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
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
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
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.
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,
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
- 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
Isolation for animals recently returning from shows or other
- 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.