses, Alpacas, especially young ones can become easy prey to dogs.  Of course in areas where other wild animals such as coyotes, wolves or mountain lions exist, even greater concern should exist for the safety of your herd.

     We have been advised by many that a 5' wire mesh is the best material for perimeter fences.  We have found that Red Brand Non-Climb Fence is an ideal product for this. The mesh size is 2" x 4" which is small enough to keep even the smallest inquisitive head safe from getting tangled in it.

When we bought our farm, it had previously been a horse farm with 6-strand, high tensile electric fence.  Beyond the personal preference, we didn't feel that electric fence was secure enough.  We had heard of Crias getting shocked and actually going through the fence.  Then they were too frightened of the fence to try to cross again, leaving them stranded outside the fence line.

     So our first project was to re-enforce the perimeter and create smaller pens between the existing barn and the house.  We had learned some valuable lessons while boarding our first Alpaca.  Catching an unwilling animal in a wide open field is next to impossible.  To even the playing field (pun intended) you want to arrange your work area into groups of pens, getting smaller and smaller.  The animals will generally head for the barn on command (that's where dinner is served).  If you have designed your pens correctly, you can coax them into a final pen that is small enough to catch and harness them for health days and general training.



The best and most consistent advice given to me about gates is "You can NEVER have too many gates". Basically, you want to plan to move yourself, your animals, and any equipment efficiently from any point to any other point on your farm without wasting time and energy. Also, with well placed gates you can manage your herd, moving them around as necessary. When in doubt, put in a gate. During my initial plan, I didn't have two gates that I added during construction. I use one of them every day and the other, I know I will use as the herd grows to its next size.

The type of gate is important for safety reasons. The gate we chose is called a wire filled gate.
The brand name is Tarter.                

Small and over-eager animals can get caught in gates where the mesh isn't a part of the design. In cases where you have existing gates that don't have this mesh, you can retro-fit them using the less-expensive 2" x 4" welded wire mesh, available at home centers. By cutting the mesh to fit and attaching with plastic cable ties, you can accomplish the same result without the expense of replacing the gates.


Almosta Ranch Alpacas

     In our travels so far, we've seen a great variety in pasture arrangements and types of land used for grazing Alpacas.  We have seen everything from flat, well irrigated pastures to animals picking their way through partially wooded fields to dry-lot farms where all of the food reaching animals comes in the way of baled hay and grain brought in daily.  Alpacas will thrive in a number of situations considering the topography in their land of origin. You can easily graze 5-10 Alpacas per acre of good grass, although I think it would be difficult to manage and seemingly more labor-intensive.  We have started our herd with four females and two weanling males on approximately 3 acres of rolling grassland with a mix of various types of grasses.  We haven't had it analyzed at this point, since we have such a small herd on a large parcel.

Take2 Alpacas & Max, our son


The other thing we learned from our boarding experience is that you need to plan for several areas to segregate your herd. Alpacas are "induced ovulators" which means females can get pregnant at any time. With as much at stake financially, a sensible herdsman will practice planned parenthood. The value of an animal can only be improved by choosing the right male to mate with the right female (but that's a whole other article). And you don't want babies born in the dead of winter or the hottest part o the summer.

A well-planned herd will consist of several groups:

- Pregnant females, their young offspring      and maidens
- Young males prior to breeding age

- Older males and herd sires

- Young males and females getting weaned from their mother at about 6 months of age
After several weeks, the females can return to the first group along with their mothers
Maternity Ward for near term females

- Post-partum females and their babies, to make sure they properly bond
Isolation for animals recently returning from shows or other farms

- Breeding pen



     Alpacas will generally be happiest (in our experience) grazing from naturally occurring grasses. We literally fenced in about half of our back yard to allow the animals to graze that area, since it was close and convenient to the barn. In addition to free grazing, we provide hay and grain. We've been advised to use second cut orchard grass, and so far it has worked very well. I have read in other forums that other grasses work as well. The grain is a special blend similar to a molasses type feed for horses, but milled especially for Alpacas. We feed a cup per animal twice a day. Everyone shows up for the grain, and in many cases the females fight over who gets to eat first. Of course, fresh water needs to be available. At this point, our herd is small, so we're using heated water buckets to keep them from freezing in winter. As a labor-saver, automatic watering systems are a must for larger farms. They are also heated for winter use.

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Take2 Alpacas, LLC. | 610.823.7907 | 298 Beech Rd. Mohnton, PA 19540 |