Updated: Nov 14, 2021
Want to halter train your alpacas but not sure where to begin? Check out our guide on how to halter train alpacas and handle your herd…
If you wish to walk your herd, we suggest selecting male alpacas who have a friendly temperament, are already halter trained, or are young enough to be trained (around 6-12 months of age). If you are intending to breed your alpacas, selecting females that are used to being handled and are halter trained will be of great help to you, as they will be easier to manage.
Patience is key when handling and halter training your herd. Even if you have purchased well-behaved alpacas, they need time to trust you as their new owner in their new surroundings. Be patient and focus on growing a positive bond with your alpacas – this will make moving and handling them so much easier for everyone involved. So, take time to just sit and hang out with your alpacas. Let them come up and sniff you and, if they allow you to, rub their neck or shoulder. Do not touch the top of their heads as most alpacas do not like this! It’s important to keep in mind that some alpacas may never be confident or ‘cuddly’, and that’s perfectly okay.
When catching your alpacas for treatment, health checks, handling, or movement, it is vitally important to prepare first:
Make sure the space where they will be penned is set up and ready to go. You could choose a pen made from hurdles (alpaca hurdles are preferable as standard sheep hurdles are low and alpacas may try to jump over them), a shelter or a barn.
Block any gateways or gaps to avoid escapees!
If your alpacas follow a routine, for example coming to the pen at a particular time, plan to catch them during this time to make life easier.
Whichever approach you choose, always remain calm and gentle.
Top Tip: Get your alpacas used to coming to the pen by regularly feeding them in or around the space. Eventually, they will come when they see you or when you call them – which is good practice and incredibly useful in an emergency (especially if you’re on your own). If it’s not possible to do this, you can quietly herd your alpacas from behind and use lightweight rope/tape to fill gaps, which can be tied to poles and fence posts to cover large spaces.
Restraining Alpacas Safely
If regularly completed from a young age in a calm and gentle manner, restraining should become a normal part of your alpaca’s life, making it much easier when needed for husbandry tasks. Follow the below steps to safely restrain your alpacas:
Once your alpacas have been penned, assess the area and remove/avoid any obstacles that could cause injury. A strong alpaca could throw you or themselves into something nasty, such as a protruding hayrack!
Quietly and slowly approach your alpacas from the side, before gently placing your hand on their back/rear. This usually causes them to stand still. But be aware that they can kick outwards and backwards!
Slide your hand up to the base of their neck whilst stepping closer, before bringing your other hand around the neck and carefully holding the back of their head.
Ensure you have good footing and keep your hand on the shoulders at the base of the neck to prevent rearing.
Get a second person to carry out the procedure or health check.
There is another method known as the ‘bracelet hold’, which involves playing one hand at the back of their ears and sliding the index finger and thumb on your other hand along the groove of their mouth. This is particularly useful when examining the head, face, or teeth.
Halter training is most effective when started from 5.5 – 6 months of age, whilst they are being weaned. Using food as a reward and feeding your alpacas whilst on the halter is a great way to get them used to wearing it. Be patient and build up gradually. Start by showing them the halter, putting it on and taking it off; then next time, introduce a couple of steps with it on; next time, take a few more steps; and so on…
Fitting a Halter
When using a halter, make sure it fits snuggly just beneath the eyes. If it’s too far down, it can cause suffocation as it squeezes the soft part of the nose. If your alpaca is misbehaving on a headcollar, ensure that the fitting is right because they may actually be struggling to breathe properly. Don’t forget that you may need 2 different sizes of halter for the same alpaca before and after shearing, as their fleeces can make a huge difference!
Always respect an alpaca’s space and tolerances. Some alpacas enjoy being on a halter, whereas others simply aren’t cut out for it. If you plan on walking your alpacas, castrated males are often the best candidates due to their calm and docile nature (as well as being cheaper to purchase than females).
Click here to discover more about us and our alpaca family. You can also stay with our herd at Hush Hush Glamping – click here to find out more! Keep an eye out for next month’s blog on how to safely transport alpacas…