Alpacas FAQ

 I am thinking of getting livestock but want an animal that will not impact the land heavily. Are alpacas an option?

 Yes they are a great option. This livestock type have padded feet which do not compact the soil as quickly as livestock with hooves. They also keep their manure in communal piles which makes it convenient to pick paddocks and pastures and can help keep parasites from spreading.

 Can I get just one alpaca?

 If you have no other livestock…NO! Alpacas are herd animals and need to be kept with their own kind or with other livestock.

 How much does an alpaca weigh?

 They typically weigh anywhere from 130 to 200 pounds. 

 How long do alpacas live?

 The average lifespan of an alpaca is 15 to 25 years.

 How many different colors do alpacas come in?

 Alpacas range in color from black to white along with brown, grays, tans and creams.

 What do I feed my alpaca? How much?

Well, one big part of nutrition is water. Alpacas should always have access to clean water. Streams, lakes and ponds are not recommended as a source for drinking water due to parasite potential.  Alpacas are adaptive eaters. They eat grasses (orchard being a favorite), shrubs, and trees. If you want specific information on what and how much you should feed your alpacas consult a veterinarian. 

 How many different colors do alpacas come in?

 Alpacas range in color from black to white along with brown, grays, tans and creams.

 How many alpacas can I keep on my property?

Good question! The first thing that you should do is check your jurisdictions codes on whether you can keep livestock and if so, what are the restrictions, guidelines and space recommendations listed there. If it turns out that you can keep livestock and have large enough property, the general rule is 5 alpacas per acre. But make sure you think this through. If you have only one acre and 10 alpacas this scenario is not sustainable and you will have overgrazed pastures, mud issues and will have to buy feed. Once you determine how many alpacas you are able to sustain you will need to break the pasture area in to multiple grazing areas so that you can rotate them through the pastures. This technique allows for more concentrated grazing and can be a great tool to keep pastures from being overgrazed. Remember to move alpacas to the next pasture when it has been grazed to 3 inches. 

 What kind of shelter do I need? And how big should it be?

Alpacas can be housed outside as long as they are protected from wind, rain, snow and heat. Three sided shelters work very well and should be well ventilated. Whatever the type of structure you provide it needs to be big enough.  Studies by Ohio State suggest 34 square feet per animal as a minimum. Keep in mind that if there is not enough space for all of the animals to fit under or in the shelter this will create a stressful situation and some alpacas may be pushed out. 

 What kind of bedding should I use in the shelter?

Alpacas are sheared and so when you put a bedding down you must think about shearing time and if the bedding will get stuck in the fiber. Wood chips are NOT recommended due to this issue. Straw is shredded paper as well as stall mats are used for bedding. The straw and the paper may take a while to compost. If you have cement floors alpacas may prefer to cush on them in the summer and lay in bedding in the winter. 

 How often do I shear?

Once a year. 

 What do I do with their manure?

Manure should be picked up and placed in a manure bin for composting. You can build a 3 bin compost system (See manure bin drawings here). This will help keep parasites and worms from spreading. 

 What type of fencing should I install?

There are a lot of different fencing options out there. Keep in mind you are fencing out predators (the most common are coyotes and domestic neighborhood dogs) just as much as you are fencing in your livestock. One of the most common and popular choices is 48” woven-wire fence. Some livestock owners include an electrified top wire to discourage leaning on the fence. Barbed wire is not recommended. 

 What are the most common health concerns?

Heat stress, meningeal worm, toenail trimming, dental care and shearing.

 Can I keep the males with the females?

It is not recommended. You want to keep them separate. 

 What do I do with my alpacas in the winter when pastures are not growing?

It is recommended that alpacas have access to pasture as often as possible but this can be detrimental to the pasture as it can become compacted and over grazed very quickly in the winter… not to mention muddy. It is recommended to install a heavy use area with a footing (area that the animals will concentrate during the winter months). This area should be large enough for all the alpacas to be in at once with access to water and shelter. Keep in mind that you want to keep it stress free as possible. 

 What type footing should I use in my sacrifice area?

First is to make sure that you have a solid foundation. See a drawing of a heavy use area here. Once the foundation is correct it is time to install a geotextile fabric. This fabric ensures that the footing will stay in place and will not be compacted into the soil. As for the the footing, alpacas do well on a variety of surfaces, stall mats, gravel (as long as it is smooth due to them having pads and not hooves) and sand (which can wreak havoc at shearing time). 

Let us know if you have any more questions!