Alpacas are an absolute pleasure to keep; they are curious and friendly animals that are relatively easy to care for. However, before you dive straight into alpaca keeping, make sure you have considered the following basic points…
How many alpacas should you have?
As herd animals, alpacas should always be kept in groups of at least 3. They thrive on social interaction and can become stressed and ill if kept isolated. The amount of land available to you will also determine the prime size of your herd. The suggested stock density is 5-6 alpacas per acre; if you can double this up so that you have pasture to rotate, this will ensure that you have enough grass all year round, as well as reducing the risk of worms!
Males or females?
This very much depends on what you intend to keep your alpacas for. If you wish to grow a breeding herd, you can begin with a few females in cria (already pregnant) so that you don’t need to worry about purchasing and housing studs immediately.
If you just want a friendly herd to keep as pets then young or gelded (castrated) males are your best bet. They have a milder temperament than females (most of the time!) and will be much cheaper than females.
Important info: you should NOT keep multiple entire male alpacas together with females, or in the sight of females. Male alpacas have a tendency to fight in order to compete for potential mates. They have fighting teeth located at the back of their mouths, which are used to attempt to castrate potential opponents. Although the teeth are trimmed each year during shearing time, they can still inflict serious injury whilst fighting.
It is equally important to not house a stud on his own due to socialisation issues (see previous paragraph). Keeping a single male in the vicinity of females may be acceptable for a short while (for example to paddock mate), but this should not be a year-round solution as males can harass and seriously injure females; sometimes even causing them to miscarry.
It is true that in the wild terrains of Peru, male and female alpacas can happily mix; but it is important to remember that they have so much more space to roam, and the higher female-to-male ratio ensures that females are not harassed. Therefore, if you do not have the space to accommodate a group of males away from the females, but you do still require breeding solutions, we recommend you opt for outsourced stud services instead.
How much do alpacas cost?
Alpacas typically cost between £500-£5000, depending on what you are looking for. Age, sex, colour, temperament, halter training, registration and breeding potential all determine the pricing. If you wish to begin a small herd of friendly alpacas and don’t intend to breed, we recommend choosing young males, which typically cost around £500 each. However, you will need to factor in the later cost of castration at about 10-12 months of age.
If you would like to purchase a breeding herd, breeding females typically cost between £1500-£5000 each, depending on age, colour, heritage and whether or not they are proven (already given birth to cria). To begin with, you may want to start with a few older alpacas, as these are more affordable than young females that are in their prime. However, you will need to bear in mind their breeding longevity, along with the cost of replacing them later down the line.
Still interested in keeping alpacas? We highly recommend receiving some practical, hands-on experience: Amazing Alpacas near Monmouth in Wales offer a wide range of fantastic courses on keeping alpacas. If you have any questions or require further support, please get in touch with us here at Fostings Alpacas – we would be happy to help!
P.S. Did you know that you can stay with our alpacas at Hush Hush Glamping? Click here to discover more.