Animal husbandry' is defined as the science of breeding, feeding, and tending to animals. Below we explain the main areas of husbandry you can expect to carry out as an alpaca owner. This is not an exhaustive list and may vary for your herd. We recommend you also carry out your own research and seek the advice of your vet.
General Alpaca Health
Your alpacas will need to be checked at least twice a day to make sure they are well and have access to fresh water, appropriate feed and shelter.
It is good practice to give your alpacas a regular close-up health check. Body scoring can be used to assess the condition of your alpacas. A scale of 0-5 is usually used to describe an alpaca’s weight; 0 indicating underweight and 5 indicating obesity. 2.5-3 is the ideal score for a female to breed.
Adult body temperature: 37.5 - 38.5°C
Cria body temperature: 37.75 - 39°C
Before you acquire your first group of alpacas, it is recommended that you find a large animal vet near you (ideally with experience of alpacas or other camelids). This will ensure you and the vet are familiar with each other ahead of you needing veterinary assistance. It would also be beneficial to arrange a visit to your alpacas (once purchased) with your vet, so you can put in place a tailored health care plan for your herd.
It is important to keep an accurate record of your herd, either via your own system or on a purchasable herd management system. Keep track of births, movements, vaccinations etc.
Alpacas need access to fresh water and good grazing. All year round, but especially in winter, alpacas require access to ad lib hay.
Concentrates should be provided according to the individual needs of your alpacas. A good camelid mix (such as Carrs Billington) and concentrates such as Camelibra can be used. Alfalfa pellets can be used in reasonable quantities to add volume to food, which can be useful for training your alpacas.
It is recommended to give your alpacas Vitamin A, D and E paste throughout the darker months.
Heptavac-P or an alternative vaccination should be given bi-annually in autumn and spring, to help prevent clostridial diseases. Check the instructions provided with your chosen vaccine, as it is often necessary to give a booster jab 4-6 weeks after the primary injection. Instructions for crias may vary depending on the immunity passed on from the dam.
Regular faecal sample testing can be carried out by your vet to help advise on preventing the unnecessary overuse of wormers, or to highlight worm burdens where treatment may be necessary. Some alpaca breeders, such as Amazing Alpacas, now offer this service in-house.
If treatment is needed, inject the alpaca with the wormer (such as Dectomax or Cydectin) at the dose appropriate to the body weight (your vet will be able to advise on this). Alternatively, drenches such as Panacur or Fasinex are available for those who do not wish to inject their alpacas.
Toenail trimming should be carried out 3-4 times per year. It is recommended to have one person holding the alpaca and a second person to trim the toenails.
If you have not trimmed alpaca toenails before, it is worth getting in touch with other experience alpaca keepers to see how this is carried out. Starting this practice from an early age helps the alpaca accept having their feet picked up, which makes the process easier and less stressful for everyone involved.
Alpacas need to be sheared every year. This enables them to keep cool, and also allows you to use their fleece. Shearing is best done in late spring/early summer by an experienced alpaca shearer. Alpacas are restrained and shorn differently to sheep, so using the services of an alpaca shearer will ensure they are looked after correctly.
Alpacas have teeth in their lower jaw at the front of their mouths, which bite onto a hard palate in the upper jaw. Alpacas also have grinding teeth at the back of the mouth. Usually, the shearer will conduct teeth trimming for you.
Both male and female alpacas develop fighting teeth as they grow. These will need to be trimmed in males to prevent causing injury when fighting.
Mating, Pregnancy & Birth
If you are considering breeding your own alpacas, take a look at our Mating, Pregnancy & Birth page for more details.
Still interested in keeping alpacas? We recommend you visit a few alpaca keepers in order to discover first-hand how herds are managed and cared for. You can also receive some much-needed advice and guidance, and may even get some personal experience in handling them. We offer valuable guidance and support to individuals considering keeping alpacas, as well as welcoming visitors to see our beautiful herd. Please contact us for further information or to arrange a visit.