How To Set Up An Alpaca Farm

How To Set Up An Alpaca Farm

The Basic Requirements to Set-Up an Alpaca and/or Llama Farm

1) Shelters

a) Shelters do not need to be elaborate!
b) Depending on the climate, a three sided shed can be adequate.
c) Colder climates may need more protection.
d) Animals need protection from the sun, snow, and wind.
e) Unless you live in severe climates, most barns are “overkill” for human comfort and are not necessary.
f) Keeping alpacas warm and dry in the winter, and cool in the summer are your primary concerns.

2) Fencing

a) “No Climb” Fence is the best to use with alpacas, especially if you plan on breeding and birthing.

This is 2 inch by 4 inch woven wire.

b) We do not recommend high tensile fencing, with or without electric current. Alpacas and llamas can get their legs tangled in it, and crias can roll under it very easily. We have seen crias severely burn their eyes with electric fencing, and some adults even seizure when inadvertently touching it.

c) If you already have board fence, then add wire fencing to it or between the boards to keep young alpacas in and dogs or other predators out. The main purpose of fencing is to protect your herd and keep unwanted or dangerous critters out. Most camelids do not challenge fencing unless you have an open female and established herdsire next to each other. Since alpacas and llamas are very herd oriented, if one were to get out of the fencing my accident, more than likely it will remain right there with the herd, and not run off.

3) Forage

a) Forage (good orchard grass) is the primary and best food source for alpacas and llamas.
b) A diet of around 10-12% protein is suitable for most alpacas and llamas.
c) Males may require a little lower protein, especially in the summer, whereas lactating females may need closer to 14% protein to maintain good body condition.

Therefore, it is very important to have your hay analyzed for protein content and digestibility. In cold weather, or when there is not much pasture to eat, it
is especially important to feed good hay.

d) I can not overemphasize the importance of adequate forage in the diet! Without it, your herd will be susceptible to many health issues. With good forage, you will have healthier and happy animals, and thus less expensive vet bills and many fewer problems.

Alpacas and llamas prefer a soft, leafy, and grassy hay. If it is too “stemmy” and tough, you will end up with lots of bedding and waste, as well as an animal with potentially inadequate nutrition. Orchard grass hay is our absolute favorite. You never want to feed more than 20% alfalfa, even to a lactating female, as too much alfalfa can cause a mineral imbalance. It is important to learn the difference between grass hay, alfalfa, clover, timothy, and straw. Many “city dwellers” turned farmer are not aware of the subtleties.

They are most important to learn! Most alpacas do not prefer Timothy, due to its rough nature. The seed heads on Timothy can also get caught in fleece and create quite a mess! Alpacas also love clover, but too much of it can cause big belly aches. Try to stick with orchard grass.

Endophytes in certain fescue grasses are known to cause many problems with pregnant llamas and alpacas, resulting in sick or dead crias, and uterine prolapses. Use an endophyte free fescue for their pasture.

How To Set Up An Alpaca Farm

4) Water

a) Clean water is an absolute necessity.
b) An average 150 pound alpaca drinks between 4.0 and 8.0 liters of water per day. An average sized llama will drink twice this amount. Yet this can be very dependent on ambient temperature and humidity. A lactating female may even drink more than 9.0 liters of water a day on average.

c) Water buckets need to be elevated somewhat, since buckets placed on the ground are very inviting to alpacas to use as foot baths (especially during warm weather). We recommend hanging buckets on fences and barn walls.

d) Dirty water caused by soiled feet (especially after using the communal poop pile) is the number one source of coccidia infection in crias.

e) Automatic and heated waterers are a wonderful investment, and will save you lots of time if you have numerous animals. Yet they are not required.

f) Access to a pond or stream is not recommended, as most alpacas and many llamas love water. They will love to sit and lay around in water especially during hot and humid weather. This will cause the fiber on the animal’s legs and belly to rot, along with potentially causing fungal/yeast and bacterial infections on their skin.

g) In the winter, alpacas and llamas also appreciate warm water.

5) Minerals

a) Free choice minerals allow the alpacas to make up for what their diet is lacking. Access to the proper minerals is critical for their optimum health. Not having adequate minerals available for pregnant and lactating females can be deadly!

b) In the winter, when there is no pasture and the diet is predominantly hay, alpacas and llamas will consume lots of minerals.
c) In the spring, when pastures are lush, they may barely touch the minerals.
d) Therefore, it is best to offer the minerals “free choice”, rather than just putting them as a dressing for grain (especially since these minerals are somewhat expensive).
e) We recommend using a deep feeder, like one of the hanging buckets used for feeding grain.
f) Fill the feeder about ½ full with minerals, and then store the remainder of the minerals away from moisture and excessive heat.

Keep the feeder in the same place in the barn, away from exposure to the elements, so the animals know where to go for them at all times.

We recommend Dr. Evan’s Blend E Minerals for Alpacas and Llamas, which can be purchased at Southern States or ordered through your local farm supply store.

6) Grain

a) Grain is a very controversial subject.
b) There are several alpaca feeds on the market. These are meant to be fed as a supplement only.
c) One of the risks of feeding grain is the risk of choking.

Choking is a very serious emergency; one you should be equipped to handle if necessary.

d) Another drawback to feeding grain is the risk of obesity through over feeding. This can also negatively affect their reproductive health.
e) Overweight females can have difficulty in getting pregnant, and their milk production is reduced.
f) Some alpacas are very easy keepers, and thus do not need grain supplements at all, most especially when pastures are rich, and the weather is warm.
g) Therefore, it is extremely important to get your hands on your alpacas and llamas as much as possible, so that you can “body score” them.
h) A pregnant and lactating female with a low body score needs more grain and excellent forage.
i) Older alpacas may also need more grain and good forage to maintain a healthy body score.
j) You may need to increase your grain consumption in the winter and cold climates.
k) Make sure that when feeding larger amounts of grain, the animal also has an adequate supply of high quality forage and hay. Too much grain in the diet in terms of the ratio between grain and adequate forage can add physiological stress on the animal, and can cause ulcers in ruminants.

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