Caring for Alpacas
Alpacas are very efficient at digesting their food. They are ruminants with a three chambered stomach. This allows for the slow passage of food through digestive systems thereby getting the most nutrition out of what they eat.
First and foremost, alpacas are grazing animals, and this should make up the vast majority of their diet. Additional supplementation of their diet with a grain based feed may or may not be desirable depending upon the use of the alpaca.
Pregnant and lactating females, as well as growing youngsters usually are supplemented with some feed in addition to their forage in the form of either pasture or hay. The amount of feed will depend upon the condition of the alpaca. Even lactating, pregnant females do not require large amounts of grain, usually between 12 – 16 ounces per day in addition to their forage.
Non breeding alpacas usually do fine on a diet of pasture and hay. Care should be taken not to over feed, as this is not healthy or economical. Hay should be mold-free and not weedy. The preferred hay for alpacas is second cutting grass hay. Total daily intake of forage and grain averages approximately 2 ½ pounds per day. Additionally, a mineral supplement should be made available to them. Of course, clean, fresh water should ALWAYS be available to them.
There are many types of alpaca barn layouts. Which you chose depends on your property layout, financial considerations, number of alpacas you plan on having, and personal preference. What is required is that your alpacas have a dry place to get out of the wind and bad weather. A three-sided Run In shed like those used for horses is adequate provided it allows the alpacas enough room and protection from the weather. We started out with a 12 ft. x 14 ft. shed and added as our numbers grew.
You will want to have access to electricity for fans in the hot summer months and heated water buckets in the winter to keep their water from freezing. You also will want water to be fairly close by as well. A barn divided into sections and connected to pastures is ideal. Either way, you will want some type of area for newborn cria and their moms to be well out of the weather.
Alpacas are hardy animals and adults tolerate the cold quite well, not requiring anything elaborate in housing. Face barns away from prevailing winter winds and it’s nice if possible, to have them shaded in summer. You will also need an area to store your hay, feed, and miscellaneous equipment. Barns and sheds can vary quite a bit in price, so it pays to shop around.
The recommended fencing for alpacas is 5 ft. high woven wire- 2 in. x 4 in. square horse fencing. Posts can be of wood or metal and should be spaced roughly 10 ft. apart. Corner posts and gate posts should be set in concrete and braced. I strongly recommend using plenty of gates, and having them wide enough to move equipment such as tractors, mowers, etc. through. You can’t have too many gates! Gates should be wire mesh to prevent crias from getting stuck in them and low enough to the ground to prevent them from crawling underneath and being separated from their Mom.
Pasture size will depend on the number of alpacas you are planning to have. You can start with one small pasture and expand as needed, or you can go all out and get it all done from the start. Either approach is fine and depends on your personal preference. Keep in mind that eventually you will need a total of four pastures, one for females, one for weanlings, one for young males and one for adult males. You do not need to start out with this many pastures, but as your herd increases, you will eventually need these.
You can have between 5-10 alpacas per acre of land, so plan your pasture layout according to the number of alpacas you plan on having. Also, your number of adults will probably be larger than your number of weanlings and young males so these pastures do not need to be as large. You should have a 10 ft. x 10 ft. catch pen in each pasture. I like to place them in a corner which means you only have to add two sides to complete them.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017